That Gonzales was doing the Bush administration's bidding, authorized on the highest level, was well documented in last week's Senate hearing. Gonzales was accompanied by then-White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card in his nighttime assault on Ashcroft's hospital room -- a surprise visit which, according to Comey's testimony, was most likely facilitated by a call from the president to Ashcroft's wife, who stood in frightened vigil over her husband's semicomatose body.
After a suddenly alert Ashcroft managed to lift his head from the pillow and condemn their chicanery before lapsing back into semiconsciousness, it was Card who ordered Comey to go immediately to the White House that night for a dressing down for opposing the president.
And President Bush had a private meeting with Comey the next morning to prevent his imminent resignation, as well as that of the head of the FBI and other top Justice Department officials, including Ashcroft.
In the most damning moment of his testimony, Comey recounted how Ashcroft's wife, who had banned all visitors from her husband's room, called the attorney general's chief of staff, alarmed that she had received a call from the White House informing her that Gonzales and Card were on their way to the hospital.
"I was very upset," Comey recalled. "I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man."
When asked if he had an idea where the call came from, Comey testified: "I have some recollection that the call was from the president himself, but I don't know that for sure. It came from the White House." In any case, the president clearly didn't disapprove of Gonzales' tactics, because he subsequently promoted him to attorney general.
Comey was a highly respected prosecutor before being appointed by Bush to the No. 2 spot at the Justice Department. It should have alarmed Bush that Comey was so worried about Gonzales' thuggish behavior that he asked FBI Director Robert Mueller to instruct his agents at the hospital not to allow Gonzales to remove Comey from the room, and that Comey would not meet with the White House staff after this incident unless Solicitor General Theodore Olson was present as a witness.
Having researched and written scenes for Oliver Stone's movie "Nixon," a devastating portrait of what we then presumed was the low point in the history of the American presidency, I can well predict the good use that a future screenwriter will make of this hospital scene to document the frightening reality, first effectively outlined in a book by John Dean, that the assault on American representative democracy during the Bush years has been "Worse Than Watergate."
Dean was the White House counsel who broke with Nixon over that president's betrayal of the U.S. Constitution and who revealed the truth in a subsequent Senate hearing. By contrast, as Bush's counsel, Gonzales eagerly abetted White House crime, lied to the Senate and was rewarded for that behavior. The real culprit here, as in Watergate, is the president of the United States.
© Creators Syndicate
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Albion Monitor May
25, 2007 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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