August 27, 2007, 2:57 pm
The editors of Fark.com have a typically cheeky (as in tongue-in) take on the newly departed attorney general: “White House officials say Attorney General Gonzales has submitted his letter of resignation. However, Gonzales says he can’t recalling writing any such letter, or his reasons for taking such an action.”
“Everyone in Washington is talking about how devastating this article is,” Michael Kinsley writes in Slate of “Present at the Creation,” [$] former Bush speechwriter Matthew Scully’s blast at Matthew Gerson, his former boss who is now a Washington Post columnist, as a credit-stealing glory hog. But Kinsley doesn’t think Scully’s piece is worth the dust-up: “What a disappointment! If this is the best the Bush administration can do when attacking one another, no wonder they can’t win the war in Iraq.”
More beauty contests, please! Slate’s Mickey Kaus wants the presidential primary calendar to be even more confusing: If the Democratic National Committee says Florida’s presidential primary won’t count unless it takes place in February, why doesn’t Florida just move its meaningless “beauty contest” primary ahead of even New Hampshire and Iowa? He writes at Kausfiles, his Slate blog:
Better yet, we could have two rounds of primaries. Start with a full roster of non-delegate-selecting ‘beauty contests” in 2007, including in the big states. This would winnow the field. Then, just about the time buyer’s remorse sets in and we wonder if there’s not a better candidate, we could have the second round of real, official, delegate-binding primaries.
In any case, it’s far past time for Gonzales to go. No one did anything illegal in terminating the federal prosecutors, but Gonzales and his team made it into a royal botch-up anyway. Gonzales really should have resigned after telling people publicly that the attorneys had performance issues when their reviews showed that they had performed well. That set off a series of statements that Gonzales had to retract or clarify, including some in Senate testimony that made him appear as though he hardly had anything to do with running the Department of Justice.
Morrissey isn’t as happy about the rumor that Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff could be nominated to replace Gonzales as attorney general. He writes in the same post:
I tend to think that they’ll go for someone less associated with the administration, hopefully learning from the nomination of Robert Gates at Defense that going outside can have its advantages. If they do nominate Chertoff, it promises not one but two bruising confirmation battles, the second to replace Chertoff at DHS. There has to be more quality choices available, even in a lame-duck administration.
Michelle Malkin agrees that Chertoff would be an unwise replacement. Instead, she thinks it’s time for a reboot: She proposes a new attorney general who could help the administration pretend the whole Gonzales era never happened. Malkin writes at her personal blog:
If they want the best qualified, most experienced AG candidate who is serious about enforcing all of our laws, including our immigration laws, and who is best equipped to serve in a time of war, the choice would be obvious: John Ashcroft.
In the Democratic presidential race, it’s been a week of ambiguously controversial remarks. Michelle Obama got things going with “if you can’t run your own house …”, and now The New York Post reports that Hillary Clinton, in a New Hampshire appearance, had this to say about a potential devastating terrorist attack on the United States: “It’s a horrible prospect to ask yourself, ‘What if? What if?’ But if certain things happen between now and the election, particularly with respect to terrorism, that will automatically give the Republicans an advantage again, no matter how badly they have mishandled it, no matter how much more dangerous they have made the world.”
For the right wing, this looks like fish in a barrel: “Got that? Another terrorist attack in the next year or so on American soil would be horrifying to think of, because it might give the GOP an election-year advantage,” writes Jules Crittenden.
“That the sitting Senator of the state which suffered the greatest number of losses on 9-11 would make these kinds of blatantly self-serving remarks about the possibility of another terrorist attack happening before the 2008 elections are very telling as to what her priorities are, and they have nothing to do with protecting the American people, but instead protecting Hillary Clinton’s chances of getting elected to serve as the first female president and Commander in Chief.”
More surprising is the reaction among some of the more thoughtful members of left side of the Web. Matt Yglesias at The Atlantic thinks it’s “a disaster”:
Two points in response. The first is that I think the Democrat best positioned to deal with GOP political mobilization in a post-attack environment is going to be the one who isn’t reflexively inclined to see failed Republican policies resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Americans as a political advantage for the Republicans. The other is that I think there’s a pretty clear sense in which the further one is from Bush’s Iraq policy, the easier it is politically to say that the failures of Bush’s national security policy should be blamed on Bush’s failed policies. Obama has a straight shot (“this is why we should have fought al-Qaeda like I said”) and Edwards (and Matt Yglesias) has a straightish one (“this is why we should have fought al-Qaeda like I think in retrospect”) whereas I’m not 100 percent sure what the Clinton message would be. Most of all, though, I think the politics of national security call for a strong, self-confident posture that genuinely believes liberal solutions are politically saleable and substantively workable, not the kind of worry-wort attitude that says we need to cower in fear every time Republicans say “terror.”
Gary Rivlin of The Times reported on Thursday about a curious trade dispute between the United States and Antigua and Barbuda over Internet gambling sites. The tiny Caribbean nation instigated a trade complaint “against the United States, claiming its ban against Americans gambling over the Internet violated Antigua and Barbuda’s rights as a member of the W.T.O.” Antigua won the case in three different forums, and now is asking “the trade organization to grant a rare form of compensation if the American government refuses to accept the ruling: permission for Antiguans to violate intellectual property laws by allowing them to distribute copies of American music, movie and software products, among others.”
It’s an interesting enough story on its own, but Wretchard at the Belmont Club manages to find broader significance:
The Antigua story underscores how asymmetries operate in international trade and political relations. A regulatory regime is created, but that fact does not guarantee “fairness.” The huge disparity in the size between Antigua and the United States makes the island’s trade retaliatory power weak. And in a straight trade dispute the odds would weigh overwhelmingly in favor of the US. But lawyers are clever and the loophole cited by the New York Times makes it possible for Antigua to demand the right to pirate US intellectually property — under the rules — and “morally” too because a mechanism which allowed the US to use is preponderant economic power would be “unfair.”
Where have we seen this before? Pretty much everywhere. While not exactly the same, the Antigua decision has structural similarities to the way some international lawyers think about the Geneva Convention and human rights legislation. The US is “bound” by the letter of the law, and if a terrorist mass murderer can find a legal loophole to escape then he is “entitled” to use it. But the Convention is not obeyed by weaker parties because it is impractical to enforce it. Just as pirated DVDs can be found being openly sold in many street corners in Asia without being similarly available in Australia, countries with well-functioning legal systems find themselves at a disadvantage compared to countries with no enforcement. In the area of human rights, for example, America has courts before which lawyers can appear. Al-Qaeda has a cave in Pakistan where accommodations are notoriously poor. The US will obey a legal judgment. Legal judgments against al-Qaeda are an exercise in futility.