Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 22, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

FAX? WHAT FAX?....The story about Alberto Gonzales's late night hospital run in 2004 to pressure a woozy John Ashcroft into reauthorizing the NSA's domestic spying program keeps getting weirder. The latest excuse for this little romp is that Gonzales's dog ate his homework:

After the incident, there were recriminations over what [James] Comey portrayed as an attempt by Bush's top lawyer and chief of staff to "take advantage" of a very ill man. Comey didn't tell the Senate panel that the bad feelings were stoked even more the next morning when White House officials explained the hospital visit by saying Gonzales and Card were unaware that Comey was acting A.G.

....Just days earlier, Justice's chief spokesman had publicly said Comey would serve as "head of the Justice Department" while Ashcroft was ill. Justice officials had also faxed over a document to the White House informing officials of this. When a Gonzales aide claimed the counsel's office could find no record of it, DOJ officials dug out a receipt showing the fax had been received. "People were disgusted as much as livid," said the DOJ official. "It was just the dishonesty of it."

This sounds just like our Alberto, doesn't it? He's consistently demonstrated an inability to construct explanations for bad behavior above the level of a junior high school student. "We didn't get the fax" is par for the course.

Via the Carpetbagger Report.

Kevin Drum 11:52 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (49)

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Comments

Well, thank god the fax didn't relate to an upcoming terrorist attack or other matter of urgent national security then!

It says something, doesn't it, when "I'm a raving incompetent who can't even get up with the basic minimum of what I'm expected to know" is the LEAST BAD excuse he can come up with?

Posted by: Stefan on May 22, 2007 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

See... the fact see...
In other words see...
Alberto not knowing who was in charge see...
Increases my confidence see...
In other words...
See he's a hard worker and an honest man...
Facts... see...

Posted by: President Bush on May 22, 2007 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

Here's another relevant exchange from Comey's testimony, via Dover Bitch:

SCHUMER: What happened after Mr. Gonzales and Card left? Did you have any contact with them in the next little while?

COMEY: While I was talking to Director Mueller, an agent came up to us and said that I had an urgent call in the command center, which was right next door. They had Attorney General Ashcroft in a hallway by himself and there was an empty room next door that was the command center.
And he said it was Mr. Card wanting to speak to me.
COMEY: I took the call. And Mr. Card was very upset and demanded that I come to the White House immediately.
I responded that, after the conduct I had just witnessed, I would not meet with him without a witness present.
He replied, "What conduct? We were just there to wish him well."
And I said again, "After what I just witnessed, I will not meet with you without a witness. And I intend that witness to be the solicitor general of the United States."

Bush WH motto: If you're not lying, you're not trying.

Posted by: frankly0 on May 22, 2007 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

When a Gonzales aide claimed the counsel's office could find no record of it, DOJ officials dug out a receipt showing the fax had been received.

Kevin, Gonzales claimed HE was unaware that Comey was the acting Attorney General. He never said no one in the office received the fax. All the receipt shows is that somebody, maybe a low level intern in the White House, received it. Perhaps the intern received the Fax, didn't think it was important, and so dumped it in a pile of other paper so that no one read the Fax till weeks later. Doesn't that happen to your office sometimes also? The Bush White House isn't like the Clinton White House where interns like Monica Lewinsky could "contact" the President and other high officials directly. *Snicker*

Posted by: Al on May 22, 2007 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

What will it take for Kevin to say:

Impeach. George. W. Bush. Right. Now.

Enough of this understated and snarky criticism.

Posted by: gregor on May 22, 2007 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

What a load of bull. I don't follow the comings and goings of Ashcroft. The only time I ever heard his name mentioned was when it was time to quash some bad news and Ashcroft would come on with a terror alert. After the DHS was created, that job fell to DHS to make those announcements. Even I remember that Ashcroft handed over the reins to Comey. I wondered why but they mentioned that Ashcroft was going under the knife and that made sense.

For an administration that is all spin all PR all the time, that excuse is comepletely laughable.

There are probably lots of emails between Gonzales' WH office and the DOJ during the time of Ashcroft's incapacity. Of course, those are probably all from their RNC email accounts.

Nothing stops these folks except incarceration.

-no relation to Ann

Posted by: coltergeist on May 22, 2007 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

What's also true is there will be no recriminations from this obvious lie. This adminstration is so dishonest it would rather lie than tell the truth.

Posted by: David Patin on May 22, 2007 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Who is this Al guy, and why does he say dumb things (I'm not a regular reader)? Man, that comment of his was so weak (Lewinsky "jokes?") that I actually laughed out loud. Does he come here often? I can't wait for his "comeback."

Posted by: Bokanovsky Process on May 22, 2007 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, yes, yes... he's stupid & craven. That's been settled. But can we please stop going on about him? Every single newspaper story, every single congressional hearing, & every single blog post that talks about what a complete idiot he is completely misses the point. In fact, it serves the interests of the very people who put him up to this. He's the shiny little distraction they want everybody focusing on. For Christ's sake, he's not the problem. His boss is. Will please direct their ire at the right person?

Okay, I'm done bitching now.

Posted by: chaunceyatrest on May 22, 2007 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

The WH didn't know Katrina would be so devastating either, despite 72 hours of CNN. They survived that bewildering bit of ignorance too.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on May 22, 2007 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

We are at war people.

This is arguably the most precarvious time in our history since WWI.

And you guys are making big deals about FAXes?

That's an antiquated technology, Kevin. I've sent FAXes before, back in the day, that I got a receipt of OK. Then, later, turns out the FAX didn't make it, or the print was too garbled to read.

Grow up!

Posted by: egbert on May 22, 2007 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Al is always here. There are some who say they have seen him haunting the halls of Casa Drum. There are others who say he is paid by some Republican billionaire. There are others who say he is escaped from some institution for the mentally touched.

Al lives in a neocon bubble. He is always good for a laugh.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 22, 2007 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Al is neither stupid nor craven. He's just pissed off.

He's well aware that the guy he voted for turned out to be a lemon. Liberal-baiting is his only release these days.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on May 22, 2007 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

In the immortal words of George Dumbya Bush, I don't know what's worse; that they did know, or that they didn't. Heh heh heh."

The fact the the President's lead consel would need a fax to understand that the deputy had assumed the duties of the AG is beyond absurd. Despite his protestations, I doubt even Al believes it. But this is SOP for this (mis)administration: just lie, muddy the waters and refuse to acknowledge anything and hope it goes away.

Posted by: MeLoseBrain? on May 22, 2007 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Gonzalez is an unqualified worm of a man, unwilling to admit mistakes and with an inclination towards criminality, just exactly like his boss.

If only the media had been paying attention the past seven years and devoting as much investigative legwork to investigating the criminality of George W. Bush, as they did to the sexuality of William Jefferson Clinton, this country wouldn't be so unspeakably hosed up.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on May 22, 2007 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, Gonzales claimed HE was unaware that Comey was the acting Attorney General. He never said no one in the office received the fax.

Oooo... Shiney... Mmmmm...

Posted by: Thumb on May 22, 2007 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

I bet there was an innocent convict put to death in Texas during George and Alberto's tenure.

Maybe a DNA printout was sent to the wrong underling, proving ______ was innocent.

But they went ahead with the execution.

DNA printout? What print out? I never saw it. Execute 'im (or her).

Prove me wrong (that innocent folks were executed in Texas while GWB was governor).

It's called character.

Alberto and George are not angels.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on May 22, 2007 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

But they knew exactly which hosptial to go to.

Selective ignorance is bliss.

Posted by: brent on May 22, 2007 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

It's amazing that the whole hospital routine is now getting so much MSM attention. I remember reading about this months ago, but I can't remember where. Stuff like this is why I don't depend on msm for any news anymore except for weather reports.

Posted by: DJShay on May 22, 2007 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

My favorite thing about the comic genius that is the egbert parodies: his or her artfully selected and placed misspellings and malapropisms. "Precarvious" might be the best yet; I'm picturing some guy waving a fork and knife over a Thanksgiving turkey, all Norman Rockwell.

Posted by: shortstop on May 22, 2007 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

The guy (AG) was/is an advocate for torture. Why should any of this surprise anyone?

Posted by: ny patriot on May 22, 2007 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand the problem.

Comey is known to be independent and unlikely to roll over for the WH. So even though he's acting AG, the WH goes around him to get a sedated Ashcroft to sign.

Ok, not exactly the sort of move you want to publicize, but still --- why is it a big deal?

If Ashcroft is willing and able to sign, then doesn't that trump whatever legal authority Comey has?

Or is the WH move illegal because until Ashcroft signs himself back in at work, he can't act as AG because Comey's been designated as the man who is acting for him?

Why isn't this like lawyers shopping venues to get the most favorable treatment for their side? That's how I took it -- either Comey or Ashcroft can sign. But since Comey won't, the WH rousted Ashcroft out of his hospital bed, poured coffee down his throat until he regained consciousness and then had him make an X on the dotted line indicating that the Attorney General of the United States had given his blessing.

Even if the WH doesn't want it known what it had to do to get proper legal cover, it's still technically on the up-and-up.

What am I missing here?

Posted by: Auto on May 22, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe a little waterboarding in the well of the Senate would refresh Gonzo's memory?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 22, 2007 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Auto,

You don't find anything extremely distasteful with that?

And why won't they say it was on the up and up, now that it IS known?

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on May 22, 2007 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe a little waterboarding in the well of the Senate would refresh Gonzo's memory?
Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 22, 2007 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Well, it's not as if he has RIGHTS or anything like that. We're at war now, aren't we? I mean, the Bill of Rights isn't a Suicide Pact. . .

Continuing to let them stonewall and delay, is just pre-9/11 thinking.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on May 22, 2007 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Selective ignorance is bliss.
Posted by: brent

Could I suggest:
Selective ignorance is better than bliss.

(It gets to the core of the problem: excessive belief in "better than thou" ism.)

Posted by: slanted tom on May 22, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Of course it's distasteful. But in the grand scheme of things, considering this administration's screw-ups, this is pretty penny ante stuff.

Which is to say, it's distasteful without necessarily rising to the level of illegal.

Or if it's not illegal, does Comey being acting AG mean Ashcroft's involvement makes the document null and void?

I'n not trying to be dumb here, but legally what does it mean (if anything) that the WH sought out a sedated Ashcroft, given Comey's unwillingness to sign?

Posted by: Auto on May 22, 2007 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Auto:

allow me to make a bit of an analogy for you. You are blessed with a grandfather to whom you are devoted. And, in turn, is devoted to you. Alas, grandpa, as all must, is ill, and undergoes surgery to try and save his life. while sedated in recovery, your cousin's lawyer gets him to sign a new will, giving him the beach house, family fortune and your grandmother's wedding ring, all of which, while awake, you know he intended to give to you and a local charity; not your crazy, manipulative cousin. Is this simply good lawyerin'? When he dies the next day, do you ignore what you know his wishes really were?

Posted by: Northzax on May 22, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Auto:

allow me to make a bit of an analogy for you. You are blessed with a grandfather to whom you are devoted. And, in turn, is devoted to you. Alas, grandpa, as all must, is ill, and undergoes surgery to try and save his life. while sedated in recovery, your cousin's lawyer gets him to sign a new will, giving him the beach house, family fortune and your grandmother's wedding ring, all of which, while awake, you know he intended to give to you and a local charity; not your crazy, manipulative cousin. Is this simply good lawyerin'? When he dies the next day, do you ignore what you know his wishes really were?

Posted by: Northzax on May 22, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

"The Bush White House isn't like the Clinton White House where interns like Monica Lewinsky could "contact" the President and other high officials directly. *Snicker*"

Oh, Al, that is just plain pathetic.

Posted by: Kenji on May 22, 2007 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

They've lied us into war.
They held an American citizen without charges for 5 years.
They've dismissed the 4th amendment.
They've supported torture.

Everything else is detail. Feckless, lying gangsters.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on May 22, 2007 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Comment 1: Who is this Al guy, and why does he say dumb things (I'm not a regular reader)?

Next comment: Yes, yes, yes... he's stupid & craven. That's been settled. But can we please stop going on about him? Every single newspaper story, every single congressional hearing, & every single blog post that talks about what a complete idiot he is completely misses the point. In fact, it serves the interests of the very people who put him up to this. He's the shiny little distraction they want everybody focusing on. For Christ's sake, he's not the problem. His boss is. Will please direct their ire at the right person?

Subsequent comment: Al is neither stupid nor craven. He's just pissed off.

Hilarious and significant. It's really not possible to tell whether somebody's talking about our Al or the President's Alberto.

Posted by: David in NY on May 22, 2007 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

egbert on May 22, 2007 at 12:36 PM:

We are at war people.

Nope. If we were really at war, we'd see the draft reinstated, rationing, and other shifts to a true war footing...All we have now is wannabe warriors like yourself using a hammer instead of a scalpel...Shooting missles instead of subtle intelligence work. That you and your ilk choose to keep using the word 'war' to describe the fight to suppress and eliminate terrorist organizations shows your extreme cluelessness.

This is arguably the most precarvious time in our history since WWI.

That statement is arguably the dumbest statement you've made on this blog, eggie.

And you guys are making big deals about FAXes?

It's yet another example of either gross incompetence or gross dishonesty. Taken on its own, a 'lost fax' is plausible. Given the continual evasiveness or outright dishonesty of Attorney General Gonzales, a 'lost fax' under these circumstances takes on a different meaning.

...or the print was too garbled to read.

You see, eggie, when that happens the receiving party usually asks for a re-send...

Grow up!

Tell that to the people in the White House who are acting like spoiled, mean-spirited children...And yourself, who seems to be living in your own private state of denial.

Posted by: grape_crush on May 22, 2007 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK
Who is this Al guy, and why does he say dumb things (I'm not a regular reader)?

I dunno, but his name is Al and his schtick is posting transparently idiotic defenses of the actions of the Bush Administration, so I'm guessing he's the Attorney-General of the United States.

Posted by: cmdicely on May 22, 2007 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Forget about the fax. Can anyone seriously believe that the White House Counsel and Chief of Staff in an Administration as obsessive with message coordination as this one has demonstrably been were unaware of a public announcement by the Justice Department of a temporary transfer of authority?

Sorry, look, even in the absence of the fax, "We didn't know who was in charge" isn't even remotely credible.

Posted by: cmdicely on May 22, 2007 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

I remember in Business Law that someone can't legally enter into a contract(verbal or written) while under the influence(someone or something).

What gives ?? Say Ashcroft did sign off on the legality, would it be binding even though he was under the influence of medication and wasn't technically the AG. I'm not sure what the difference between a contract and signing off on something is, lawyers help me.

Side Note: I keep getting this image of Gonzo squeezing Ashcroft's air line until he signed the damn paper hadn't Comey showed up. If he can authorize torture, is it so far out to think he might engage in a little of it to get what he wants. Jack Bauer style government.

Posted by: ScottW on May 22, 2007 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Comey's status as head of DOJ pending Ashcroft's recovery was reported on March 6, 2004 in the New York Times, and again on March 10, 2004 in an article on Ashcroft's condition. This was public knowledge, widely reported. It is utterly absurd that Gonzales would claim ignorance of this. Completely shameless.

Posted by: Thomas C on May 22, 2007 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

If the WH Counsel is unaware who the acting AG is, he should be fired for negligence, if not just GP.

Par for the Bush Administration Course...

Posted by: justmy2 on May 22, 2007 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

How high our expectations are! Can we realistically expect the Bush Administration to produce lie after lie at a level of plausibility equal to their magnificent, catchy lies of yesteryear?

Let's be fair. They were damned good liars for a while. Their language was carefully parsed for deniability and their premises either appealed remotely to common sense, or to an intestinal form of patriotism. And there seemed to be a sense of joy in their work, an almost Clintonian pride in how much they could get us to swallow.

But these gifted and inspired liars, after six years, are understandably very tired. They mechanically begrudge us a few last bumps and grinds like senile strippers at closing time.

Posted by: chance on May 22, 2007 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Damn, chance, that was a beautiful piece of prose.

Posted by: shortstop on May 22, 2007 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

What I love about Gonzo is the way he's painting an unforgettable picture of himself as the Lucy Ricardo of this administration.

Now it appears Andy Card is casting himself as Ethel, and this hospital visit was just a zany little adventure the girls cooked up one night.

Won't we at least get to see the clinching scene with Ricky where they're blubbering for mercy?

Posted by: Altoid on May 22, 2007 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Guess Ashcroft is Fred Mertz. And here we thought he was more the Sydney Greenstreet type.

Posted by: Kenji on May 22, 2007 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Comey's status as head of DOJ pending Ashcroft's recovery was reported on March 6, 2004 in the New York Times, and again on March 10, 2004 in an article on Ashcroft's condition. This was public knowledge, widely reported. It is utterly absurd that Gonzales would claim ignorance of this.

Oh, I don't know how absurd it is. After all, this is the same man who as AG pretended not to know that there was an explicit grant of habeas corpus in the Constitution. If he can't even be bothered to familiarize himself with the basic building block of the American justice system how can he be expected to keep up with the dizzying ins and outs of when exactly Ashcroft was and was not under sedation....

Posted by: Stefan on May 22, 2007 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

chance: But these gifted and inspired liars, after six years, are understandably very tired. They mechanically begrudge us a few last bumps and grinds like senile strippers at closing time.

An apt analogy. Their priorities all along have been the same as the priorities of greedy, soulless whores.

Posted by: cowalker on May 22, 2007 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Gonzales is becoming another Katrina for the Bush Administration to deal with.

And they don't seem so far to be doing a better job dealing with it than they did with Katrina.

The dikes are breaking in the Justice Department.

Posted by: flagflyer on May 22, 2007 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

Who is this Al guy?... Does he come here often? I can't wait for his "comeback."

Hey, stick around until you meet Norman!

Posted by: thersites on May 22, 2007 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan: "If he can't even be bothered to familiarize himself with the basic building block of the American justice system..."

...then you can imagine what kind of job he did when he was in charge of vetting death-row candidates for Bush's pardon when he was the King of Texas. (Net gain in lives spared: 0)

Posted by: Kenji on May 22, 2007 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

Their priorities all along have been the same as the priorities of greedy, soulless whores.

I resent being classed with these people!

Posted by: the happy hooker on May 22, 2007 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

unbeliveable..... and Alberto is a Harvard grad?

Posted by: Rbonmon on May 23, 2007 at 7:42 AM | PERMALINK
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