When Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez resigned recently, he said something that may have endeared him, as usual, to his master—George W. Bush—but should go down in history as perhaps one of the cheapest shots ever taken by a disgraced public official. Trying to persuade us how proud he was to have risen so high, even in the face of his public fall, Gonzalez said something like:
"My worst day as Attorney General was better than my father’s best day."
We were to fill in the blanks. Gonzalez, a Hispanic American, had risen from the lower classes to emerge as trusted counselor and all-around gofer to George W. Bush, first in Texas when Bush was governor, and then in the White House where he served as general counsel to the President, and then as Attorney General.
It is a saga that rings with all the music of the great American success story. Anyone can rise from humble origins, and Gonzalez had been born in a town outside Houston actually called Humble, Texas. His father, whose best day, "Fredo" assured us, never even approached his son’s worst day, had been a construction worker. Somehow he managed to provide Alberto with a good enough life to send him to Harvard Law School (after a stint at the Air Force Academy, which, like his master, he left before incurring any serious service obligations.) From there, it was up up and away for the Hispanic lawyer.
But let’s go back to the comment. 'Even my worst day was better than any day my father ever had.' What are we to think of a man who says that? Does he mean that the work he did—being George W. Bush’s chief ass-kisser and enabler, the author of Bush policies legitimizing torture and the greatest curtailment of American civil liberties since the Civil War—was more noble and worthy than any construction work his father ever did or could do? Is this what he meant? Or that his work at the Department of Justice in politicizing the American system of justice to skew it towards U.S. Attorneys who could corrupt the voting system, was more noble than his father’s work with his hands?
It is actually a far more revealing comment than Alberto could have intended. For what it bares for the world to see are the smarmy morals and Snopes-like allegiances that motivate this man. Far from respecting a hard-working father, Alberto sneers at his entire life as a life without merit. A life whose best day couldn’t even approach the worst day the son ever had. And we must assume that the son meant to include the recent weeks and months of utter humiliation as he was forced to testify before Congress to his utter incompetence, his utter inability to run what is arguably the most crucial department in the entire government, his utter failure to understand that justice in America means more than fixing things so that the boss can spit upon, fart upon, trample upon justice if he so chooses. Because he is the boss. He is the kingpin. He is the President, and he can do no wrong. This is what Alberto Gonzalez means by the glory that attended to even his worst day. The glory that attends to being George W. Bush’s ass-sniffing lapdog.
And all we can say in response to his public slur upon his father’s memory is that the man is a traitor at heart. A traitor to his father. A traitor to his ethnicity. A traitor to his people. A traitor to his class. A traitor who saw, early on, the opportunity that could arise from the willingness to endure any shame, betray any relative, enact any charade to demonstrate undying loyalty to one’s betters. And to enact it right through some of the most shameful public humiliation in recent memory.
Alas, poor Alberto. The fall of a sycophant is always both delicious, and sad. And in your case and your poor father’s, it is doubly delicious, and doubly sad.