The Unfair Vilification of Alberto Gonzales

This can't be right. For the last several weeks, we've heard a lot about previously secret internal Justice Department memos and legal opinions authored by the Bush administration -- documents that define the legal limits of government power in combating terrorism, including what could be done to skirt U.S. prohibitions against torture.

Here's the part that doesn't make sense. Those torture memos from the Bush Justice Department mention three lawyers, and not one of them is named Alberto Gonzales. Their names: John Yoo, Steven Bradbury, and Jay Bybee. All were formerly assigned to the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. Yoo. Bradbury. Bybee. But no Gonzales.

That's weird. According to the narrative spun by the Bush haters, Alberto Gonzales -- the former White House counsel and U.S. attorney general -- was the mastermind and majordomo of the Bush administration's torture policy. He was Bush's stooge, a loyal flunky who had hitched his wagon to Bush's star. Afraid to anger his benefactor, Gonzales was unable or unwilling to tell the president "no" when he should have. He wiped his feet on the Constitution and personally orchestrated the administration's torture policy.

The narrative took hold soon after the Sept. 11th attacks. Back then, Gonzales was White House counsel and John Ashcroft was attorney general. By any measure, the attorney general -- a cabinet official, no less -- has much more power than a White House counsel. But according to the storyline advanced by the Bush haters, in that administration, it was the other way around. It was Gonzales who had all the power. He had the strength to bend the will of dozens of administration lawyers. It was Al Gonzales' world, and all the other barristers who worked for President Bush just lived in it.

And what does Gonzales think of the media's caricature?