Jack L. Goldsmith is no John McCain. So it will be fascinating to see whether and to what extent the tribunes of the White House try to savage Goldstein's credentials and reputation now that he has decided to offer a withering critiqueof the inner-circle tactics used by the Bush administration to formulate our legal response to the war on terrorism.
Goldsmith is a rock-ribbed, old-fashioned, old-school conservative attorney—your father's conservative attorney, you might say-- who for years shaped anti-terror policy at the Justice Department before he finally had enough with the rest of the president's (and the vice-president's) men. He is the embodiment of what the Justice Department used to stand for-- adherence to the rule of law, caution in extending executive branch power, respect for the other branches of government, respect for dissenting views-- and for that he became a pariah.
But in America, even pariahs to the powerful ultimately can speak their mind and Goldsmith now is out with a book that has the chattering class... well, chattering. The book isn't out yet but the executive branch Goldsmith describesseems every bit as sinister and short-sighted as its worst critics have contended for years. And that has made big news in the papers and online. Good timing, I guess, to come out with a book about how lame the Justice Department was and is; the Attorney General of course having resigned just last week.
Goldsmith focuses his ire and disdain toward a government official named David S. Addington, who now serves as the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney. Addington, according to the Washington Post's account of Goldsmith's book, "viewed both U.S. lawmakers and overseas allies with 'hostility' and repeatedly opposed efforts by other administration lawyers to soften counterterrorism policies or seek outside support. `We're going to push and push and push until some larger force makes us stop,' Addington said at one point, according to Goldsmith."
And Alberto Gonzales? Goldsmith left the Justice Department before Gonzales left his post as White House counsel to take over as Attorney General. But the two interacted on vital anti-terrorism polices and practices. Was the Attorney General engaging? Was he proactive? Was he providing a gray eminence to the discussion between government attorneys over how far the feds could go in limiting individual liberties?
Nope. The Post describes Gonzales in Goldsmith's book as "a passive figure at the White House who mostly would `sit quietly in his wing chair, occasionally asking questions but mostly listening…`" And there is more from the Post: "After Goldsmith decided to resign in 2004, however, he recalled sitting down with Gonzales for what he described as a cordial conversation. Gonzales raised the issue of the memos on interrogation policy that Goldsmith overturned. 'I guess those opinions really were as bad as you said,' Gonzales told him."