I’ve only seen it mentioned in the blogs jokingly, as an ironic aside, but I was interested in Alberto Gonzales’ response to the question of whether he would resign over the attorney purge scandal. His conclusion:
I’m not going to resign. I’m going to stay focused on protecting our kids.For some reason, the way he said it sounded like he thought it would make him immune from further criticism - like even his harshest critics would agree that protecting kids is a noble goal and back off. I wondered – how long has Gonzo been so focused on protecting kids?
While hardly the product of an exhaustive search, I did find a couple of curious pieces of information that have led to a theory worth watching as further scandals unfold. It is the idea that the current administration has latched on to the issue of "protecting kids from internet predators" as a publicly acceptable diversion from anything related to corruption and scandal in its political dealings.
After Gonzales’ comment, I did some research into the Justice Department’s focus on this issue. It turns out that a major initiative, Project Safe Childhood, was announced on February 15th, 2006, right in the middle of efforts to “aggregate” the names of US Attorneys who would be replaced by “loyal Bushies.”
The press release announcing this program opened with the following quote from the President:
“Our nation has made this commitment: Anyone who targets a child for harm will be a primary target of law enforcement. That's our commitment.” -President George W. BushOf course, the date of Bush’s quote was October 12, 2002, so apparently the “commitment” didn’t manifest itself until four years later, when Gonzales happened to need a popular program to talk about instead of having to deal with nagging questions about impropriety in his department, when many of the “primary targets” of law enforcement were Republican officials, and when “interim” USA’s were being placed in accordance with a Patriot Act provision that bypassed Senate confirmation.
I also found it interesting that one of the most controversial of these interim USA appointments was Rachel Paulose, who was appointed only two days after the announcement of Project Safe Childhood, and who was, according to this article, one of the “authors” of that initiative. While fending off criticism that she caused three key members of her staff to resign rather than deal with a dictatorial management style and her quoting of bible verses in the office, Paulose has indicated that her primary focus is on getting “righteous sentencing” for predators who target children on the internet.
Clearly, no one will argue that the basic idea behind the stated focus of Paulose and Gonzales is an important one, but the emphasis on such a narrow issue (and one that has been sensationalized greatly in recent years for dramatic effect) as a way of deflecting criticism, seems, well, a bit “Rovian” to me!
Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, and I should remove the tin foil from my cranium, but I will be interested to see how many times Gonzales tries to rely on “protecting children” as a shield; and on how many other embattled “loyal Bushie” prosecutors trot out the same story!