Loyalty at What Cost?
President George W. Bush's "full support" of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz has implications far beyond the future of the two besieged officials. Gonzalez's explanations yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the circumstances of the firing of U.S. attorneys were clearly unpersuasive, even to a number of Republican senators. The Senate cannot remove the attorney general-only the president can-but the Senate, by expressing no confidence in Gonzalez, is certainly in a position to make it much more difficult for him to be effective in the performance of his duties, which are essential to the nation, particularly during the war against Islamist terrorists and the controversy over the immigration crisis. Similarly, even if Mr. Wolfowitz survives as president of the World Bank, will he be able to be a formidable leader? Would his anti-corruption preaching be taken literally? Would he be credible with donor nations, especially in Europe, in getting additional funding for the Bank?
Clearly, at a minimum both Mr. Gonzalez and Mr. Wolfowitz are guilty of very flawed judgment. The attorney general lost the trust of the U.S. Congress and the president of the World Bank that of the majority of his staff and much of his board. Mr. Bush of course is still entitled to have confidence in them, but not if he wants the rest of us to have confidence in his own ability to be a wise and effective Chief Executive. I for one am most reluctant to see the Congress trying to micromanage U.S. military activity in Iraq. I agree with Mr. Bush that 535 senators and representatives should not act as a collective commander-in-chief and that establishing public deadlines for U.S. withdrawal would encourage America's enemies and severely undermine the morale of America's allies, as it happened more than thirty years ago in Vietnam. And, I further agree with the president and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) that the price of defeat in Iraq in terms of American security and prestige may be huge.
But the price of not allowing the president to act as the bona fide commander-in-chief in Iraq has to be measured against his miserable record of misjudgment, misrepresentation and mismanagement of the war. If the president believes that the troop surge in Iraq is the right tactic, how can he maintain confidence in Mr. Wolfowitz, who was one of the architects of the totally different and disastrous strategy in Iraq? Had the president thought when he appointed Mr. Wolfowitz to run the World Bank that his failures at the Department of Defense were not apparent, he surely should know better by now. And as Mr. Wolfowitz demonstrates serious misjudgment again, why wouldn't the president delicately encourage him to move on to the whole variety of high-profile and profitable pursuits that should be available to him in the private sector? . . .