"I often remind our fellow citizens that we live in the greatest country in the world and that I have lived the American dream. Even my worst days as attorney general have been better than my father's best days."

--from Alberto Gonzales' resignation statement.

Even a determined Gonzales-hater might find this statement somehow poignant, given his family's hardscrabble background. But what Mr. Gonzales evidently fails to understand is that he has diminished our collective American dream, alas. He diminished it by dismissing the Geneva Conventions as "quaint", by allowing a horrific torture policy to take root, by his banana-republic like late night visits to John Ashcroft's hospital room, by ignoring Congressional subpoenas, by authorizing illegal wiretapping programs, by firing qualified United States attorneys in an apparent putsch, and on and on.

Still, I will confess to a measure of sympathy for the man. Much like Harriet Miers, he was so supremely underqualified for his position, so spectacularly beyond his depth, that he should never have been put in such a difficult position. Instead Bush's bovine obsessiveness with loyalty--basic competence be damned-- has focused the brutal kleig-lights of international opprobrium on old friends like Harriet and Alberto. Like Brownie, say, they will become key examples in the history books of the rampant cronyism and incompetence of this Adminstration.

Their legacy thus sealed, one wonders, is Bush even cognizant of how he's effectively besmirched his friends by trying to elevate them to realms they should have never occupied to begin with? I suspect not, as the President's capacity for self-criticism appears somewhere between minute and non-existent. Instead, he's doubtless bitterly nursing his grudges, rankled that Senators like Arlen Specter and Pat Leahy and Chuck Schumer dared to challenge an Attorney General whose sycophancy to the President was so complete as to render the Department of Justice a wholly discredited arm of Government, one where Administration lawyers dutifully genuflected before David Addington and John Yoo's youthful exuberances.

In the end, I suspect Gonzales simply couldn't tolerate the punishing mortification anymore, the spectacle of his gross incompetence playing out so harshly on the national stage. And so he finally summoned up the courage to confront the President, that one time, if only to try and salvage whatever crumbs of dignity he had left, likely pleading with Bush to set him loose. Put differently, his only act of rebellion came at the very end, not on the important issues of the day that so badly sullied our democracy and highest traditions, but because Gonzales could no longer abide a crushing humiliation that had by then become total.

Ironically evincing a smigden of backbone only in a bid to persuade Bush to allow him to move off stage to spare himself further such misery, this belated act of banal self-preservation sadly came far too late. By then our collective American dream had been badly tarnished. Still, if it is part of the price of him leaving, let us allow him to fancifully imagine he is still somehow living his. All told, it's a small price to pay as we begin to clear out the rot left in the wake of this baleful Administration.

(Cross-posted at Belgravia Dispatch)

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