The Dangers Of ‘Cowboy Culture’

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - April 25, 2007

I have never seen a worse performance by a public official than Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s testimony last Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee - and remember, I witnessed Sen. Danny Akaka’s debate with Ed Case last fall.

The subject of the hearing, of course, was the AG’s firing of eight United States attorneys, reportedly at the suggestion of Bush political capo Karl Rove. They weren’t, in the warped view of Bush’s White House, sufficiently politically correct in their prosecutions.

During questioning by Senators, Gonzales couldn’t remember meetings, insisted that he merely “misspoke” in previous testimony and press conferences (when he obviously lied, more than once), and contended ad nauseum that the President was within his rights to replace U.S. attorneys at his pleasure.

He acknowledged that he never reviewed evaluations of the eight attorneys he fired, or that he knew why he fired two of the eight. Poor management skills? Incompetence? Gonzales didn’t know. Didn’t seem to need to know.

The members of the Judiciary Committee - every Democrat and every Republican, would have none of it. Previous administrations have fired one, maybe two U.S. attorneys during the course of eight years. But eight at one fall swoop? Never.

And repeatedly lying to a Senate committee? Senators - of both the “D” and “R” DNA - didn’t seem to like that. Oklahoma Sen. Tom Corbin told Gonzales that he should resign: “Confidence in U.S. attorneys has been undermined, and the reputation of the attorney general’s office has been tarnished. To me there must be consequences.” Corbin joined two other Republicans and a host of Democrats in the Senate who have called for Gonzales’s resignation.

The members of the Judiciary Committee pummeled Gonzales for seven hours before dismissing him. Gonzales sat there like a deflated punching bag, taking the blows for his fellow Texans, Bush and Rove.

The next day, of course, the President expressed his pleasure at Gonzales’s testimony and reiterated that the AG has his “full support,” despite Gonzales’s crippling failures of memory and admitted lack of curiosity regarding why U.S. attorneys are fired.

This, folks, is “cowboy culture.” These Texans, in accents twangy, stand by each other through thick, thin and coruscating incompetence. Ask Rummy. Or Brownie. Or the most incompetent of the lot: W himself

Washington wasn’t the only place where political cowboy culture was in evidence last week. In rural Virginia, a psychotic young man armed with two pistols slaughtered 32 fellow students on the campus of Virginia Tech. The State of Virginia sells guns the way McDonald’s sells hamburgers: give ‘em the money, they’ll give you the beef - or in this instance, the heat. No 24-hour waiting period, no background check, no required training class, nothing.

And for one of his pistols, the Cho Seung-Hui got a bargain, a 19-bullet clip rather than the 10 bullet clip sold by the gun shop a year ago. The friends and family of the victims, all of us in our mourning and deeply degraded nation, can thank the cowboy culture sold by the National Rifle Association over the past 40 years. For you see, last year a Republican congress corrupted by NRA campaign funds let lapse the gun control legislation passed a decade and half ago by a Democrat-controlled congress and President. That legislation, weak as it was, at least limited clip-size to ten bullets.

Of course, in cowboy culture, the NRA’s response to the Virginia killings was to suggest that more guns were the answer. According to one of the gunslingers, professors should be armed so that they can defend their classes against psychotics with Glocks and 19-bullet clips. Or why not require all students to buy a laptop, textbooks for their classes, and a handgun. That’ll bring peace and order to the academy.

Cowboy culture asserted itself at the Supreme Court last week as well. By a 5-4 vote, the majority being all-male and all-Republican appointees, the Court upheld a state statute that outlawed late-term abortions. The majority decision made no mention of the health of the mother. Take note, ladies. You may think you should have sovereignty over your own bodies. But out there in cowboy country, it’s a man’s world.

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