Alberto Gonzalez Plays the Latino Card

The only positive aspect of this debacle is that Latinos know Latinos can reach the position of Attorney General

By Gabriel Buelna
Published on LatinoLA: March 30, 2007

Alberto Gonzalez Plays the Latino Card

If thereÔÇÜs one thing we can count on in Washington, it's that Republicans and Democrats don't get along. That's why it was surprising the Senate, by a vote of 94-2 vote, passed a bill taking away the Attorney General's power to appoint U.S. attorneys without Senate confirmation. For the Attorney General, this was a major reduction in his authority, but why should we care? Well, the 94-2 vote was a vote of no confidence, sending the message that Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez's current legal post should end with his resignation or his termination.

Last week, Mr. Gonzalez spoke of adversity in his life. In his six years with the Bush administration, Mr. Gonzalez has rarely spoken of issues of race and rarely acknowledged being Latino. Now, in his moment of political crisis, he is consistently raising his ethnicity on a regular basis. In doing this, Mr. Gonzalez is saying, "Please don't fire me, I'm Latino." He even used the key word "adversity" to hammer his point home. This attempt to play the Latino Card was so blatant and egregious that Comedy Central paid homage to Mr. Gonzalez's ploy be basing an entire skit on it. The burning question here is whether race is a contributing factor to the Attorney General's predicament. No, race was not a factor. It was not a factor with O.J. and is not a factor with A.G.

What is sad about the situation is that Mr. Gonzalez should be someone Latino children and families throughout the United States and Latin America feel proud of. He's been a successful attorney who built a relationship of trust with the President of the United States. He honored his heritage by keeping his name "Alberto" instead of changing it to "Albert" or "Al." He's from Southern Texas with the accent to prove it. He could have been a living role model for Latinos on a national and international level. Instead, Alberto Gonzalez has become a caricature of himself - a fading reflection of what he could have been. As the father of three Mexican-American girls, ages four, six and eight, I used to point to the television and say, see you can be a lawyer and a leader like Mr. Gonzalez. I no longer say this to my children.

Mr. Gonzalez could have overcome this challenge by speaking with Senators and admitting a mistake. The reality is that we like to crucify politicians in one breath and forgive them in the next in this country. If the Attorney General had quickly confessed his wrongdoing and the measures taken to ensure that such missteps would not occur again, the U.S. attorney firing scandal would never have become a scandal. It would have been a forgotten, month-old sound bite. Instead, the wrongdoing has grown into a full-blown national drama. Throughout, Mr. Gonzalez has failed to accept responsibility, believing on some level that the President will swoop in at the last second and save him from the gnashing teeth of non-partisan justice. In believing this, Mr. Gonzalez has not grasped that he is the Attorney General of the United States and not the personal attorney for President Bush.

As Mr. Gonzalez waits for the President to save him, he is discounting the fact that President Bush needs a few days of press where it's not about him. With Democrats in control of Congress, the War in Iraq going badly, and home sales at their worst levels in seven years, Mr. Gonzalez will need to resign or be fired. Mr. Gonzalez being fired will be the coverage the President needs to show he is firmly at the helm of his administration and is not afraid to clean house when necessary. Mr. Gonzalez will never get that he's a tool of the Bush administration. Mr. Gonzalez will not understand this and will miss the opportunity to resign believing until the end that he is President Bush's friend. In politics, Mr. Gonzalez, nobody is your friend.

Mr. Gonzalez's legacy will be that of opportunities lost. He could have helped broker an immigration accord or challenged the overall Latino community to improve its graduation rates, increase volunteerism, or generally take a stand on something. The only positive aspect of this debacle is that Latinos know Latinos can reach the position of Attorney General. We will have to wait until the next Latino Attorney General of the United States to discover the good that can come from having a Latino fill the post. Next time, I hope that being Latino is as important in choosing a candidate for the position as it is to Alberto Gonzalez as he tries to save his position.

What do you think?

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About Gabriel Buelna:
Gabriel Buelna is Executive Director, Plaza Community Center, faculty member - Chicana/o Studies Department at CSUN, and appears on KMEX 34 and Telemundo 52. Receive articles via e-mail

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