Was the nanny a mirage? (And will Gonzales get a pass?)

Published December 16, 2004 4:13PM (EST)

The stocky legs on the Bernie Kerik story just won't quit: Now there's a sudden pre-nomination resignation from a Long Island firm's advisory board to ponder, more ties to mob-connected businessmen, stalking allegations, and then there's the slow realization of what Josh Marshall predicted and the New York Times entertains today -- that Kerik probably never had a "nanny problem" after all. It's quite possible that he only wished his baggage was so light -- or that he could create the impression that it was, and thus shoo probing journalists away from the real trouble. No one, including those top-notch sleuths in the White House Counsel's office, seems to know who this supposed nanny is -- and it seems no one even tried to find her.

But botching the Kerik vetting process is the least, really, to be concerned about with the performance of the current White House Counsel, the likely-to-be-confirmed John Ashcroft replacement Alberto Gonzales. With looming Supreme Court nominations to fight over and the train wreck that has been the Kerik nomination sucking up all the press, Gonzales' own controversial nomination seems to have slipped under the radar -- at least for now. But the New York Times reports today that "several former high-ranking military lawyers say they are discussing ways to oppose President Bush's nomination of Alberto R. Gonzales to be attorney general, asserting that Mr. Gonzales's supervision of legal memorandums that appeared to sanction harsh treatment of detainees, even torture, showed unsound legal judgment."

When the Senate Judiciary Committee meets next month for the Gonzales hearings, having former generals and admirals up there blasting the nominee "would be a setback and an embarrassment for him and the White House," the Times says. But really, it could get a little embarrassing for the Democrats, too, if military lawyers are the ones making the strongest case against Gonzales. While Pat Leahy and others are expected to criticize Gonzales' record, Nat Hentoff predicts that a full-on Democratic campaign against the nomination won't happen. "The Democrats prefer to hold their fire until the next Supreme Court nominee. As a result, for the next four years, the manipulative Alberto Gonzales will be finding additional ways to expand the Patriot Act, integrate the further surveillance of us all into government data banks, and, as he already has, make the Bush administration the most secretive in American history," Hentoff writes.

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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