Civil Liberties

Who Was the Worst Attorney General in Recent Years?


As Gonzo deserts the sinking ship that is the SS Bush Second Term, there's no question that he sucked as attorney general.

But was he in fact worse than Constitution-shredder and recidivist barbershop quarteter John Ashcroft (whose main qualification for the gig was losing to a dead man in an election)?

Or Constitution-shredder and recidivist child abuser Janet Reno (whose main qualification for the gig was that she never paid a nanny under the table)?

Discuss. And ponder the thought that whatever comes next might actually be worse.

NEXT: Bedtime for Gonzo

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  1. Is this the wrong time to pull out my “Meese in ’88” t-shirt?

    Christ – I’ve just lost track of all the suckiness.

    While Ashcroft shredded the constitution, it’s pretty clear that Gonzalez was egging him on at the time, and that Gonzo got pissed off at him for going slow.

    Reno was her own freak show, but she was saved the disgrace of really getting super-shreddy just by being out of office by 9/11/01. However, she did all her shredding in an environment where there was no excuse for it. I at least understand how the 9/11 attacks could push you over the edge and make you do things that you wouldn’t have done (even if deep down you wanted to) before hand. She did all her shit when the worst crisis we faced was “irrational exuberance” in the stock market and maybe some espionage on the part of the sock puppet.

  2. Here is a depressing thought about our three most recent Attorneys General. Do we look back to the AG tenure of Edwin Meese, or Ramsey Clark, as the good old days?

    Another depressing thought. It still is a good thing Alberto Gonzales became AG, because we were spared him being picked for the Supreme Court.

    I need to call my doctor for a Zoloft prescription.

  3. The ACLU just named (Alexander) Mitchell Palmer, Wilson’s AG, as a moral ancestor to this one. Interesting fellow:

    “tongues of revolutionary heat were licking the alters (sic) of the churches, leaping into the belfry of the school-bell, crawling into the sacred corners of American homes, seeking to replace marriage laws with libertine vows, burning up the foundations of society.”

    And: anarchists-or-possibly-communists blew up his D.C. home.

    And: he deported Emma Goldman! To the Soviet Union!

  4. Would that be sucked as in “Nick G. sucks as a columnist” or as in Monica L. sucks a mean joint”?

  5. Gonzales was a clown, little more. His jobs was to take the attention away from all the other gross incompetence, negligence, greed, practice of evil, etc, of the administration. His leaving will make no difference.

    He will be replaced by a carbon copy with a slightly different skinbag and ID tag who will promise a New Era of Accountability and the act in the same manner Alberto did, but he won’t have to resign because Bush will be out before it can come to a head.

    It got a little too hot to keep Gonzales around, but he did his job well, pushing whatever swill he was told to push, shitting on the bill of rights, wiping his ass with the Geneva Convention, and serving as a lightning rod for criticism for many years. Nothing will change. Nothing.

  6. Waco was more Louis Freeh’s responsibility than Janet Reno’s.

    For a new Attorney General to defer to the longtime head of the FBI when he says it’s time to end an armed standoff strikes me as a reasonable action to take.

  7. This guy not recent enough for you: ?

  8. …and people kept saying to me, “Cheer up! Things could be worse.” So, I cheered up, and sure enough…

  9. To echo foobar a little bit, I recall cheering as the door smacked SpongejJohn SquareAshcroft in the ass on his way out the door.

    He was replaced by an even less principled and unqualified sycophantic stooge. I have no reason to believe that there will be any difference in Gonzo’s departure.

  10. Better and far more instructive to ask who the last good Attorney General was.

  11. The one good thing I can say about Ashcroft is that (at least as a Senator) he was good on strong crypto. Or, at least as good as you can get in DC.

  12. Syd beat me to it, Mitchell was the model for a corrupt AG.

  13. I’ve gotta go with Pro Libertate on this.

  14. Thanks for the link Syd.

    Again it makes me ask, If the Republicans like Reagan so much, why are they trying to be like Nixon?

  15. Best ever? Were there any good ones that weren’t puppets for the President or shills for rights-deniers? I thought maybe AG Brownell under Eisenhower in 1957,but it appears Ike had to over-rule him, federalize the Ark. National Guard and then send in the 101st Airborne to Little Rock to enforce desgregation orders that Gov. Faubus was ignoring.

  16. Janet Reno stood by and did nothing as the FBI and ATF obstructed justice in the investigation of the Ruby Ridge fiasco. She fully supported the means by which Elian Gonzalez was sent back to Cuba; a search warrant was obtained by making knowingly false statements to a compliant magistrate, so as to shorten a legal dispute by illegitimate force.

  17. I think Reno was the worse, because she let Waco happen. If she let that much carnegie happen in response to unregistered guns, I can only imagine how she would have responded to today’s scares.

  18. Best Attorney General. Well, there’s William Barr, who held the post for two years under Bush41 and who I don’t remember a thing about, which is a definite improvement over the last three. Then there’s William French Smith, who I also don’t remember at all. (Ross Perot said if he was elected he wanted to appoint Smith to his cabinet. Someone pointed out to Perot that Smith was dead.)

    Griffin Bell seems to have been pretty good, but Elliot Richardson is the one I’ll always admire.

  19. “whose main qualification for the gig was losing to a dead man in an election)?”

    Yeah, never mind his actual qualifications, like the fact he was an assistant attorney general and attorney general in Missouri, among other qualifications

    If I had a nickel for every time Reason writers
    should have stuck to actual facts concerning a person’s record rather than resorting to personal smears, I would be wealthy enough to make Warren Buffett look like Oliver Twist.

  20. Actually this is a pretty good libertarian litmus test.

    Considering the breadth and width that federal law has stretched into unconstitutional areas is it even possible to like any attorney general in living memory and still seriously be considered a libertarian?

  21. anyway that said i have to say i liked Gonzales the most….and only because he is the son of a migrant worker…really nothing more then that.

  22. A nominate Meese. In addition to just being bad, he looked like a dumb, pious, self righteous jerk; sort of like Jerry Falwell, may he rest in peace.

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