It is likely — though not entirely certain in these tumultuous times for the dangerously adrift Bush-Cheney administration — that the next Attorney General of the United States will be a conservative.
The question is whether he or she will be a conservative who disregards the Constitution — as did the disgraced and disgraceful Alberto Gonzales — or a conservative who respects the document.
Richard A. Viguerie, the political direct-mail pioneer who has been referred to as “the funding father of the conservative movement,” ought to understand the distinction better than just about anyone.
Viguerie has been at odds with the Bush-Cheney administration for the past several years — arguing, appropriately, that the current president and vice president have abandoned conservative principles in order to expand the power and authority of the federal government.
Last year, Viguerie authored a smart book on the subject, Conservatives Betrayed — How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause (Bonus Books). This year, he signed on with an even smarter initiative, the American Freedom Agenda, an effort by conservative leaders to reassert basic Constitutional principles by prohibiting warrantless spying, restoring habeas corpus, banning extraordinary rendition and torture, barring presidential signing statements and renewing open government protections.
The American Freedom Agenda, led by Viguerie, former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, American Conservative Union chair David Keene, Reagan administration lawyer Bruce Fein and Viguerie has bluntly assessed the failings of the Bush-Cheney administration when it comes to defending the Constitution and the Republic it serves. “Especially since 9/11, the executive branch has chronically usurped legislative or judicial power, and has repeatedly claimed that the President is the law,” it declared. “The constitutional grievances against the White House are chilling, reminiscent of the kingly abuses that provoked the Declaration of Independence.”
In April, Viguerie, Keene, Barr, Fein and their allies signed a letter to President Bush calling for the firing of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. “Mr. Gonzales has presided over an unprecedented crippling of the Constitution’s time-honored checks and balances. He has brought rule of law into disrepute, and debased honesty as the coin of the realm,” they declared. “He has engendered the suspicion that partisan politics trumps evenhanded law enforcement in the Department of Justice.”