July 3, 2008

We haven’t heard too much from Alberto Gonzales since he resigned in disgrace as Attorney General. He was last seen struggling to find a job in his profession, and delivering a commencement address at a small high school in the Virgin Islands. (Seriously.)

I was surprised, then, to see Gonzales pop up in the LAT with an op-ed on “what Latinos want from their president.” The former AG, without a hint of irony, emphasized the importance of the next administration taking “racial equality” seriously.

[Latinos] want a society that recognizes and rewards us based on our hard work and ingenuity, not our skin color…. [A]lthough we know that America strives to be a fair country, the harsh reality is we are not one nation with liberty and justice for all. […]

As we move to the next phase of the presidential campaign, some people may try to discourage discussion about race relations in favor of issues they say are of greater importance…. However, we need leaders who appreciate — and who choose to confront — the crucial elements of racial inequality within these so-called bigger issues. Those are the leaders who are likely to be successful in finding effective solutions to our most important challenges.

Look, all of this is very nice. It’s a compelling sentiment about an issue I feel very strongly about.

But if Alberto Gonzales thinks he can speak with any authority — moral or otherwise — about combating “the crucial elements of racial inequality,” he must assume we have very short memories.

Maybe Gonzales can talk about his comfort level with the Bush administration’s approach to vote caging. Or maybe Gonzales can explore what happened to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division during his tenure in the administration. Or perhaps Gonzales can explain why the Justice Department’s habit of violating employment law got worse after he became Attorney General.

I certainly agree that we do need leaders who “appreciate — and who choose to confront — the crucial elements of racial inequality,” but it would have been nice to have a chief law-enforcement officer who took these issues seriously, too.

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