This afternoon on my show, I talked with Jack Goldsmith, former Assistant Attorney General in the Bush Administration, about his book “The Terror Presidency.”
As head of the Office Of Legal Counsel, Goldsmith got into heated debates with Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, and others regarding the surveillance program, the FISA court, torture policies, and more. We discussed all of that, and the famous encounter with Gonzales and Andrew Card (then White House Chief Of Staff) in John Ashcroft’s hospital room over re-authorizing a secret program.
I asked Goldsmith whether the Bush administration used fear as a weapon internally, as it has so often publicly, to scare people into getting what it wants. As an example, Goldsmith says that when he questioned one Bush decision, David Addington (then legal counsel to Dick Cheney) told him, “If you rule that way, the blood of the hundred thousand people who die in the next attack will be on your hands.”
Goldsmith, a conservative attorney and law professor, found himself torn between protecting the nation and following the law and the Constitution. Although at the time he told people he left his position “to spend more time with his family,” it’s clear that the legal schism in the White House — and the administration’s unwillingness to respect the balance of power with Congress and the courts — eventually drove him out.