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Gonzales, Dodging Protesters, Relocates Boise Press Conference

Almost a half-hour after U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was scheduled to give a press conference in Boise, Idaho Tuesday, a representative told a crowd of more than 100 protesters that the press conference had been rescheduled and relocated to the U.S. Attorney’s office and only members of the press with credentials would be allowed in.

The crowd immediately booed and chanted “Coward! Coward! Coward!” and Larry Grant, candidate for Congress, took the microphone and said, “I’m sorry Gonzales didn’t come out to face his critics. We need an Attorney General who can bring respect back to the office and to our country’s reputation for supporting civil liberties.”

Gonzales is in Boise today to meet with the Treasure Valley Metro Anti-Gang Task Force. He was also scheduled for meetings with staff at the U.S. Attorney’s office, judges and agency heads.

Commentary from the press conference

Note to Gonzales’ staffers: Not only does dodging and relocating a press conference make you look silly, it also ticks off the press.

Most of us were stuck with almost an hour to kill between the scheduled press conference and the re-scheduled one, and then had to run the gauntlet of approvals. Feds with clearly displayed Glocks on their belts stood cross-armed on the steps in a disapproving fashion, and went out of their way to let me know I was a suspicious individual.

But they did that to other reporters. It was all very Government Spy Movie-ish and amusing, but I figured if I laughed they wouldn’t let me in for sure.

There was a miffed-off atmosphere in the room when Gonzales finally appeared. One of the first questions from a reporter was, “Why did you move the press conference when there were more than 100 people waiting for you outside the Fort Boise Community Center?”

Gonzales, his aides towering over him, spoke in a faint voice. “Because of other individuals that (sic) were there, we felt it would detract from being able to bring a very important message to the people of Idaho.”

Then someone threw him a softball question about the purpose of his visit to Boise, and my ears stopped functioning for a minute because I was getting all ramped up to ask Gonzales: “The hundred people who were waiting for you at the community center – aren’t they the ‘people of Idaho’?”

Gonzales: “Of course. But again, the concern was to deliver the message about the important work being done at the community center.”

That was just one of many intellectual remarks from the Attorney General.

For example, Gonzales said there are too many ways for people to have access to weapons, and that law enforcement agencies need to do a better job of coordinating resources to cut down on gang and gun violence.

Between that kind of pablum and his refusal to face the people who showed up at Fort Boise to question him, the question of spinelessness was the elephant in the living room. Here we had the very guy who proposed making war-on-terror prisoners exempt from the Geneva Convention, after which a group of military legal experts, including former Navy judge advocate general Admiral John Hutson released a letter to the Judiciary Committee. (The letter said that Gonzales’ recommendations “fostered greater animosity toward the United States, undermined our intelligence gathering efforts, and added to the risks facing our troops serving around the world.”) There he was, not 15 feet from me, and like the others I didn’t bother asking about that and other tough issues, knowing I’d get nothing back but spin-controlled drool.

John Miller of the Associated Press asked him, “What did you hear today that you can take back to D.C.?” and Gonzales answered, “We can see if we have any resources we can share with Idaho. You know, every time we take one of these trips, we learn something from the community.”

I think that’s what he said, anyway. He spoke so softly that his sentences tended to trail off.

Earlier, two lawyers at the protest asked me if I’d take their question to Gonzales, which was, “What is your legal opinion about whether Vice President Cheney is a member of the executive or legislative branch of government?” I was all set to ask when Gonzales said, “That’s all.” A small mob of the usual dark-suited Rayban-wearing feds suddenly talked into their wrists in the classic fashion, with a barely audible “Let’s go” from one of them. They surrounded Gonzales and swooshed him out of there into a black SUV that rocketed down Park Boulevard as if Bruce Willis was driving.

I’ve seen this perfectly-choreographed Get-Out-of-Dodge act before when big cheeses come to town, but it’s still interesting. Sometimes real life IS just like the movies.

Coming up: What went down at the protest.

About Jill Kuraitis

Jill Kuraitis is an award-winning journalist who specializes in news of Idaho and the Rocky Mountain West. Her B.A. in theatre management is from UC Santa Barbara, and she went on to work in theatre, film, and politics before writing became a career. Kuraitis has two excellent grown children and lives in Boise with her husband of 30 years, abundant backyard wildlife, and two huge hairy dogs.

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  1. Who knew? The US Attorney’s office is not at the Federal Building – as you might expect – but at the Washington Group Intl HQ along Park Blvd.

    I learned this after swinging by the Federal Bldg at 4 p.m. I drove afterward to the real location, but guess what? No protesters there.

    But then again, we all knew long before today that Alberto Gonzales has no shame. Jill, I look forward to your account of the closed press conference.

  2. While walking to my car I overhead one guy in a suit tell the guy who came out to announce the move (he had a light brown suit on), something about it was ParkCenter, not the Federal Court Building. But it didn’t make sense until I came back to work and saw on the Statesman’s site.

    I was ready to rumble!

  3. Good write up, Jill! I’m going to connect it to Americablog and firedoglake and everywhere I think of tonight when I get home.

  4. we went to the Federal building on Fort st. and were told by security that it was at 800 Park Center blvd. ,nothing but houses there. we heard them say the word “center” twice . me thinks the Keystone Cops directions were on purpose . the tv news tried on early reports(channel 6) to portray us as dangerous but later modified their reporting. channel 2 made me laugh, they said “…the (AG)’s plans took a left turn today…”. I’ll say they DID , Congratulations Boise ! We chased off a Coward fearful of peaceful democracy ,,,(too bad he won’t cut ‘n run from office also…). ————–ps: thanks to the Boise Police Department, they were the very definition of professional law enforcement . Unlike their putative Boss and his crony crowd. of criminals.

  5. I can vouch for what Nick says. Police at the federal building told me 800 Park Center Blvd, too, while the office is actually at 800 Park Blvd. I think that may have been an innocent mistake on the cops’ part (Park Blvd is more or less the entryway to Park Center), but what I want to know is why is the US atty’s office located in a corporate office park instead of the federal building?

  6. Even the suits in the Ft. Boise parking lot weren’t correct who I overheard. Yeah, Park Blvd leads off into Park Center. I wondered the same thing – why isn’t the U.S.Attorney’s Office in the federal building?

    Which leads me to think, spur of the moment cuttin’ n runnin’ by Abu.

  7. The only problem with Kitt’s conspiracy theory is that the US Attorney’s office has been at MK plaza for a good long time. It wasn’t a spur of the moment dodge.

  8. Jill, I appreciate the perspective from the inside. It illustrates how much contempt the Bush administration and the ruling elite in DC have for ordinary communities. To them, we are all simply passive consumers. Sadly, many of our neighbors have accepted that role (a role reinforced daily in the big commercial news system)

    The gathering of 100+ people yesterday showed that, in fact, for this country’s model of a republic to succeed, we must see ourselves as full participants in the governing of our country. We must constantly challenge each other to be participants.

  9. Just imagine what it would be like if Dubya himself were to appear in public. Since he doesn’t (except with carefully screened crowds of Stepford husbands and wives), we can only speculate about what sort of melee would ensue.

  10. P.S. — I have a t-shirt that says “I never thought I’d miss Nixon.” I think I need one reading “I never thought I’d miss Ashcroft.”

  11. A couple observations. Gonzo looked not only embattled but…well, sedated. He worked the room like a mortician at a funeral.

    Another was the coverage I saw on tv and the paper this morning. KTVB split coverage into two segments. You would think that would mean one for the protesters and one for Gonzo. But no, it was two reporters focused on Gonzo’s message with little substance on the protesters and what they were saying and why they thought it was necessary to be there. And Hahn looks to be bucking for a higher paying press secretary gig like his buddy Wayne Hoffman.

    I think what the protesters accomplished was great. Its clear to everyone that the AG is trying to take a page out of the Republican playbook, staging rallys with safe backdrops to show he’s doing his job without controversy and with a modicum of support. But thanks to you guys the message that is coming out is that even in the reddest states in the nation they can’t gloss over their failures and run from their record, whether its Cheney at BYU, or Gonzo in Boise. Coupled with Gore’s record setting sellout here I’m guessing Idaho isn’t going to be first on the Republican itinerary anymore.

  12. Nick – Please….don’t accuse me of having conspiracy theories I don’t have. I’m doing well juggling the ones I DO have about our government, this administration, and the cats who live me with me – or as in their eyes, I live with them.

    Jill, I’m linking the coverage here especially to all my e-buds. Your write up is absolutely terrific. The Idaho Democrats had several links to coverage on the protest. My daughter called this morning regarding the coverage of the news and the Statesman. I love the sound of pride in her voice.

  13. I thought the Statesman placing the story front-page-above-the-fold was new and interesting.

  14. ya knowwww, thinking about how just the presumptive presence of peaceful protesters “caused” the cowardly AG-for-RepublicansOnly to move his photo opp,,,I see that the Ada County Republican Round Up’s coming up at Guvner Butch’s (sounds dirty,Huh?) this weekend .

    ya see what I mean? and , if not this white glove/cowboy boot Repub event , how ’bout we “cause” them to move something else? a future ( msm stenographer ) press event ? We discovered a power that we , as American people still hold in this diminishing democratic republic . If OUR (S)elected and appointed officials continue to ignore more than half the Country, how long can this “Grand Experiment” known as the USA survive? And how long will it be until the American people rise up , only to find it’s too late, it is now illegal , made so by a secret signing statement . Game Over. Cash in your (few) chips .

    My favorite quote from Thomas Jefferson is:

    ———-” when the Govt. fears the people,,,
    you have democracy.—

    but when the people fear the Govt,
    you have tyranny.”—————————-

    I feared that today’s Bush#t America was proof that we lived in a velvet tyranny , where “they” can just ignore us (tho “they” still do as they will) , HAA! Cut ‘n Run Gonzo was evidence I was premature. THEY CANNOT IGNORE US! Please do not allow this rediscovered power to die, again .

    Great reporting (Finally) , and a fine debate here . ———————Oh yeah, I hope “they” got my good side when pictures were taken of we protesters from inside the closed doors of the center by men in suits and earpieces . I highly value mine and your secret GovtFile . BeCAUSE,,, when Dems take back the Whitehouse and restore honor and all ,,, we’ll have plenty of evidence to SEND “THEM” ALL to Prison ! How do ya like THAT shadenfruede ?