August 27th, 2007
07:42 PM ET
11 years ago

Commentary: Time for a black attorney general

Who should succeed Gonzales as attorney general? Roland Martin has made his pick.

(CNN) - Now that Alberto Gonzales has finally jumped ship, President George W. Bush is in a tough position.

He needs to fight back charges from Democrats that the Justice Department has no credibility, and of course, he must also give Republicans some hope that he has someone in mind who they can rally behind.

One name that would be a win-win: Larry Thompson.

Thompson served as deputy attorney general of the United States from January 2001 until August 2003, and was widely seen as a comforting presence while a volatile John Ashcroft was sitting in the top spot. He left for a big corporate gig as PepsiCo’s senior vice president and general counsel.

Not only is he seen as a moderate; Thompson was also widely respected when he was the top U.S. attorney for the northern District of Georgia. Democrats and Republicans both like him, and that’s a good thing today.

Another plus? He’s African-American.

Sure, people should be appointed based on qualifications, but he has that. His race is an added element.

First, Thompson would be the first African-American to serve as attorney general, and Bush has already had a couple of firsts (Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State). Second, Bush would get someone who he already knows, and can trust to get through what some are already calling a tough confirmation hearing.

Thompson may have been making the big bucks in the private sector, but he surely wouldn’t pass up the chance at making history, and helping a president in desperate need of some good news.

- CNN contributor Roland Martin

Filed under: Alberto Gonzales
soundoff (153 Responses)
  1. Jonathan, Portland, OR

    Black, White, Brown, Red, Yellow, Zebra Striped...whatever. Give us an AG who's honest, non-partisan, and more interested in Justice than in kissing some politician's backside. I'm sick and tired of our do-nothing government and its bowing to the will of the corporations and obscenely rich instead of the people. To paraphrase FDR, "...the only thing we have to fear is government."

    August 27, 2007 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  2. William, Tampa, FL

    Could be. We've had a Hispanic one and that hasn't worked out too well.

    August 27, 2007 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |


    August 27, 2007 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  4. Chris, Arlington, TX

    Hey Gonzales was Latino and that didnt seem to matter to those who like destroy people's careers for their own political gain. Why even make race an issue?

    August 27, 2007 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  5. Brian, Odessa, Florida

    Why on earth we we focusing on someone's skin color instead of their resume? If they're qualified to do their job, then let them do their job.

    Leave color out of this.

    August 28, 2007 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  6. Evan Esteves, Boca Raton, FL

    No matter who you put into the AG spot...this past Presidential term ('04-'08) will go down as one of the top 5 worst Presidential terms in the history of this country.

    August 28, 2007 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  7. Patrick, Harlem, NY

    Roland Martin, as a black man and as a person with a brain I find this article offensive. This type of debate is exactly what we don't need. "reporters" of your type of ALL races are the same ones making Michael Vick a Hip Hop issue and Alberto Gonzalez a Mexican story. You're not helping the cause, your setting it back with your divisiveness.

    This administration is out of control and we need an Eliot Ness of any color restore integrity. If that happens to be an Asian woman or damn cyclops I don't care. and neither should you.

    If Larry Thompson is such an obvious choice then you would have no need to mention what color he is.

    August 28, 2007 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  8. Joe Walso

    Sorry, no. Awarding someone a high ranking position because of their race is a recipe for another disaster. Get the most qualified, and move on from there.

    August 28, 2007 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  9. Ben, Chelsea, ME

    If he's making more money in the private sector, what would make him leave? History? Why, so he can be attached to the mediocre legacy of the Bush administration? I'm sure he has a little more sense than that.

    August 28, 2007 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  10. Lance, Monrovia, CA

    This is a stupid question. I don't care if he's black, white, purple or pink polka dot.

    As long as he's honest and actually upholds the laws of the land instead of the will of the dictator in chief.

    If he's honest, Bush is toast within six months. Remember that.L

    August 28, 2007 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  11. George R., Pittsburgh, PA

    Why are we always so concerned about the diversity of skin color? Why can't we focus more on the diversity of ideas? Shouldn't that be the most important factor? Skin color should have nothing more to do with the debate than someone's height or weight. It is the thoughts, beliefs and even more importantly, the actions of candidates that should be considered when determining the best person for this; or any other position.

    Using race as the central argument for one's commentary demonstrates a disturbing lack of depth in the thinking and writing of the commentator. I could have made a much better case for the appointment of Roland Martin as Attorney General and the fact that he is black would have never entered into the discussion.

    August 28, 2007 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  12. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    I don't think the AG job description requires one to be black or white. This is American and I am proud to be a Black American who periodically reads The Constitution that endows us all with equalities. May the best of the best qualified be appointed as AG.

    August 28, 2007 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  13. Steve Knoll, Monterey, California

    Aren't we past the point where we need to look at anything but a person's qualifications?

    Black, white, brown, yellow, purple, who cares?

    How about someone who will enforce the law, with liberty and justice for all?

    August 28, 2007 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  14. Brad White, Oroville CA

    Mr. Gonzales was liked by both parties. The Dems brought up bogus charges against Him. If Mr. Gozales were here for a democrat Prez, and did all the same things, you liberals would be praising Him.The only thing this administration did wrong was to let those attorneys keep their jobs for 6 more years.( a good thing) God bless this Man, I hope He gets treated better in His next endeaver.

    August 28, 2007 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  15. Thomas Hall, Brooklyn, NY

    I could understand the publication of a reasoned piece in support of Mr. Thompson, but a commentary which seemingly advocates the appointment of a generic "black Attorney General" (and which refers to his racial designation as "another plus") is not only condescending but disturbingly racist. Why must Mr. Thompson's candidacy be cast in racial terms? In what possible way could this generate an intelligent discussion of the rather sizeable field of well-qualified candidates? I have always felt that the news-media has a responsibility to its consumers to advance the social and political discourse of the public; with fewer exceptions than examples, that duty has been observed. Mr. Martin's piece, however, has no discernable substance. He neither compares Mr. Thompson with other qualified candidates nor provides any real insight into his work, beliefs or achievement to support his position. It is as though the entire article is directed to the singular end of blindly advocating a black candidate – any black candidate – to satisfy the as-yet unfulfilled niche of "first African-American to serve as attorney general." Similarly disconcerting is Mr. Martin's assertion that "his race is an added element," compounded by the fact that he makes no attempt to substantiate the claim by making reference to the strategic or political considerations which would make this so. Perhaps Mr. Martin should reevaluate his conception of journalism, or at least provide more than empty and bigoted commentary to his readers.

    August 28, 2007 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  16. Andrew, Jakarta, Indonesia

    Excuse me? The President needs to fight back charges from the Democrats about credibility? Las time I looked, the Democrats in Congress didn't have much credibility either.

    And enough of the race card. Condi Rice and Colin Powell are both outstanding Americans who achieved and served their country best through their skill and their character, not their colour. Maybe it would have been different sixty years ago, but times have changed. "Be all you can be" is not just a slogan anymore and America is a far better place for it.

    August 28, 2007 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  17. Ryan Smith, Spanish Fork, UT

    I have a dream that one day we'll stop saying, "Is it time for a black..."? Sure, it's time for someone from any race, religion, or ethnicity. For Pete's sake, let's stop talking about racial issues and affirmative action and how choosing someone of ethnic background pushes some political agenda and just choose the best person for the job.

    In a recent WSJ article titled, "Affirmative Action Backfires", some preliminary studies show that there are actually fewer black attorneys because of affirmative action.

    Easily the most startling conclusion of his research: Mr. Sander calculated that there are fewer black attorneys today than there would have been if law schools had practiced color-blind admissions - about 7.9% fewer by his reckoning. He identified the culprit as the practice of admitting minority students to schools for which they are inadequately prepared. In essence, they have been "matched" to the wrong school.

    Let's start treating all men and women as equals, singling them out for their talents, qualifications, and abilities and not for their race, religion, or ethnicity.

    August 28, 2007 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  18. Jose, Gainesville, FL

    What the heck does it matter what color or national origin the Attorney General is??!! It is not time for a black, white, brown, yellow, or whatever AG! It is time for an attorney general that will do his/her job right! The last time I checked a hire is made (and should be made) based on whether someone can do a job not on what color, national origin, or sex he/she is!

    August 28, 2007 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  19. James, Atlanta GA

    Time for a black president, a woman president, a black attorney general, etc... Whatever happened to having the most qualified PERSON serving the American people? We should not compromise our leadership for some quixotic quest to erase past mistakes. American opinion is changing; a black attorney general, along with all other races, will come in due time. Those miles-stones will occur when the right man/woman comes along, which is exactly how it should be. Let our nation be run by the most competent, the brightest, and the most honorable individuals among us. At such times, it will not matter what race/gender our leaders are. That is when we will have put past prejudices behind us; and begin to see ourselves as equals.

    August 28, 2007 02:01 am at 2:01 am |
  20. Lyons Steve

    Thompson being black doesn't help Bush one bit. The emasculation of Colin Powell by the Bushies and the religious right – oh, wait, I forgot: same thing – could only have occurred with Powell's acquiescence.
    The real question is, can Thompson avoid the goose-stepping Cheney faction at the White House and actually perform his job, using the CONSTITUTION to guide all decisions?

    The real problem is: it's time to impeach Cheney. It's time to remove this war criminal, domestic criminal, corporate criminal – and his minions – currently bent on destroying this country.

    In the movies, Cheney would be hunted down in the woods like Jefferson Davis was in 1865, then imprisoned so that, like Davis ruing the fate of his own monarchist Confederacy, Cheney could spend most of the rest of his life gnashing his teeth at the failure, again, of another Republican Thousand Year Right (SEE Newt "I Served Divorce Papers On My Dying Wife" Gingrich).

    August 28, 2007 02:27 am at 2:27 am |
  21. Dom

    It's time the Media got over its asinine obsession with race.

    August 28, 2007 02:40 am at 2:40 am |
  22. Jeff Reynolds, Dallas, TX

    I'm offended. I can't believe people in this day and age continue to think in terms of black, white, yellow etc.... The choice as to who should be Attorney General is simple... the best and most qualified person should occupy that position... regardless of race, gender, age etc.... End of story.

    August 28, 2007 02:47 am at 2:47 am |
  23. MR, Baltimore Maryland

    I find it condescending that the media needs to point out what race an individual needs to be. I'm a Black Sales Executive. Does that make me any more "special". When will the media start living in a world that Dr. King dreamed about? Isn't it racism when race needs to be mentioned in this way?

    August 28, 2007 02:49 am at 2:49 am |
  24. Brian - Los Angeles, CA

    No, it's not time for a black attorney general. It's time for the most qualified candidate for the job whether he/she be white, black or whatever. Why are we always so obsessed with race? Enough already.

    August 28, 2007 03:01 am at 3:01 am |
  25. Larry, West Covina, Ca

    I don't care if s/he is purple! We need someone credibility and someone who will be the peoples attorney; not another Bush 'yes man'.

    August 28, 2007 03:07 am at 3:07 am |
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