Monica Goodling has a problem. As senior counsel to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Justice Department liaison to the White House, Goodling no longer seems to know what the truth is. She must also be increasingly unclear about who her superiors are. This didn't used to be a problem for Goodling, now on indefinite leave from the DoJ. Everything was once very certain: Her boss's truth was always the same as God's truth. Her boss was always either God or one of His staffers.
This week, through counsel, Goodling again refused to testify about her role in the firings of several U.S. attorneys for what appear to be partisan reasons. Asserting her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, Goodling somehow felt she may be on the hook for criminal obstruction. But it was never clear whose truths she was protecting or even whose law seems to have tripped her up. She resigned abruptly Friday evening without explanation.
Goodling is an improbable character for a political scandal. She's the mirror opposite of that other Monica—the silly, saucy minx who felled Bill Clinton. A 1995 graduate of an evangelical Christian school, Messiah College, and a 1999 graduate of Pat Robertson's Regent University School of Law (this seems to be her Web page), Goodling's chief claim to professional fame appears to have been loyalty to the president and to the process of reshaping the Justice Department in his image (and thus, His image). A former career official there told the Washington Post that Goodling "forced many very talented, career people out of main Justice so she could replace them with junior people that were either loyal to the administration or would score her some points." And as she rose at Justice, according to a former classmate, Goodling "developed a very positive reputation for people coming from Christian schools into Washington looking for employment in government."
Start digging, and Goodling also looks to be the Forrest Gump of no comments: Here she is in 1997, fielding calls from reporters to Regent's School of Government admissions office. Asked whether non-Christians were admitted, she explained that "we admit all students without discrimination. We are a Christian institution; it is assumed that everyone in the classes are Christians." Here, in 2004, she's answering phones at the Justice Department about whether then-Deputy Solicitor General Paul Clement knew about the abuses at Abu Ghraib when he told the Supreme Court that the United States does not torture. Said Goodling, in lieu of taking the Fifth: "We wouldn't have any comment." (Jenny Martinez, who argued against Clement that day at the court, suggested to Salon's Tim Grieve: "When Mr. Clement said to the court that we wouldn't engage in that kind of behavior, either he was deliberately misleading the court or he was completely out of the loop." Sound familiar?)
Goodling is only one of 150 graduates of Regent University currently serving in this administration, as Regent's Web site proclaims proudly, a huge number for a 29-year-old school. Regent estimates that "approximately one out of every six Regent alumni is employed in some form of government work." And that's precisely what its founder desired. The school's motto is "Christian Leadership To Change the World," and the world seems to be changing apace. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft teaches at Regent, and graduates have achieved senior positions in the Bush administration. The express goal is not only to tear down the wall between church and state in America (a "lie of the left," according to Robertson) but also to enmesh the two.
The law school's dean, Jeffrey A. Brauch, urges in his "vision" statement that students reflect upon "the critical role the Christian faith should play in our legal system." Jason Eige ('99), senior assistant to Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell, puts it pithily in the alumni newsletter, Regent Remark: "Your Résumé Is God's Instrument."
This legal worldview meshed perfectly with that of former Attorney General John Ashcroft—a devout Pentecostal who forbade use of the word "pride," as well as the phrase "no higher calling than public service," on documents bearing his signature. (He also snatched the last bit of fun out of his press conferences when he covered up the bared breasts of the DoJ statue the "Spirit of Justice"). No surprise that, as he launched a transformation of the Justice Department, the Goodlings looked good to him.