The world was their oyster. Anything was possible. The honors and appointments poured in. They dined with lawmakers, respected jurists, celebrities and the rich.
Gonzales was named a Texas Supreme Court justice at 44, just 17 years out of Harvard law. At age 27, Stanford Law School graduate Lam was a whiz kid assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting major fraud cases in Los Angeles. Wong-Yang, a Boston College law graduate, started a family while serving as an adjunct professor at USC’s School of Law. She won appointment to the L.A. Municipal Court before the age of 40.
Gonzales was named by fellow Texan George W. Bush to the post of U.S. Attorney General, replacing the retiring John Ashcroft.
The meteoric careers of Gonzales, Lam and Yang first crossed paths in 2002, when Gonzales was White House Counsel to Bush and Lam and Yang were appointed U.S. Attorneys in California. Four years later, with the Bush Administration mired in an unwinnable war, party scandal and amateurish flubs, their destinies would collide on Dec. 7, 2006—the “Pearl Harbor Day Massacre.” The dismissal of eight U.S Attorneys that day was allegedly motivated by ham-fisted partisan politics.
In contentious congressional hearings April 19, Gonzales, the first Hispanic Attorney General Gonzales, denied hands-on involvement in the mass firings and said he couldn’t recall the details of the events leading up to them. Later, however, e-mails showed that Gonzales had sought the removal of one U.S. Attorney in particular—Carol Lam.
Lam had energetically prosecuted corporate healthcare fraud and political corruption. She had successfully prosecuted Vietnam War hero Rep. Randall “Duke” Cunningham (R-San Diego) for accepting more than $2.4 million in bribes from military contractors, indicted former CIA executive director Kyle “Dusty” Foggo and was reported to be hot on the trail of Republican House fixture Rep. Jerry Lewis, former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
U.S. Attorney Yang was not as high profile a target as her colleague Lam, but the diligent fourth-generation Chinese American reportedly was named on a secondary hit list of federal prosecutors who had to go. During Senate hearings into the December 7th firings, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif,) raised questions about Yang’s resignation from her position less than a month earlier.
Reportedly, Yang’s office had begun investigating ties been the aforementioned Rep. Lewis and lobbyists five months before her decision to accept a $1.5 million signing bonus to join Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, the law firm representing Lewis. She has denied she was pressured to leave and cited the fact that she is a single mother raising three children and adds that she had been actively seeking a higher-paying job long before her resignation last Nov. 11.
Meanwhile, the Senate has scheduled a “no-confidence” vote on Gonzales for mid-June. Congressmen from both sides of the aisle have called on the embattled attorney general to resign. Lam? Following her ouster, she quietly joined San Diego-based telecommunications firm Qualcomm as senior vice president and legal counsel.
The first Chicano U.S. Attorney General should be back in Houston by July. But to me, it seems too easy to jump on the anti-Gonzales taco truck—too predictable. Yeah, blame the beaner!
Despite his smirking condescension, possible contempt of congress and his neoconservative warp-think on such documents as the Bill of Rights and the Geneva Convention, he’s a fascinating, Fitzgerald-esque character done in by influence and power. He’s the obsequious Mexican American pledge doomed to take the fall for his Ivy Leaguer pals.
As for Lam and Yang, they are still mentioned as possible appellate court nominees in California. Will they dare step back into the limelight, or have they learned too much rolling with Alberto G. on his excellent adventure in the land of the gabacho?