Monday, August 27, 2007

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigns

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigns. Here is the New York Times story on Gonzales' resignation:

WACO, Tex., Aug. 27 — Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress, announced his resignation in Washington today, declaring that he had “lived the American dream” by being able to lead the Justice Department.

Mr. Gonzales, who had rebuffed calls for his resignation for months, submitted it to President Bush by telephone on Friday, a senior administration official said. There had been rumblings over the weekend that Mr. Gonzales’s departure was imminent, although the White House sought to quell the rumors.

Mr. Gonzales appeared cheerful and composed when he announced that he was stepping down effective Sept. 17. His very worst days on the job were “better than my father’s best days,” he said, alluding to his family’s hardscrabble past.

“Thank you, and God bless America,” Mr. Gonzales said, exiting without responding to questions.

Mr. Bush has not yet chosen a replacement but will not leave the position open long, the official said early this morning. Among those being mentioned as a possible successor were Christopher Cox, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission and a former congressman; Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security who is a former federal judge; and Larry Thompson, a former deputy attorney general.


The official who disclosed the resignation in advance today said that the turmoil over Mr. Gonzales had made it difficult for him to continue as attorney general. “The unfair treatment that he’s been on the receiving end of has been a distraction for the department,” the official said.

A senior administration official said today that Mr. Gonzales, who was in Washington, had called the president in Crawford, Tex., on Friday to offer his resignation. The president rebuffed the offer, but said the two should talk face to face on Sunday.

A couple of comments on this story. The first would be that I love how the unnamed White House official is trying to blame the Democrats for the "unfair treatment" they gave to Gonzales, particularly with the U.S. attorney firings. In reality, it was Gonzales' incompetence and constant lying about the attorney firings in his testimony before Congress that caused his downfall. But what do you expect with a Bush White House that trumps politics and PR-spin above everything else?

And now for the Gonzales resignation. I think Gonzales realized it was time to leave. His constant lying to Congress in order to protect the Bush administration had destroyed his reputation, and his ability to work as the attorney general. In fact, I would say that it was just a matter of time before Congress would have started impeachment proceedings against Gonzales, as a result of all the lies Gonzales made before Congress. So Gonzales presented his resignation to President Bush on Friday. This probably threw the White House into a loop, since they were never expecting Gonzales to leave--President Bush had no intention of firing Gonzales. So what took place over the weekend was a lot of Bush White House scrambling to figure out who would be replacing Gonzales. Thus, the trial balloons suggesting Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff replacing Gonzales as attorney general. Of course, the congressional Democrats would never confirm Chertoff as attorney general, not when you consider Chertoff's own incompetence in this administration. But there is an interesting argument as to why Bush should either nominate, or recess appoint, Chertoff as attorney general. According to Matthew Yglesias:

Alberto Gonzales, the president's unloved Attorney-General, seems to have resigned. Conventional wisdom started to congeal over the weekend that for a replacement Bush was going to try to find a relatively uncontroversial figure who'd have an easy time getting confirmed.

That might happen, but my best guess is that Bush will go out of his way to pick somebody fairly controversial -- someone whose confirmation liberals will find outrageous -- and then start loudly and immediately declaring that each hour's delay in confirming his nominee is putting thousands of lives at risk. The hope would be to generate one of these situations where all the Republicans plus maybe a dozen Democrats vote to confirm, and then progressives spend the next month arguing with themselves over it, and even the Democrats who reliable agree to surrender on anything terror-related get criticized in fall '08 for being soft on terror.

Chertoff would be an excellent controversial figure for President Bush to select, and to generate another fight against the congressional Democrats. And Bush could use the White House PR-machine to complain that the Democrats are killing Americans by not selecting Chertoff as attorney general in order to fight against the terrorists. If there is one thing we've seen with this Bush administration, it is that they will never back down--never compromise on anything. Compromise, according to the Bush White House, makes you look weak. So a Chertoff nomination could be in the cards.

There is a problem for this Bush White House here--they need to have a loyal Bushie as attorney general. A loyal Bushie as attorney general can delay any calls, by the Democrats, for any Justice Department investigations into the Bush administration's involvement in the attorney firings or other scandals that have plagued this administration. A loyal Bushie as attorney general can delay the appointment of a special prosecutor in the U.S. attorney firings. The game here is for President Bush to run out the clock before any investigations take place on his administration's corruption. It is why Gonzales was a valuable ally for President Bush--Gonzales pledged loyalty to his master George W. Bush first. As long as Gonzales stayed on as attorney general, Bush could maintain political control of the Justice Department. But now that Gonzales has resigned, President Bush could find it hard to select any loyal Bushie that could be confirmed by the Democrats. Of course, President Bush could try a recess appointment for the attorney general spot, thus bypassing congressional confirmation, but I would suspect that such an act would create a huge outcry in Congress--perhaps by both Democrats and Republicans. Other than a lot of angry talk, I'm not sure how Congress would react to a brash, White House move.

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