Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The disaster of Alberto Gonzales

It's always the small things that bring people down.

Back when Alberto Gonzales was nominated for attorney general, he was under fire for being one of President Bush's worst enablers -- finding dubious legal justification for ignoring warrants, gutting FISA, torture, almost unlimited executive power and the odious "enemy combatant" designation, under which a U.S. citizen was detained for more than three years without benefit of trial, charges, lawyers or habeus corpus.

None of that, apparently, was enough to prevent him from being confirmed. And he had one thing going for him: He wasn't John Ashcroft, a man so generally loathed that it would be all but impossible to do worse.

As Attorney General he continued carrying water for Bush, threatening journalists with jail, and denigrating habeus corpus. But that didn't threaten his job.

Then came the nakedly political firings of eight U.S. attorneys, and the revelations that the FBI had abused its Patriot Act powers.

And guess what? It's the former, more than the latter, which may end up taking Gonzales down.

The New York Times called for his resignation this weekend, citing a litany of complaints. So did Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer. Pressure has mounted amid revelations that the White House was directly involved in the decision to fire the prosecutors, and earlier today Gonzales' chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, resigned. The growing controversy finally led Gonazales, who had dismissed the uproar as an "overblown personnel matter", to say publicly that the firings were mishandled.

It seems to be a case of a relatively minor last straw tipping the balance of opinion on a roundly disliked appointee.

The New York Times said it best, I think:

During the hearing on his nomination as attorney general, Alberto Gonzales said he understood the difference between the job he held — President Bush’s in-house lawyer — and the job he wanted, which was to represent all Americans as their chief law enforcement officer and a key defender of the Constitution. Two years later, it is obvious Mr. Gonzales does not have a clue about the difference.

Gonzales can take solace in one impressive achievement: he may have secured John Ashcroft's legacy. Most people thought it impossible to be a worse attorney general than Bush's first nominee. But Gonzales has silenced the doubters. A dubious achievement, perhaps, but an achievement nonetheless.

Fire him. Not merely for the prosecutor kerfuffle, which while sleazy is at least constitutional. No, fire him for the full record of his achievements, and the disrepute he has brought upon our justice system and America's reputation.

Update: ThinkProgress (BIG grain of salt) thinks it has caught Gonzales lying under oath; Gonzales, meanwhile, categorically rejects the idea of resigning.

Update II: Hillary Clinton joins the chorus calling for Gonzales' resignation.

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Blogger Kevin said...

I remember when Janet Reno fired all of the prosecutors during the Clinton administration. Those were scary times.

3/13/2007 5:02 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

It would frankly be more defensible if they *had* fired them all, instead of picking and choosing a few and trying to say it was performance-related and purely a Justice Department thing -- when instead it was political with heavy White House involvement.

3/13/2007 5:59 PM  

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