Alberto Gonzales was never the right man for this job. He lacked independence, he lacked judgment, and he lacked the spine to say no to Karl Rove. This resignation is not the end of the story. Congress must get to the bottom of this mess and follow the facts where they lead, into the White House.
--Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev
Attorney General Gonzales' ability to lead the Department of Justice had been undermined by his serious errors in judgment and conflicting statements. I am hopeful that the President will name a strong successor who will begin to restore confidence in the department.
--Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine
There comes a time when if you don't have the respect of the Congress and the American public and your own people in the department then it's time to step down.
--Fired Nevada U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden
Better late than never.
--Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards
Those are some of the wiser reactions to the news that Alberto Gonzales had resigned. Bringing up the rear were some of the dumber ones. New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici, who you'd think would just shut up about Gonzo, said, "The resignation of Alberto Gonzales had become inevitable. His situation was a distraction to the Department of Justice and its attempt to carry out its important duties." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell decried the "poisonous partisanship" Gonzales had to suffer through. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch talked about the "absurd political theater" of investigations into wrongdoing.
The absurdity and partisanship here seems to be coming entirely from the right. Gonzales, a lawyer who couldn't even keep his stories straight in testimony, is hardly the picture of innocence. In fact, a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union gives us a pretty exhaustive list of the problems we know of:
--He failed to investigate and prosecute criminal acts committed by civilians in the torture or abuse of detainees and repeatedly rebuffed congressional inquiries into the matter.
--He failed to investigate and prosecute criminal acts and violations of laws as a result of the National Security Agency's warrantless spying program. Recent reports indicate that Gonzales may have recommended to the president that he block the Office of Professional Responsibility's investigation since he himself may have come under scrutiny.
--He championed renewal of the Patriot Act despite serous civil liberties concerns from Republicans and Democrats alike. A recent audit by the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General found that the FBI underreported, misused and abused the National Security Letter authority.
--He failed to investigate possible perjury committed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez before the Senate Armed Services Committee. A memo drafted by General Sanchez, who commanded the war in Iraq, laid out specific interrogation techniques including sleep management, the inducement of fear at two levels of severity, loud music and sensory agitation, and the use of canine units to exploit fear of dogs. During sworn testimony before Congress, General Sanchez flatly denied approving any such techniques.
--He used Section 218 of the Patriot Act to sidestep the Fourth Amendment by using foreign intelligence as a significant purpose to justify searches. The investigation of Brandon Mayfield demonstrates how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was used to circumvent the Constitution. The FBI arrested Mayfield as a material witness in connection with the Madrid train bombing and held him for more than two weeks before releasing him. Mayfield was never charged, and an FBI internal review later acknowledged serious errors in its investigation.
--His department reversed findings of a team of government voting rights lawyers and analysts that concluded a Georgia voter identification law would discriminate against minorities.
--His department attempted to bury an unfavorable report on racial profiling compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
--He failed to demonstrate necessary independence from the White House and President Bush, as evidenced in the recent scandal involving the dismissal of U.S. Attorneys. Under Gonzales' tenure, experienced attorneys in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department were forced out or replaced by less experienced, politically loyal staff.
And that doesn't even include the crazy story about Gonzo and then-A.G. John Ashcroft.
Given what we know about Alberto Gonxales and the obvious fact that he couldn't possibly weasel out of anything, he held on to his job long past the time that any rational person would've resigned. I've already posted some reactions, but the craziest was George W. Bush's spin on it.
"After months of unfair treatment that has created ... a harmful distraction at the Justice Department, Judge Gonzales has decided to resign his position, and I accept his decision," Bush said. "It's sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeding (sic) from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons."
Yeah, Gonzo quit because he was hounded out of office. It sure seems like an odd time to do that, with Congress in recess and no actual hounding going on. Even if Bush's assessment were correct, resigning at this point in time makes no damned sense. According to the man who'd started this whole attorney purge scandal, the timing of the resignation is significant for other reasons.
During an appearance on CNN, former US Attorney David Iglesias said Gonzales's resignation is "absolutely linked with Karl Rove leaving two weeks ago," and speculated the two resigned "for the same reason": Congressional investigators closing in on their suspected roles in the attorney-firing scandal.
"This is what happens when there is not check and balance" under a Republican-controlled Congress and White House "and all of a sudden you have a new sheriff in town - so to speak - that wants answers to hard questions."
The White House obviously hopes that by tossing these two out of the airlock, they can take the heat off before Congress fires up the subpoena machine again -- they can't. ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero says that "Gonzales' resignation doesn't put an end to the widespread abuse of executive powers. The White House may claim that Gonzales' resignation restores the rule of law, but if anything, his departure highlights the need for increased scrutiny and accountability." In other words, don't stop investigating.
And there's no indication that Congress will. "More than accountability, we need answers. Unfortunately, the continued stonewalling of the White House in the U.S. Attorney scandal has deprived the American people of the truth," said Rep. John Conyers in a prepared statement. "If the power of the prosecutor has been misused in the name of partisanship, we deserve a full airing of the facts. The responsibility to uncover these facts is still on the Congress, and the Judiciary Committee in particular."
Gonzales, who's resignation takes effect September 17th, is not quite gone and far from forgotten. His days in the hot seat seem far from over.
Technorati tags: politics; Congress; White House; crime; scandal; Bush; Alberto Gonzales isn't out of the woods yet