Defending Alberto Gonzales — why we bother

None of us at Power Line is a fan of Alberto Gonzales. Not that long ago, we dreaded the prospect that he would be nominated for the Supreme Court, and I don’t recall any of us being enthusiastic when President Bush named him Attonrey General. Nor do I believe he has distinguished himself in that job.
Why then do we bother to defend him when we believe he’s being unfairly attacked? First, Senate Democrats and their MSM helpers have no more right to level unfair charges against Gonzales than they did against John Roberts and Sam Alito, notwithstanding the greater merit of these two men. A smear is a smear. Second, it’s important (and clearly legitimate) to expose smears by the likes of Leahy, Schumer, and Feingold (and in this case, unfortunately, Specter) in order to diminish their credibility when it comes to future battles in which they engage in similar conduct..
What of the claim that Gonzales’ troubles are impairing his ability to lead the Justice Department? Even if true, this claim would not excuse unfair attacks on Gonzales, but it would raise a serious independent issue. However, I see no basis for believing that the Justice Department is impaired. Is the Department’s measurable output down. Is it suddenly losing too many cases? Perhaps, but I haven’t seen the evidence. If the Dems or the MSM has such data, they should present it instead of trying to set perjury traps for Gonzales and falsely claiming that he has fallen into them.
One popular idea, even among Republicans, is to turn Gonzales’ job over to a distinguished non-partisan figure who is “above reproach.” The model here is Gerald Ford’s appointment of University of Chicago Law School dean Edward Levi to be Attorney General in the aftermath of Watergate. But would the country be better off with that type of AG? A “Levi” type might listen more to the career people (i.e. Democrats) and work better with Congress (i.e., Democrats), but that’s not sufficient reason for a Republican to support, or wish for, Gonzales’ ouster.
Moreover, whatever his other flaws, Gonzales seems sound (i.e. hard-line) on issues relating to the war on terror. We know, for example, that he fought vigorously in favor of aggressive interrogation of terrorist detainees and aggressive surveillance of terrorists. Indeed, this is the primary way he earned the big target Senate Dems have painted on his back, mostly a badge of honor in my view. An “above the fray,” bipartisan figure likely would strike the balance between protecting national security and upholding the alleged rights of terrorists and terror suspect in a far less congenial place (from my perspective) than Alberto Gonzales does.
None of this matters If Gonzales has committed perjury. But in the absence of evidence that he has, there’s no reason why conservatives shouldn’t defend Gonzales from unfair attack rather than averting their eyes and letting Leahy, Schumer, and Feingold have at him.
JOHN adds: I would add that the Democrats are bullies, and I don’t like bullies.
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