Speculation continues about the fate of Attorney General Gonzales in the aftermath of the “scandal” over the eight fired U.S. Attorneys. As we have noted, there is no evidence that any of the eight decisions was based on an improper motive. Indeed, only the replacement of the New Mexico prosecutor seems even vaguely suspicious. Thus, as usual in these matters, the focus has switched to the alleged “cover-up” of the non-misconduct. This is where Gonzales’ difficulties reside.
A word about Alberto Gonzales — I’m not a fan. I’ve never gotten past his involvement in ensuring that the Bush administration did not come down squarely against race-based preferences in the admissions process of state universities. Nor does Gonzales appear to possess the high distinction, substantial legal acumen, and strong administrative ability one would hope for in the Attorney General of the United States (though he seems far more qualified than Janet Reno was). My sense is that he owes his position to his status as a Bush crony, with his ethnicity perhaps perceived as an added plus. Nonetheless, he’s qualified to be the A.G., he’s the president’s choice, and he was confirmed by Congress. Thus, unless he’s done something seriously wrong, the president should not feel constrained to replace him.
Gonzales gave incorrect testimony to Congress about matters relating the replacement of the eight U.S. Attorneys. If he knew the information was incorrect, then he lied. If he lied to Congress, he should be removed and prosecuted. But at this juncture, there appears to be no evidence that he lied. Instead, the evidence goes no further than establishing that he failed to inform himself well enough to answer some of the questions he was asked during his appearance on the Hill and made the mistake of answering the questions anyway.
Is that a firing offense? I wouldn’t think so. With the Dems in control of Congress, we can expect that government officials will be paraded up to the Hill pretty much non-stop to testify regarding various imagined scandals and whatever other matters the Dems choose, for partisan purposes, to inquire about. When forced to testify, adminstration officials should make reasonable efforts to inform themselves, and be careful not to answer beyond the limits of their knowledge. But they should not be fired merely for slipping up. That’s the game the Dems want to play; the administration should not be a party to it.
The Dems will play the game whether the administration goes along or not. Obtaining Gonzales’s scalp won’t pacify them; being denied it won’t discourage them. So the real question is whether Bush will give the Dems their revenge against him by throwing his friends overboard and ending his term in misery and isolation, or whether he’ll resist the foolish preemptive surrender option, go about the nation’s business, and discharge only those close associates (if any) who have committed true firing offenses.
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