Alberto Gonzales isn’t exactly winning rave reviews on our Forum or, it seems, around the conservative blogosphere generally. However, the main concession his interrogators seem to have gained so far is that Gonzales approved the termination recommendations with little or no scrutiny.
Now, President Bush might well want a more hands on Attorney General, and I certainly would. But unless the decisions made by staff and approved by Gonzales were poor or corrupt ones, I don’t think his deference to staff requires his resignation or termination. I’ve seen no account in which the Senators have made much headway in terms of showing that particular decisions were poor or corrupt.
UPDATE: Byron York says “it has been a disastrous morning for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.” Byron focuses on the issue I discuss above. He notes that “Gonzales insisted that he is the man in charge of the Justice Department, and accepted responsibility for the firings, but his testimony suggests he had little idea what was going on.”
As I read it, Gonzales largely delegated the decisionmaking process, but accepts responsibility for the outcomes. I see no inconsistency here, though again I would prefer a more hands-on Attorney General.
Once Gonzales accepts responsibility for the decisions (as he must) it’s then his duty to defend the outcomes. In doing so, he’s entitled to rely on facts that he wasn’t aware of when the decisions were made. In effect, he’s defending the work product of those to whom he delegated the decisionmaking, as he’s required to do as a result of giving them that authority.
Lindsey Graham, the Arlen Specter of the south, had this to say: “I think most of them [the U.S. attorneys] had personality disagreements with the White House, and you made up reasons to fire them.” I doubt that Graham has any evidence of this; he’s probably just making this up himself. In any case, that’s more a question for Kyle Sampson and any others who contributed to the recommendations. Gonzales can’t say for sure what was going through the mind of Sampson etc. What he can do is defend the outcomes. I suspect he’s probably doing ok at that; otherwise he’d be attacked at that level instead of being attacked for delegating.
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