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November 10, 2004
Bush Picks Gonzalez

George Bush made the first Cabinet-level selection of his second term, nominating Alberto Gonzalez, Jr for Attorney General. Gonzalez will replace John Ashcroft, who resigned on Election Day. Unfortunately, given Gonzalez' history, I suspect that Gonzalez will also replace Ashcroft as a lightning rod:

In tapping Gonzales for the post, Bush picked a fellow Texan who has stirred controversy himself for his role in memos condoning the possible torture of terrorist suspects and arguing that prisoners captured in Afghanistan are not protected by the Geneva Conventions. But the soft-spoken lawyer also has been described as a relative moderate whose conservative credentials are sometimes viewed with suspicion by Bush's more rightist supporters.

Gonzalez didn't write the first memo mentioned, nor did he endorse it, but the Post reported that the Justice Department consulted heavily with the White House before drafting it. Both cases give ammunition to partisans in Congress for attempting to derail the nomination, or at the very least turning it into a television spectacle and reopening the mudslinging over Abu Ghraib. If that wasn't enough, conservatives will grumble, as the Post put it, at Gonzalez' centrism on social issues.

It seems to me that Bush did little for himself politically with this selection. Perhaps Rudy Giuliani and Larry Thompson made it known that they were not interested, but in the short time frame that the decision was made, it simply appears that Gonzalez was the pick all along. Either Giuliani or Thompson would have had a much easier time going through the confirmation process. Giuliani's star quality would have made him a highly effective proponent for the Patriot Act renewal, and his track record would have lent more trust to its implementation. Thompson would have been a smooth transition, professional and low-key, whose conservative bent would have kept Bush's base happy.

While I believe Gonzalez to be qualified to do the job, I don't think he was the most effective pick. Look for more challenges and partisan sniping from both the confirmation process and the Patriot Act renewal campaign in the upcoming session.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 10, 2004 5:21 PM

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