March 23, 2007

Krauthammer: Gonzales Must Go

Charles Krauthammer has called for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign. Krauthammer doesn't believe that the administration did anything illegal in firing the federal prosecutors, but instead believes that Gonzales has demonstrated an incompetence that disqualfies him from his Cabinet position:

Alberto Gonzales has to go. I say this with no pleasure -- he's a decent and honorable man -- and without the slightest expectation that his departure will blunt the Democratic assault on the Bush administration over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. In fact, it will probably inflame their blood lust, which is why the president might want to hang on to Gonzales at least through this crisis. That might be tactically wise. But in time, and the sooner the better, Gonzales must resign.

It's not a question of probity but of competence. Gonzales has allowed a scandal to be created where there was none. That is quite an achievement. He had a two-foot putt and he muffed it.

How could he allow his aides to go to Capitol Hill unprepared and misinformed and therefore give inaccurate and misleading testimony? How could Gonzales permit his deputy to say that the prosecutors were fired for performance reasons when all he had to say was that U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president and the president wanted them replaced?

And why did Gonzales have to claim that the firings were done with no coordination with the White House? That's absurd. Why shouldn't there be White House involvement? That is nothing to be defensive about. Does anyone imagine that Janet Reno fired all 93 U.S. attorneys in March 1993, giving them all of 10 days to clear out, without White House involvement?

The decision to fire the prosecutors falls within the discretion of the President, and by extension, the AG. There is nothing illegal about firing them, even for political considerations. However, there is nothing very smart about it either, and it does go against the general precedent over the last twenty-five years. Just because the White House has the power to fire the US Attorneys doesn't make it smart or right for them to do so.

Some have said that since the President has the power to fire appointees, there should be no controversy. By that mark, Congress has the power to hold hearings on executive-branch actions. Whether they can overcome executive privilege with subpoenas outside of an actual criminal investigation remains to be seen; I'd guess not, based on the case law. However, Congress can certainly hold as many hearings on it as they want, because they have the power to do so. That also doesn't make it smart or right, but it's the same basis on which the White House is defending the firings.

At the end of all this is the simple truth that Krauthammer understands -- this was not a battle that the administration needed, and it came at exactly the wrong time. The Department of Justice made matters exponentially worse by changing their stories and unnecessarily damaging the reputations of the attorneys involved. At some point, Gonzales has to have some responsibility for this foot-shooting escapade.


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Comments (31)

Posted by Keemo [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 10:28 AM

Krauthammer has an ego the size of Washington D.C......

Posted by reddog [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 11:11 AM

Things must be getting bad.

Up til now, Charley K has been behind Bush all the way. He's also acknowledged by partisans on the left and right to be no ones fool.

Posted by RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 11:20 AM

Bush already threw Don Rumsfeld to the crocodiles on the Hill. Did it placate any Democrats? Did the Dems give the Bush Administration any credit for trying to do better with Iraq? Hell no. Certainly not. And maybe Don Rumsfeld was so inflexible in strategy that he deserved to go, and it was a good thing. That's a reasonable position. But, I would never feed the crocodiles with a meal they don't deserve. The only thing that firing Gonzales would do is give the Dems a chance to pop champagne corks and pick their next easy target--next on the path to Rove. I think Gonzales' biggest problem is that he's just too kind and forgiving to the opposition. That's very frustrating, but it's not a firing offense for an AG. Not in my book.

Posted by TWood [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 11:38 AM

"The decision to fire the prosecutors falls within the discretion of the President, and by extension, the AG. There is nothing illegal about firing them, even for political considerations."

But the "political considerations" involve reticence by the prosecutors to create bogus "investigations" of Democrats in an effort to influence elections. That's a seriously caustic attack on the rule of law.

And, since Gonzales would rule on the decision to act on supoenas issued by Congress in order to investigate his own DoJ, he needs to step aside.

Rove crossed the line with this politicization of the functions of government, he deserves to pull back a bloody stump, figuratively speaking.

Posted by John Norris Brown [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 11:44 AM

Gonzales certainly has screwed up, but that just seems to be a problem for the Bush Administration in general. It's true that this scandal is not something Bush needs, but, with Congress' approval at about the same level of the President, I think he could get a victory of sorts on this issue.

Posted by starfleet_dude [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 12:02 PM

Whether they can overcome executive privilege with subpoenas outside of an actual criminal investigation remains to be seen; I'd guess not, based on the case law.

I'd guess that Congress can question anyone, excepting the President, anytime it likes regardless of there being an ongoing criminal investigation or not. "Executive privilege" means just that - it only extends to those having conversations with the President (or with the Vice-President, although that's not quite a settled matter) and can't be used as a shield to protect the entire Bush administration and block Congress from inquiring about what was said between White House aides and employees of the Department of Justice.

Posted by overtaxed [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 12:14 PM

The longer that Gonzales stays in office, the longer the story will stay on the front page.

Posted by nav8tor [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 12:28 PM

I am no fan of Gonzales, but his resignation will encourage more bloodletting by the Dems. Forcing the resignation of the 8 U.S. Attorneys was made into a much bigger deal than it should have been, by the DOJ ineptness. It was not without precedent and the MSM has kept it alive along with their cohorts in Congress, who will do and say anything to thwart Pres. Bush and the Republicans. Look how thay loaded the Iraq funding with great quantities of pork, while pretending to try to help military families at home. These are the liars and hypocrits, not the Bush folks. The Dems invented the lie and the MSM replays it daily.
CK is a real disappointment.

Posted by lawismylife [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 12:45 PM

Can't anybody here play this game? - Casey Stengel

If political incompetence is the measure, then resignations would go pretty high in the Administration. Gonzales may as well stay in as long as he can a la the Spartans in the movie "300". He'll just have to be a sacrifice while the rest of the team decide its time to defend themselves.

If Administration staff goes to the hill for testimony, I would be as confrontational as possible and put the dems on the defensive. For instance, insist that the witness table be on the same level as the committee benches since, after all, these are co-equal bodies of government. Refuse to cooperate until this is done. Insist that the questioners maintain respect for the witness, and if they don't refuse to answer the question. Find someone with enough guts to risk contempt for standing up to the grandstading senators. Congress is at such low regard right now, there is great opportunity for each witness to lecture the house/senate for overstepping its boundaries and "failing to do the business of the people." Scold them for diverting attention from their feckless disregard for national security, and paint this whole episode as an attempt to distract the public from congress' mounting failures early in its session. Develope a unified theme that each witness wil bring to the inquisition, and stick with it until the last gavel falls. In short, understand what this is -- political theatre. Control it. Relish it. Enjoy it. Gain some respect.

Posted by Michael Smith [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 12:54 PM

TWood said:

But the "political considerations" involve reticence by the prosecutors to create bogus "investigations" of Democrats in an effort to influence elections. That's a seriously caustic attack on the rule of law.

What evidence do you have that any of these Attorneys were pressured to create "bogus investigations" of Democrats? No one has presented any such evidence that I have seen -- and the e-mails released by the DOJ certainly do not support that contention.

Posted by james23 [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 12:56 PM

RBMN above says: "I think Gonzales' biggest problem is that he's just too kind and forgiving to the opposition. That's very frustrating, but it's not a firing offense for an AG. Not in my book."

I disagree. He is the most passive, and therefore the worst, AG in memory. Although firing 8 US Attorneys is no "firing offense," being a pushover and a doofus IS disqualifying. The country needs and deserves better.

Posted by crosspatch [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 1:12 PM

This hasn't hurt Bush. Look at the latest numbers at Rasmussen. Bush's approval numbers are UP as a result of this. Had he fired Gonzales, it would have been a tacit admission that he did something wrong and his numbers would have been down because of that. No matter what he could say, by firing Gonzales, he would be telegrahping that something wrong was done.

His standing up to Congress, getting the information out, and Congress appearing so far to back down from a confrontation has sent the opposite message ... that Congress was attempting to create a TV soap opera and Bush called them on it.

Bush's polling numbers are now at the highest point for the entire month of March.

Posted by Monkei [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 1:33 PM

Some of the posts here want to lead you to beleve this a much easier story than it really is ... yes it is fully legal to fire USAs whenever the President wants to ... but the whole issue arose out of a certain (R) Senator and (R) Congressman calling the USA in NM about hurrying along an investigation ... that they wanted. Unless you are to believe that 6 weeks later that USA was fired had no direct tie in with that action? If you believe that mentality than you are probably a real fan of this wacko GOP Congressman who on the floor of Congress just said that we would have WON in Viet Nam if we had stayed longer! Length was never the problem in Viet Nam ... how we fought was the problem there.

The problem with this WH remains the issue of being up front about issues instead of hiding bits and pieces of stories and letting it dribble out after the first part of the story is disproved by more information.

It is Bush's men and women who have kept this 2 day story alive by not being upfront in the first place.

Posted by old crow [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 1:53 PM

Who cares what Krauthammer thinks..
Another elite media scribe with an inflated view of himself.

Posted by Brooklyn [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 1:58 PM

Although I am a huge fan of Charles Krauthammer, he tends to be influenced by MSM hype.

For example, he claimed Olmert would not survive a week, and claimed without much evidence, Israel had lost to Hamas.

When the dust settled, it seemed Israel, with all it's mistakes, was able to control the ground at will.

Mr. Krauthammer did the same thing about the Katrina Tragedy, buying into the hype, without any criticism for the local Democrat folly.

No doubt AG Gonzales made mistakes, but his removal provides more of a circus, than a fight for his stay.

He deserves a chance to right the wrong...

Posted by Rob D [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 2:38 PM

Gonzales will be hard to replace. The White House will want another compliant loyalist who will take directions, and the Senate wil prefer to confirm a more independent person to head up Justice.

Posted by LarryD [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 2:54 PM

Dafydd posted an analysis of the consequences of Gonzales leaving back on the 19th. Short version, with the Democrats in control of Congress, there is no upside to Gonzales leaving, it's all bad. You can't get a decent replacement past the Democrats, and you wouldn't want in there anyone they'd accept.

Posted by Rob D [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 3:15 PM

Who would want to be a Cabinet Secretary - in any department - when all of the important decisions are made by the President's political staff, and in the OVP?

The hard part will be convincing any member of the Cabinet to stay put through the end of 2008, to avoid the need for confirmation of a replacement.

Posted by starfleet_dude [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 3:57 PM

I think that it needs to be kept in mind that in no way was AG Gonzales the "decider" about the firing of those U.S. attorneys. His lying to Congress about that matter is more than reason enough for him to step down, but the matter doesn't end there. It can only end when those responsible for making such blatantly political firings are called to account for it, under oath and in public, before Congress. Karl Rove is not immune from being asked to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help him God.

Posted by lexhamfox [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 4:14 PM

Incompetence is not illegal... that doesn't mean we should ignore it.

Posted by Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 4:25 PM

Krauthammer also joined in on the public humiliation of Harriet Miers. I like CK sometimes, but more and more I am tired of pundits running their mouths when they don't have to make these decisions. And a lot of times, they jump the gun without having the facts.

This is a big deal because people like Charles will not shut up about it. Most Americans do not know or care about this sort of thing, the only reason it is an issue is that the hypocritical and politically partisan Democrats together with the LOOK AT ME crowd in the pundits circle keep on yammering about it.

No laws were broken. These are politcal patronage jobs and the Republicans are not exactly alone in that department, in fact they are novices compared to the Democrats.

And I do not think this administration is any more incompetent than any other either. There are just a lot more cooks in the kitchen that there needs to be.

Back in 1935 there was a terrible hurricane and hundreds of WW1 vets doing government work were killed because they were not evacuated from the area. People blamed FDR, they called him incompetent. But if I had not mentioned this, how many people today would have known that such a thing ever happened?

Today it is news if there is mold in a Veterans clinic. My dad died in a place like that years ago and mold was the least of it. But no one made a big deal of everything back then either.

But today, there are hundred or even thousands of people like Charles Krauthammer who are sure they know what is best, in spite of the fact that they are not responsible for anything other than running their mouths.

This administration is certainly no more incompetent than the politcal show that was Bill and the truth is they are no more incompetent than any other large bureaucracy.

Posted by rightwing [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 4:33 PM

I must have misunderstood CK... my understanding of his writing is that the AG must go because he botched the explanation so badly... he merely had to say, the Pres decided to take this action and he's entitled to... just as he fired the SecDef a few months ago. I think the SecDef was an attorney also. Funny I didn't hear the Captain criticize the firing of Rumsfeld, even though he was treated the exactly the same as the US Attorneys. Maybe when you're a retired attorney, the Captain doesn't insist on the right to serve out the entire term.

Posted by Ray [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 4:40 PM

I normally agree with Krauthammer BUT, letting Gonzales go will only create a feeding frenzy with the Demwits.

The only course of action is to go on the offense. Fire the remaining eighty five prosecutors and put in the most vicious ankle biters Bush can find. I would file charges against Sandy Berger, the New York Times, Reid the Nevada land baron, et cetera.

Give them something to really complain about.

Posted by AnonymousDrivel [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 4:57 PM

No doubt that Gonzales bungled this and it reflects terribly on the administration. It shouldn't have happened and incompetence may be the reason. About that I agree with Krauthammer. How unfortunate that a stand needs to be made at this time over this issue for this man.

Nevertheless, the President MUST make a stand. The Democrat Party will not relent should Gonzales be removed. He will be just another skin for the head-hunting partisans seeking to destroy this administration no matter how unjustified. Consider each "get" another domino on the way to Rove, Cheney, and Bush. It's really the only agenda the Democrat Party actively pursues. Well, that and surrender to terrorists.

Bush needs to act mad, be madder, and take no prisoners while defending his administration despite the fact that he seems to have been ill-served by an AG who doesn't have a full grasp of his position, who will not fully prosecute government leakers, who will not prosecute seemingly treasonous acts, who will not adequately prosecute illegal aliens and employers hiring them, and who will prosecute BP agents tasked with defending our borders. Perhaps Gonzales did a great job elsewhere, but I have serious doubts. Dumping him, however, will not give Bush any reprieve, will abdicate some power to the Legislative, and will result in a futile search for an adequate and timely replacement (as noted by others).

Hold your nose and support your appointee, Mr. Bush. It's the best of a bad situation that could get turned around... if you lead.

Posted by Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 5:14 PM


Considering what is going on here, did it occur to you that the reason some of these people were fired was because the DoJ wanted to be more aggressive? It seems to me that if AG did just what you said Charles and the Democrats would have been demanding his resignation long ago. The truth is things are not that simple.

Posted by AnonymousDrivel [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 5:45 PM


Aggressiveness is not what doomed Gonzales. This AG mucked up the reason for firing this cluster of appointees and gave the Democrats a reason to create controversy. If Gonzales had pointed out that certain individuals were not enforcing law, there would have been no there there. Instead, he made it seem unjustifiably political and appeared to be making excuses where none needed to be made.

Also, because the original explanation created questions, the Democrats and MSM saw an opening to go after the administration, an opening that wasn't there when Fitzgerald and everyone's attention was focused on the ray of hope of the Plame affair. With only Libby's skin, the Democrats are frenetic about getting more. Gonzales obliged, unfortunately.

Posted by conservative democrat [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 9:10 PM

Guess what guys, the dems really just have to wait for the boobs in the Bush admin to mess up. Its a wonder they can tie their own shoes. The US attorney firings was just another example of how these clowns act. Why do you think the Iraq War is such a mess? A coincidence? Katrina? See a pattern developing anywhere boys? I seriously can not believe this gang is running the free world. They could not manage a popcorn stand. Yes, the dems probably won the midterms by default, but what does that say about the gop. Dudes, gwb could not carry Ronald Reagans jockstrap.I still can not believe there are still Bush apologists out there. How much failure will convince you he is a boob? Apparently, not enough, but please, please, keep following him over the cliff.

Posted by starfleet_dude [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 9:28 PM

Gonzales is a goner now, no matter how many may think Bush should keep him out of defiance of the Democrats in Congress:

New Documents Show AG Gonzales O.K.'d Firings Of U.S. Attorneys, Contradicting Earlier Claims He Was Not Closely Involved
The attorney general said on March 13 that he was aware that some of the dismissals were being discussed but was not involved in them. But newly-released e-mails are putting that claim into question.

President Bush is going to wish he'd canned him sooner, because by keeping him he's only helped to push this matter into the national spotlight where it won't stop with just the resignation under fire of Gonzales, but will have both Rove and Miers eventually testifying under oath to Congress as well. Because no one in Congress really believes that Gonzales did the firings on his own, no way.

Posted by starfleet_dude [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 23, 2007 9:49 PM

BTW Ed, those revealing emails came from that 18-day "gap" in November & December 2006. Guess I wasn't reaching so much after all... :-)

Posted by crosspatch [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 24, 2007 2:22 AM

Looks to me like the Democrats have pretty much backed off of the issue. Particularly since Democrat complaints of the US-A in question have come to light.

This issue is fading fast.

Posted by The Yell [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 24, 2007 5:57 AM

"I knew my chief of staff was involved in the process of determining who were the weak performers where were the districts around the country where we could do better for the people in that district, and that's what I knew," Gonzales said last week. "But that is in essence what I knew about the process; was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on. That's basically what I knew as the attorney general."

That is not "contradicted" by the new info, despite ABCNews summation

At that meeting, the attorney general and at least five top Justice Department officials discussed a five-step plan for carrying out the firings of the prosecutors, Gonzales' aides said late Friday.
There, Gonzales signed off on the plan, which was drafted by his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson...The five-step plan approved by Gonzales involved notifying Republican home-state senators of the impending dismissals, preparing for potential political upheaval, naming replacements and submitting them to the Senate for confirmation.

As the AG spokeman said:

" The attorney general has made clear that he charged Mr. Sampson with directing a plan to replace U.S. attorneys where for one reason or another the department believed that we could do better," Roehrkasse said. "He was not, however, involved at the levels of selecting the particular U.S. attorneys who would be replaced."

Once the process of choosing targets was done, AG Gonzales sat in. That is what he told Congress.

I still can not believe there are still Bush apologists out there.

Bush, shmush. There are two principles we're rallying around.

First, that any President is free to do what Old Dead Meat calls "bash" and "alienate" the established bureaucracies. We can't elect midlevel executives in Cabinet Departments, we can only elect a President, and through him, ideally, an agenda for all government officers to follow or return to the private sector.

Second, we recognize this is asinine:

"If the facts bear out that Attorney General Gonzales knew much more about the plan than he has previously admitted, then he can no longer serve as attorney general," said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who is heading the Senate's investigation into the firings.

The Cabinet serves at the pleasure of the President, not the Senate.