April 9, 2007

Newt: Gonzales Should Spend More Time With His Family

Newt Gingrich became the latest and most high-profile Republican to call for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign. In an interview with Fox's Chris Wallace, Gingrich assailed for mishandling an "artificial" crisis and wondered aloud how Gonzales could remain an effective force for the Bush administration:

Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, today became the latest Republican to criticize Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales for the controversial dismissals of eight United States attorneys and said Mr. Gonzales should consider stepping down.

“This is the most mishandled, artificial, self-created mess that I can remember in the years, in the years I’ve been active in public life,” Mr. Gingrich said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“You know, the buck has to stop somewhere, and I’m assuming it’s the attorney general and his immediate team,” Mr. Gingrich went on. Asked by the interviewer Chris Wallace whether Mr. Gonzales should resign, Mr. Gingrich replied, “I cannot imagine how he is going to be effective for the rest of this administration.”

“I think the country, in fact, would be much better served to have a new team at the Justice Department, across the board,” added Mr. Gingrich, who is rumored to be considering a run for the presidency.

This will not help Gonzales and may hasten his departure. Up to now, the people who had called for his resignation had mostly been Democrats, or Republicans with lower national standing among conservatives. Gingrich represents the heart of the conservative movement within the party, which changes the dynamic for Gonzales' immediate future.

Plenty of people have the opinion that a resignation from Gonzales, whether demanded or not by George Bush, would weaken the administration. The argument goes that such a resignation would embolden Democrats to seek even more heads from the administration. However, Gingrich himself is no shrinking violet to partisan warfare, and he apparently doesn't worry about the domino effect on Bush's cabinet.

Gonzales will appear at the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 17th to explain himself. He will have one final shot at tying together all of the contradictions between his previous statements, the testimony of his aides, and the paper trail, all of which to this point have produced a few diametrically opposed explanations of the process used to evaluate the federal prosecutors, the decision-making behind the selection of those Gonzales and his team terminated, and the involvement of the AG in a fairly high-profile effort to fire presidential appointees -- something that one would have expected the so-called CEO of Justice to have had under better control than he has shown thus far.

It may be too late. With at least one aide contradicting Gonzales on his involvement in what should have been only a mildly controversial decision and another taking the Fifth rather than testify, his credibility seems pretty shot already. The only question is why the Bush administration wants to drag this embarrassment out any further than they already have. Perhaps with Newt's endorsement, the White House will act to clear the decks and get a fresh start at Justice.


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