Gonzales and the character issue
Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., told reporters recently "it would be helpful" if Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned.There is plenty of evidence that would justify the impeachment of Alberto Gonzales and I can't help but think there would be plenty of Republican support to make it happen. The congress should make it clear to the White House that if they don't remove Gonzales the House will impeach and the Senate will convict. The Department of Justice can't survive another 18 months of Gonzales, that is reason enough to get rid of Gonzales.
That was two months ago. Today, his resignation would be even more helpful.
Whatever remaining shred of credibility Gonzales still possessed essentially vanished April 19 during his pathetic appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee. More than 70 times that day he testified that he couldn't remember details about important decisions in the Justice Department, including last year's controversial purge of federal prosecutors.
Gonzales was worse than just incompetent. He was evasive -- unacceptable in the nation's top law enforcement officer.
Events this week did nothing to help him on the character issue. A former senior Justice Department official said Tuesday that Gonzales once tried to pressure a bedridden Attorney General John Ashcroft into approving a controversial Bush administration spying program.
The searing testimony came from James Comey, the former deputy attorney general who briefly assumed the No. 1 Justice Department job during Ashcroft's hospitalization for emergency gallbladder surgery in 2004. Comey told senators he was disgusted by what he witnessed that night: "an effort to take advantage of a very sick man" by Gonzales, at that time the White House counsel, and by Andrew Card, Bush's chief of staff.
To his credit, Ashcroft "lifted his head off the pillow" and flatly refused to support the domestic spying plan, Comey said. Bush later allowed the program to continue without the Justice Department signing off on its legality.
We were harsh critics of Ashcroft as attorney general, but in that late-night drama he appeared to be a giant compared with his unprincipled visitor. What Gonzales purportedly tried to do in that hospital room was reprehensible.
Should we be surprised, though, at the lengths he is willing to go to do the bidding of the White House? Hardly.
Remember, it was Gonzales who wrote a memo to Bush saying the war on terrorism "renders obsolete" the Geneva Conventions. He also had a key role in a Justice Department memo loosening the definition of what constitutes torture.
The Justice Department is crumbling under widespread reports of rock-bottom morale and an almost complete absence of confidence in Gonzales. He has brought it on through inept leadership and his stonewalling on the central unanswered question in the U.S. attorney firings: Were any of them the result of unethical and possibly unlawful political interference?
Another event this week might have moved the nation slightly closer to getting some answers. Gonzales' right-hand man, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, announced his resignation and now appears destined for another congressional grilling on the firings.
McNulty sparked the furor with his initial testimony in February that the White House had only a marginal role in the ousters. When the subsequent release of documents showed that to be untrue, and that the White House may have been deeply involved in targeting prosecutors who resisted political pressure, a full-blown scandal erupted.
McNulty's next testimony, the unconstrained version, should be well-worth waiting for.