Monday, August 27, 2007

Alberto Gonzales Resigns

Well, look at this. I'm away from my desk for one day to take my daughter to college, and when I return I find out that Alberto Gonzales has resigned. George W. Bush took one step out of his protective bubble to accept his attorney general's resignation, then retreated back inside, slammed the door and locked it. It's just too scary out there in the real world to stay out there for long:

President Bush on Monday said he reluctantly accepted the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whose "good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons."

After months of standing by his top prosecutor and "close friend," Bush spoke briefly in Texas to praise Gonzales, saying the attorney general endured "unfair treatment that has created harmful distraction at the Justice Department."

Bush said it's "sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person" is impeded "from doing important work."

Ah yes -- the important work of firing at least nine federal prosecutors in the middle of a term because they did not apply the law in a partisan enough fashion to satisfy George W. Bush and his eager lackey, Alberto Gonzales.

Spencer Ackerman has the video of Pres. Bush announcing his acceptance of Gonzales's resignation. Take a listen -- it's truly extraordinary. Bush spends almost four minutes praising Gonzales's personal qualities and professional accomplishments. It's like he's announcing the man's appointment instead of his resignation.

Bush has named Paul Clement to be interim attorney general until he nominates a permanent replacement. Glenn Greenwald points out that this is an opportunity for congressional Democrats to wipe the mud off their good names by refusing to confirm any more political hacks:
One of the most blatantly dishonest political hacks ever to occupy the position of U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, has now resigned. This is a real moment of truth for the Democratic Congress. Democrats, who have offered up little other than one failure after the next since taking power in January, can take a big step toward redeeming themselves here. No matter what, they must ensure that Gonzales' replacement is a genuinely trustworthy and independent figure.

That means that Democrats must not confirm anyone, such as Michael Chertoff, who has been ensconced in the Bush circle. Instead, the DOJ and the country desperately need a completely outside figure who will ensure that the prosecutorial machinery operates independently, even if -- especially if -- that means finally investigating the litany of Executive branch abuses and lawbreaking which have gone almost entirely uninvestigated, as well uncovering those which remain concealed.

The standard excuse invoked by Democrats to justify their capitulations -- namely, that they cannot attract a filibuster-proof or veto-proof majority to defy the President -- will be unavailing here. They themselves can filibuster the confirmation of any proposed nominee to replace Gonzales. They do not need Blue Dogs or Bush Dogs or any of the other hideous cowards in their caucus who remain loyal to the most unpopular President in modern American history. The allegedly "Good Democrats" can accomplish this vital step all on their own. They only need 40 Senate votes to achieve it.

It is difficult to overstate how vital this is. The unexpected resignation of Gonzales provides a truly critical opportunity to restore real oversight to our government, to provide advocates of the rule of law with a quite potent weapon to compel adherence to the law and, more importantly, to expose and bring accountability for prior lawbreaking. All of the investigations and scandals, currently stalled hopelessly, can be dramatically and rapidly advanced with an independent Attorney General at the helm of the DOJ.

That is not going to happen if the Democrats allow the confirmation of one of the ostensibly less corrupt and "establishment-respected" members of the Bush circle -- Michael Chertoff or Fred Fielding or Paul Clement or some Bush appointee along those lines. The new Attorney General must be someone who is not part of that rotted circle at all -- even if they are supposedly part of the less rotted branches -- since it is that circle which ought to be the subject of multiple DOJ investigations.

But don't be surprised if Bush renders the entire issue academic by making a recess appointment.

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