Bush won’t do it, so Congress should fire Gonzales

UPDATED – I don't expect a president with no moral compass to fire an unethical subordinate who followed his dictates and got into trouble for doing so. That's why it would be internally inconsistent for Bush to fire Alberto Gonzales. He did exactly what Bush wanted.

According to the New Your Times editorial "A feeble performance" (LINK) Gonzo is "telling friends and associates that he has weathered the storm over the firing of nine United States attorneys and that his job is safe despite widespread calls for his resignation."

No doubt Gonzo appreciates the reporting from Laurie Kellman of the Associated Press where, in a so-called "news" article she begins with:

A confident Attorney General Alberto Gonzales endured another congressional grilling on the botched firings of federal prosecutors Thursday, seeming secure enough to call it a "somewhat liberating" experience. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee fired tough questions at him — as their Senate counterparts had last month. But Gonzales seemed to weather the interrogation better this time around, and he didn't hear any more calls for his resignation. CHB LINK to article and comments

The New York Times explains the reason for my observation, having watched the entire hearing, that, unlike in the Senate hearing, not one Republican representative asked a question having to to with the firing of the (now up to) nine U.S. attorneys in this way:

The White House clearly has reasserted some party discipline since his Senate appearance the other week, when several Republicans called for his resignation. " (a) stumbling, evasive, amnesia-filled performance… he smiled blankly and refused to be ruffled when his answers and integrity were challenged."

Each Republican representative had a question that gave Gonzales a chance to squeak out an uninspired rehearsed answer.

When nailed with a tough question by a Democrat he waffled and contrary to Ms. Kellman's description of confidence, seemed to be stinking of flop sweat even though the backer of his show could gave less about the boos and hissing from the audience.

Gonzales is not a Broadway actor who reads with dismay his damning reviews after the premier of a Broadway show destined to close by the Sunday matinee.

He is a Bush actor following a Bush script playing the lead in a Bush show that doesn't depend on reviews and word of mouth to keeping playing, even if it's to an empty theater.

So of course Bush won't fire him. It would be like firing himself.

Bush has done more to dismantle the Constitution than any other American president. Congressional Republicans who are marching lockstep under his leadership aren't about to call for his impeachment.

But they ought to at least do what they can easily do. They should join Democrats in impeaching the attorney who has done more to corrupt the Constitution than any other attorney general.


An interesting irony occurred to me after I posted today's column. Gonzales' fervent effort to prosecute Democrat office holders may have unintended consequences. Readers probably recall the University of Minnesota study (LINK)referenced in this article about the House hearing:
Citing a University of Minnesota study, Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala., questioned Gonzales on the apparent disparity in the number of public corruption cases against Democrats versus Republicans. According to the study, 85 percent of public officials prosecuted between 2001 and 2006 were Democrats while only 12 percent were Republicans, Davis said. .

Gonzales replied it would be inappropriate for his department to keep records of those numbers. "Listen, it would concern me if we were not making cases based on the evidence," Gonzales said. "I have no way of knowing the legitimacy of the report you're citing." LINK

It seems to me that any attorney general worth his salt would certainly have looked into the legitimacy of such a damning report from a respected university. That aside, assuming as I do that it is accurate this will assure that by the time Gonzales is out of office, the Democratic Party will have been purged of every vestige of public corruption.

Come the 2008 elections there shouldn't be a single case that a Republican smear campaign can use to impugne the integrity of Democrats..

It will remain to be seen whether unprosecuted Republican candidates who are guilty of corruption will find that their ethical transgressions come home to roost.

Thanks to Jerry for referencing the Weekly Standard article “Gone-zales? There may be a good reason Bush hangs on to his attorney general.” LINK.

The article reminds us about the series of events that occurred when Nixon’s AG Richard Kleindienst resigned and his replacement Eliot Richardson had to be confirmed by the Senate.

It may seem hyperbolic to equate the U.S. attorney firings with the Watergate break-in. Except that it’s not so much the triggering event as the stonewalling, memory lapses, contradictory testimony, missing documents, and lies under oath that constitute the real meat of a Washington scandal. Anybody who thinks an independent counsel let loose on the U.S. attorney firings could ever reach the conclusion that they were no big deal, even if they were no big deal, doesn’t appreciate the logic and momentum of their own that such investigations acquire.

Sen. Patrick Leahy has already indicated that he would insist on the testimony of Karl Rove and others before he confirmed a new attorney general, but that was clearly just an opening bid. Why wouldn’t he insist that a nominee recuse himself from investigating the firings and charter a special counsel to do so instead?

Another worthwhile read is the May 15 editorial from the right leaning Chicago Tribune More stonewalling at Justice LINK

The controversy over the removal of several U.S. attorneys last year has been spreading by the week. But Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales sees no reason to change his approach, which is modeled on Muhammad Ali’s famous rope-a-dope.


  1. April-May

    GOP is a nest of thieves, thugs, and criminals. Demos can’t seem to find their butts with both hands and a BIG BUTT map.

    NRA Distinguished Life Member

  2. Sandy Price

    Does the Congress have the authority to fire the Attorney General? Has this ever happened in the past? I would think Impeachment for Bush might solve a lot of our problems. But our Senate would not do it. Our government is full of cowards. We need some input on this subject from the CHB group.

  3. Hal Brown

    Sandy, Good question, one other readers may have. Article II of the Constitution grants Congress the power to impeach ''the president, the vice president and all civil officers of the United States.'' The phrase ''civil officers'' includes the members of the cabinet.

    Here's what Frank Bowman, a law professor at the University of Missouri wrote in an OpEd in the New York Times Select on May 3rd:


    The truth is almost surely that Mr. Gonzales's forgetfulness is feigned — a calculated ploy to block legitimate Congressional inquiry into questionable decisions made by the Department of Justice, White House officials and, quite possibly, the president himself.

    The president must certainly be punishable for giving false information to the Senate.'' The same is true of the president's appointees. (ed note: lying to Congress is a felony)
    But before dismissing the possibility of impeachment, Congress should recognize that the issue here goes deeper than the misbehavior of one man.
    The real question is whether Republicans and Democrats are prepared to defend the constitutional authority of Congress against the implicit claim of an administration that it can do what it pleases and, when called to account, send an attorney general of the United States to Capitol Hill to commit amnesia on its behalf. (Fee link)

    Citizens should demand that their elected representatives answer the last question:
    Are you “prepared to defend the constitutional authority of Congress against the implicit claim of an administration that it can do what it pleases and, when called to account, send an attorney general of the United States to Capitol Hill to commit amnesia on its behalf. “

  4. Sandy Price

    I’m assuming that would take actions requiring a strong spine. Hmmmmm. Will have to give that some thought. It might be better to get him to quit as Sir John Ashcroft did.


  5. Wayne K Dolik

    I saw the hearings with A.G. Gone-Zalez . At the very least he deserves a Contempt of Congress vote. At the very best, impeach him.

  6. SEAL

    The question has never been “can” congress impeach any of the administration. The provable grounds for impeachment have been laying out in the open for years for most of them. It began with the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld case for WMD and Saddam. The only question is will they.

    In the case of Gonzales, he provided the grounds of incompetence by his repeated assertions that he had no knowledge of what his department has or is doing about anything. Claiming ignorance is a way to avoid lying but it proves him to be too damned incompetent to hold the position.

    The only reason none of these people have been impeached is because congress doesn’t want to do it.

  7. Jenifer D.

    I have no doubt that’s what’s wrong; Why won’t The House and The Senate employ the system of C’s & B’s to 86 the entire bunch?

    When an official is voted into office, in essence, they’ve been hired to do a specific job: to represent the voters. If they fail, over and over, it’s time to fire them. If California mustered up the signatures to oust Gray Davis in ’03, then The House and The Senate should easily be able to implement the necessary measures to impeach, or is it not in their vocabulary anymore?

    Hell, pick two members of Lynyrd Skynyrd to replace the Prez and the VP and have done with it, we’ll vote on the rest later…WITHOUT DIEBOLD’S HELP!

  8. Jerry

    Hal suggests: “I don’t expect a president with no moral compass to fire an unethical subordinate who followed his dictates and got into trouble for doing so. That’s why it would be internally inconsistent for Bush to fire Alberto Gonzales.”

    But Todd Lindberg of the Weekly Standard, gives a more plausible reason (sorry, Hal). See: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/013/637ntzjr.asp

    As Todd explains, hanging on to Gonzales has to be Bush’s best defense.

    Think back to Watergate and the resignation of the A-G. Nixon was left having to appoint a new A-G and get him confirmed by the Senate. The price Nixon paid was an agreement to have a special prosecutor appointed, and the special prosecutor finally brought Nixon down. Senator Leahy this time round would almost certainly demand the same price for the confirmation of any replacement for Gonzales, so whether Gonzales wants to go or not, I suspect Bush is nailing Alberto to his seat and demanding that he stay exactly where he is. For as long as Alberto is catching flak, Bush is safe.

  9. Hal Brown

    In fact, this is an excellent reference which I added to the column.

    All Bush needs is another special prosecutor like Patrick Fitzgerald looking into the inner workings of the White House.