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Jewish World Review
August 28, 2007
/ 14 Elul, 5767
With damage done, it's back to Texas
Maximum damage and minimum relief. Alberto Gonzales is no doubt the man of principle and decency that President Bush, "reluctantly" accepting his resignation, says he is. But even a hardheaded president like George W. can agree that relief from a headache is more fun than the headache ever was.
The only defense of Mr. Gonzales is that he was a victim of a Democratic vendetta, that powerful Democrats were looking for someone, anyone, to stab, slice and dice and watch die, slowly. Well, duh.
Donald Rumsfeld was an early candidate for the rack. But Mr. Rumsfeld had been a Washington player since time began, as we reckon time here. He understood how the game is played, that you can't get away being a liar with congressmen. It takes one to know one.
Mr. Gonzales probably could have saved himself grief if he had answered questions about the firing of the U.S. attorneys in the way a Democrat would have: "We fired them because we wanted to appoint our own U.S. attorneys." This is a nice way of saying, "We fired them because these are our plums to dispense." There's ample precedent. The Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee (inquiring minds who want to know), could have asked Bill Clinton why presidents sometimes fire all the U.S. attorneys when they arrive in the Oval Office. But Democratic senators would have found another knife or club to use on the designated villain. Designated villains are not supposed to survive. It's in the book.
Mr. Gonzales incurred the wrath of senators when he pushed for expansion of presidential power. Senators only want the expansion of congressional power. He sought to limit the legal rights of terrorists, and drafted the rules by which military tribunals try suspected war criminals. This strikes most Americans as common sense, but Democratic senators want to prevent this until a Democrat sits in the White House, when most of what George W. is taking flak for now will overnight become OK. Once elected, presidents nearly always put aside the moonshine and sober up quickly.
But Mr. Gonzales wanted to do other things that upset both Democrats and Republicans. He pressed to reauthorize taps on telephone conversations of suspected terrorists abroad calling bad guys here. Democrats here darkly called that "a secret domestic spying program," as if the federal gumshoes lusted to listen to bedtime conversations between the preacher and the organist, the doctor and his nurse, the butcher and that buxom Mrs. Brown down the street. But then it came out that he took the White House chief of staff with him to visit John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, at a hospital where he was recovering in intensive care from intestinal surgery, to get his endorsement of the scheme. Mr. Ashcroft, groggy and in pain, was clearheaded enough to say no.
Mr. Gonzales gave the impression that he was uncomfortable playing out of the Texas League, and if he had done the right thing months ago he would have saved himself pain and the president grief. But as bad as he no doubt feels this morning, the Democrats feel worse. In the space of a fortnight, they've lost Karl Rove and now Alberto Gonzales, leaving them for the moment with nothing to say. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, tried (unsuccessfully) not to splutter yesterday. His investigations into the Justice Department won't end, he said, until Congress gets "to the bottom of this mess." He said it with the chagrin of a Las Vegas gambler who had just hit bottom and found not much there.
His successor if only for the moment, Solicitor General Paul Clement, 41, is a conservative who as a young lawyer clerked for Larry Silberman and Antonin Scalia at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which makes him practically a war criminal in contemporary Democratic eyes. Worse, as an interim appointment, he's not subject to confirmation by the Senate. This infuriates Democrat senators. They're deprived of a circus and have to choke on their own venom and bile.
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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.
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