Bench Memos

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Time to Go


Much as I have struggled to resist the conclusion, I find myself in reluctant agreement with NRO’s house editorial today (“Time to Go”) stating that Attorney General Gonzales should resign.  It is not that I credit any of the reckless and baseless assertions by Senate Democrats that U.S. attorneys were fired in order to impede ongoing investigations.  (See on NRO today Byron York’s refutation of Senator Schumer’s claim regarding the firing of Carol Lam.)  On the contrary, it is Gonzales’s astonishing fecklessness in refuting such assertions that convinces me that he has to go.


Consider this latest example: 


1.  During a March 13 news conference, Gonzales stated, “I was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on.  That’s basically what I knew as the attorney general.…  I never saw documents.  We never had a discussion about where things stood.”


2.  Last Friday, March 23, documents released by DOJ reportedly showed an hour-long meeting on November 27, 2006, between Gonzales and his aides about the impending dismissals.


3.  Yesterday, in an attempt to reconcile his March 13 statement with the documentary record, Gonzales offered this woefully unsatisfactory account:  “When I said on March 13th that I wasn’t involved, what I meant was that I had not been involved, was not involved in the deliberations over whether or not United States attorneys should resign.”  Oh.


Perhaps Gonzales meant to distinguish between, on the one hand, the internal preliminary DOJ deliberations on who should be on the recommended list of U.S. attorneys to be fired and, on the other, the actual decision on the recommendation to make to the President.  But it is simply inexcusable that, amidst all the distraction caused by this ridiculous non-scandal, Gonzales would blow an opportunity to set things straight, both on the specific confusion over his previous statement and on the broader brouhaha.  As the NRO editorial puts it, Gonzales “cannot defend the administration and its policies even when they deserve defense.”


(I’ll acknowledge that I was accurately quoted in Sunday’s Washington Post as stating:  “Sensible minds at the White House would recognize that throwing Gonzales overboard would give the opposition bloodlust.”  I made that statement last Friday, before learning of the November 27 meeting.  Perhaps more to the point, it is now clear to me that Gonzales’s inability to defend himself and DOJ is worse than I imagined and that that inability itself invites irresponsible attacks from the opposition.)


Tags: Whelan


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