I’ve got to disagree, respectfully and with less than great conviction, with Dr. Krauthammer and Kathryn. I am more stuck on practical politics than merit. Dr. K argues, with great force, that the self-inflicted debacle over U.S. attorney firings has called AG Gonzales’s competence into question. But the reason given for a resignation is never the reason remembered for a resignation — does anyone really believe the ambitious pol who suddenly “wants to spend more time with his family?”
As I’ve contended before, if Gonzales’s nomination had been defeated, it would not have been remembered as a conclusion about his relative fitness. It would have been seen as a congressional conclusion that, as White House counsel, he had authorized torture and, implicitly, that the United States had, in fact, been operating a systematic torture regime. That was not true, and it was crucially important that it be resisted.
Here, again, Gonzales is almost a side-issue at this point. Democrats want to press on with their investigation — including subpoenas for the President’s top advisers. The end-game is to destroy the administration. The difference between whether it’s proper or improper for the senate to be issuing such subpoenas lies in whether a crime was committed in the dismissal of the U.S. attorneys. The only possibility of that is obstruction of justice — i.e., that the firings were intended to thwart or trump-up particuar investigations. There is zero evidence of that, so what we have is a fishing expedition which grossly violates both separation-of-powers and the good-governance need for principals to be able to confide in their top aides without interference from the other branches.
If Gonzales resigns, however, that resignation, as Krauthammer acknowledges at the start of his piece, is certain to ”inflame [the Democrats’] bloodlust.” More importantly, it will be used as an agitprop to claim that there is more to the firings than meets the eye — namely, criminal wrongdoing. Indeed, I would expect critics virtually to do a 180-degree shift: to suddenly acknowledge that firing U.S. attorneys is a discretionary political act in order to then argue that if the Attorney General was forced to resign over something so routine, surely the White House must be hiding something terrible. It will ratchet up the “scandal” rather than easing it.
I am not saying competence means nothing. But, narrowly, the firing of these attorneys is much ado about nothing. No one resigns over nothing — and if the AG resigns in the middle of a manufactured scandal, the scandal will intensify … and is more likely to engulf the administration.