Monday, March 19, 2007


Gonzo Daddy Gone

Stick a fork in AGAG, who is apparently dead to hill Republicans, says The Politico:

In a sign of Republican despair, GOP political strategists on Capitol Hill said that it is too late for Gonzales' departure to head off a full-scale Democratic investigation into the motives and timing behind the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

"Democrats smell blood in the water, and (Gonzales') resignation won't stop them," said a well-connected Republican Senate aide. "And on our side, no one's going to defend him. All we can do is warn Democrats against overreaching."

A main reason Gonzales is finding few friends even among Republicans is that he has long been regarded with suspicion by conservatives who have questioned his ideological purity. In the past, these conservatives warned the White House against nominating him for the Supreme Court. Now they're using the controversy over the firing of eight federal prosecutors to take out their pent-up frustrations with how he has handled his leadership at Justice and how the White House has treated Congress.

Complaints range from his handling of immigration cases to his alleged ceding of power in the department to career officials instead of movement conservatives.
Clearly, I was an optimist on my view this morning on Gonzales' fate (though "less than 30 percent" is hardly any sort of endorsement). Given what my NCAA pool looks like, I shouldn't be surprised.

UPDATE (Tuesday 3/20) : The president announced his "strong backing" of Gonzales. Is it real? Or is it the equivalent of the baseball team owner giving his manager a strong "vote of confidence" -- before canning him a week later? We shall see.

What is fascinating about this story is how, sadly, it raises the "competence" issue with this administration -- an issue that has arisen on both the Iraq and Katrina stories. This has been the overarching problem, whether from a perspective of ideology or "politics." An administration is perfectly entitled to fire individuals for "political" reasons -- yet they haven't even been able to do that correctly. Let's take the argument at face value that say that initial plans to fire the USAs were hatched in late 2004 -- apparently confirmed by released DOJ e-mails. Fine: Go ahead and do it!

No one would have raised an eyebrow if Bush decided to do a mini-housecleaning right after he was re-elected (or re-inaugurated). Instead, for whatever reason, they waited until a time when it looked not just "political" in the good sense (i.e., getting rid of people who weren't executing admin policies), but "political" in the bad sense (getting rid of people investigating activities that could embarrass the administration -- or people who didn't want to use their office to go on political witch-hunts).

This is reminiscent of the botched handling of the Rumsfeld situation. My former boss, Newt Gingrich, has said that if Rummy had been canned in fall '06, Republicans could have held the Senate and reduced House losses by 10 (i.e. Democrats would have still taken the House, but only gained about 20 or seats). Instead, Bush waits until the day AFTER the election to do what nearly everyone in Washington -- and beyond -- (pro- and anti-war) knew was the right thing to do months beforehand.

As the latest issue of NR says, can't anyone here play this game?

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