Even Without the Poll Numbers, Gonzales Should Go
Let's go to the polls. The Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg released poll results yesterday on the scandal involving the firing last year by the White House and Justice Department of eight U.S. Attorneys. A slim majority of us, 53 percent, believe that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales should resign from his post for his role in and reaction to the controversy. The poll found that an even larger majority of us, 74 percent, believe that top White House officials should testify under oath about their roles in the affair. On this last point, the poll found, even 49 percent of Republicans agreed that Karl Rove and others should be held to publicly account for their conduct.
Now, I am not a big fan of polls, especially on complicated and nuanced issues like the ones in play here. Given the partisanship swirling around the country these days, the fact that only 53 percent of our compatriots want Gonzales gone isn't exactly a landslide. It doesn't match, for example, President Bush's disapproval rating. And it's certainly easy for a polled person to say that public officials ought to voluntarily tell the truth before Congress-- it's kind of like asking people if they think America is still a great country. I would even go so far as to suspect that the White House and the Justice Department figured the figures would be even worse than they are. So let's forget the poll; let's pay it no never mind. Gonzales still ought to quit, for his own good, the good of his buddy the President, and most importantly for the good of the country.
Why? Well here is just another in a litany of reasons. On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Commitee subpoenaed from Gonzales and the Justice Department more documents and information relevant to the U.S. Attorney mess. The terms of the subpoena require the Justice Department to comply by next Monday afternoon, less than 24 hours before the Attorney General is scheduled to appear, voluntarily, before the Senate Judiciary Committee. This means that Gonzales and Company are caught in a legal and political trap. If the Department complies quickly with the subpoena, the Congress will have more documents to use as ammunition against the Attorney General next Tuesday. And if the Department does not comply with the subpoena, it will give Senate Judiciary Committee members the opportunity to pressure Gonzales on the reasons why. Neither scenario bodes well for Gonzales.
Sensing this, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y) on Tuesday announced that it might be necessary to call Gonzales back for a second round of testimony, after next Tuesday, if the Attorney General and his colleagues at Justice do not comply with the subpoena. We can't have another witness saying "I don't know" 122 times, Schumer said, referring to the testimony last month of Gonzales' former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson. And Schumer's throw-down means, in turn, that the Attorney General will essentially be neutralized as a public official, as he has been for the past few months, by this scandal.
The nation cannot afford in this age of terror to have an Attorney General who is holed up in some office bunker spending his days working to defend himself politically from a problem of his own doing. The nation cannot afford to have a Justice Department tied up in court over its own documents. The nation cannot afford to have this mess ramble on, for many more months, while the Congress focuses upon it instead of upon much-needed legislation (hey, Congress, fix the Clean Air Act and the Military Commissions Act and then go after the Justice Department). Only one person can change this dynamic. Only one person can make it all go away. That person is the Attorney General, who has made a complete mess of his job and who now threatens to make a mess of a good many other things as well.
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