No Confidence in His Competence
The brief ebb tide in the U.S. attorney scandal has gone. Thanks to the startling testimony of former deputy attorney general James B. Comey, and new revelations about dysfunction within the Justice Department, the rip tide of controversy and political pressure is back. Today Senate Democrats will try to engineer a "no confidence" vote on Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. And from the looks of things they'll have plenty of support from their GOP colleagues.
From today's New York Times: "Senator Norm Coleman, Republican of Minnesota, said on Thursday that Mr. Gonzales should resign... In addition, Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, said Mr. Gonzales's resignation should now be considered a possibility. 'When you have to spend more time up here on Capitol Hill instead of running the Justice Department, maybe you ought to think about it,' Mr. Roberts said. This week, Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, said Mr. Gonzales should leave. Other Republican senators who have called for his resignation are John McCain of Arizona, John E. Sununu of New Hampshire and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. And Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who has not called for Mr. Gonzales's dismissal, came closer to saying that he was finished. 'I have a sense that when we finish our investigation, we may have the conclusion of the tenure of the attorney general,' Mr. Specter said at a meeting of the committee on Thursday."
Indeed, any senator who votes against the Gonzales resolution ought to be required to stand in the well of the Senate and explain why. Such an exercise would make for great C-Span viewing, because there is not a single reason for lawmakers, or anyone else, to have any confidence that the attorney general can effectively carry out his duties as the nation's top law enforcement official.
Crime is up. Confidence within the Department is down. Investigations into official conduct abound. And Gonzales himself remains unable or unwilling to come forward with straight and complete answers about precisely how and why the U.S. Attorneys were fired.
The Washington Post this morning reports that four more federal prosecutors were targeted -- bringing the total to 30 -- and making all the more incredible the attorney general's story that he was mostly out of the loop when it came to the purge (as planned and then executed). Instead of a "no-confidence" vote they ought to have a "confidence" vote and then give the "yeas" mental evaluations.
So let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the anti-Gonzales resolution passes with a healthy majority. What then? Gonzales no doubt will issue a statement declaring that he intends to continue to work for the American people. And the White House no doubt will issue a statement declaring that Gonzales continues to have the full support of President Bush.
And reporters will continue to press both to explain those positions. But nothing will happen unless and until some of those GOP lawmakers who are coming out against Gonzales publicly meet with the president (or Gonzales) privately and declare that the jig is up and that the guy has gotta go. I mean, when Pat Roberts of Kansas hints that a Republican official ought to resign, it's a good bet that there is literally no measurable GOP support for that official.
The rip tide is back. Why in the world would Gonzales continue to fight it? And why in the world would the president allow him to do so? We need a strong attorney general. A competent one. An independent one with plenty of integrity. In short, we need the anti-Gonzales -- and we need him or her now.
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