Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Gonzalez Problem

Captain Ed has a nice post on the U.S. Attorneygate and the document dump of e-mails. The leftosphere is making quite a bit of this (with some reason), but as Captain Ed points out, there's still nothing illegal about what was done, and the enemies of the President can't gather forces around any particular criminal charge.

Captain Ed uses this William F. Buckley column as a jumping off point. Buckley points out two truths: (a) that the President does have the plenary power to fire the attorneys and (b) Congress has the authority to investigate actions by the executive branch. Buckley's point is that the former cannot (and should not) swallow the latter.

It is a good point to make. Congress has always wielded its authority to investigate the executive branch, sometimes in better faith than at other times. Yet regardless of the partisan squabbling that such investigations have incurred, the value of Congress in examining the actions of the executive branch is enormous, and can be one of the few checks on executive power.

Captain Ed then goes into the document dump of e-mails and what it all means.

All of this still doesn't make the case that any of the firings were illegal. So far, no one has offered any proof of evil intent. That's what makes Gonzales' handling of this issue so poor. Even if Gonzales didn't intend to deceive -- that is to say that he honestly didn't recall sitting in on that meeting -- wouldn't a competent CEO (as he described himself) do some research before making categorical statements? Every time a Justice official has offered a version of the firings, it has foundered on the shoals of Justice's own documentation, which one would assume these professionals would have checked before creating their explanations.

And who would accept the competence of the AG if Gonzales really had no idea how his own department drew up a list of federal prosecutors for termination? What Cabinet officer would have so little interest in how his underling fired presidential appointees?

That's why I wrote earlier that Gonzales and others who have presented misleading versions of the project are either incompetent or deceptive. We should not accept either in the office of the highest-ranking law enforcement officer of the United States, regardless of whether he is a Republican or Democrat. America existed before the Bush administration, and it will exist after it, and we had better insist on a level of competence and/or honesty that exceeds what we're getting at the moment -- or else we will live to regret it in later adminstrations.

I am one of those on the right that has insisted Gonzalez not resign because it would be just the latest scalp for the Democrats (Republicans always resign; Democrats just accuse their accusers of partisanship). Yet looking at the e-mails, one can conclude either that Gonzalez was utterly clueless about the actions within the DOJ or that he has repeatedly lied about his involvement in this situation. Either way, Gonzalez has become a real liability for the President and should go.