Patterico's Pontifications


Gonzales: Clueless As to Why the U.S. Attorneys Were Fired

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:58 pm

Sam Brownback is dealing the death blow to Alberto Gonzales, by asking a simple and straightforward question: why were these U.S. Attorneys fired?

It’s clear from Gonzales’s answer that, when he approved these firings, he really didn’t know why he was firing each U.S. Attorney. He just did what other people told him to do.

I can’t tell you how pathetic he sounds.

Please resign. Put us out of our misery. Please.

UPDATE: Looks like Byron York agrees:

It has been a disastrous morning for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. The major problem with his testimony is that Gonzales maintains, in essence, that he doesn’t know why he fired at least some of the eight dismissed U.S. attorneys. When, under questioning by Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, Gonzales listed the reasons for each firing, it was clear that in a number of cases, he had reconstructed the reason for the dismissal after the fact. He didn’t know why he fired them at the time, other than the action was recommended by senior Justice Department staff.

Disastrous is right.

UPDATE x2: Captain Ed says Gonzales is done. I believe (and hope) that he’s right.

25 Responses to “Gonzales: Clueless As to Why the U.S. Attorneys Were Fired”

  1. Patterico — I agree that the AG doesn’t make much of a witness on his own behalf.

    However, if the US Attorneys were asked to resign for legitimate reasons, it really doesn’t matter how inarticulate the AG is in trying to explain them.

    Its up to the DEPARTMENT to make the case for why each was targeted, and it doesn’t have to be a particularly convincing reason — they can be asked to resign for the most trivial of reasons, so long as the reason is not corrupt.

    Re the likelihood of the AG being “forced” to resign — think back to the proverbial beatings that Janet Reno took on Capitol Hill over various subjects, most notably her refusal to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the question of foreign campaign contributions to Clinton-Gore ’96 campaign, particularly whether contributions were received from Chinese interests. She was pilloried regularly for that refusal, even after Louis Freeh and Charles LaBella both testified that they recommended such an appointment.

    Granted, Clinton was in no position to ask her to resign. But how is that any different than Bush’s reluctance to ask Gonzales to resign.

    The only question is whether Gonzales has a thick enough hide to continue to go to work every morning, no matter what is being said about him.

    That’s what allowed Janet Reno to keep coming to the office everyday even when EVERYONE in both parties on Capitol Hill would have simply preferred her to go back to Florida and go fishing.

    Unless Pres. Bush asks Gonzales to resign, I’m betting he’s not going anywhere. And I don’t think Pres. Bush will ask.

    wls (859dc4)

  2. Patterico:

    All right. Suppose Gonzales were to resign, as is your wish.

    What then?

    I asked Dean Barnett, and he suggested that “Orrin Hatch could cruise to confirmation.” I think Barnett is dangerously underestimating the toxicity of the J-Com right now, thinking that a nominee who is a senator — even one on the committee itself — would “cruise to confirmation.”

    Maybe we could ask a neutral arbiter… say, Sen. John Tower. (We’d need a Ouija board.)

    (Now Sen. Spector, on the other hand, probably would cruise to confirmation — as soon as he swore to end all domestic anti-terrorism programs, from the NSA al-Qaeda intercepts to monitoring the SWIFT program to the Patriot Act itself, which I’m certain he would eagerly do.)

    I asked Rich Galen, but answer came there none.

    I have asked a couple of others to no avail.

    Do you really believe that if only we could get rid of Gonzales, we could get a solid conservative in as Attorney General? You think the Democrats, having gotten one scalp, wouldn’t lunge for a two-fer?

    Let’s see… we could have a recess appointment; but those typically crash and burn, because the bureaucrats dismiss them out of hand as temp workers.

    We could just let the Deputy Attorney General become acting Attorney General. Oh, wait, isn’t that Paul McNulty, the man Pat Leahy would most like to indict for supposedly “misleading” or “lying to” Congress? I wonder how many of the remaining 642 days of Bush’s presidency the acting Attorney General would spend testifying to one congressional committee or another?

    Or maybe Leahy could submit a list of acceptable candidates — Jamie Gorelick, Bob Bennett, Janet Reno…

    Pat, realistically speaking, this close to the end of the Bush term, it would be a complete catastrophe for Gonzales to resign. The confirmation hearings would be a food fight. The nominee would be a piñata. The country would be without a permanent, confirmed attorney general, and nobody would be in charge of the domestic front in the war on global jihad.

    I’d rather have a slightly incompetent, moderate Bush loyalist than an empty desk during time of existential war. Call me irresponsible…


    Dafydd (445647)

  3. Bye Bye ‘Berto?…

    I didn’t try to keep up with the Gonzales hearing but Patterico did and he says he’s toast. Click here, here, here and here. Captain Ed wasn’t too impressed either. Adios, muchacho….

    Bill's Bites (72c8fd)

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  5. I don’t say this often enough, but thank you for your candor Patterico. I may usually be a dissenter here, but you come through at times like these.

    Dafydd, leaving the incompetent in power is the main problem with this administration. Let Bush nominate someone competent, and there will be no piñata. (Remember Chief Justice Roberts?) To argue that he should keep his position only for partisan reasons doesn’t help your case much. Why can’t we put our country above partisan politics? Would that be such a crime?

    Psyberian (de47c4)

  6. Gonzalez is terrible at the kabuki theater that is a grilling by Senate Committee. And perhaps he should resign for that. But on the substance of it, does anyone, anywhere, closely manage as many as 93 subordinates? Unless Gonzalez’ only job were managing the 93 Attorneys in question, he would have to leave all real knowledge of their ability to a subordinate manager. Sadly, the Attorney General has other duties, not least in a time when we are at war with terrorists. Still, you’d think he could have either boned up on the reasons for the dismissals, or come up with a good speech, or a non-defensive, non-apologetic posture.

    Frankly, Gonzalez would be in much better shape if he had from the beginning said something like:

    “I didn’t really give a damn exactly why each of these attorneys were fired or retained. I trusted others to make that decision, signed off on it in an hour, and then got back to higher-level work prosecuting the war on terrorism…

    As you know, the Executive branch has long given deference to local Senators on such matters. If you think that Senatorial input on specific hirings and firings is too political or otherwise improper, we would be happy to start ignoring you all. Otherwise, I do not see how you can criticize us for firing attorneys who have lost the confidence of their home-state Senators.”

    DWPittelli (87ad39)

  7. I personally thank all of the conservative activists out there who warned Bush that he had better not nominate AGAG to the Supreme Court.

    Geek, Esq. (f63bcd)

  8. dafydd:

    I am still struggling to make the distinction between Gonzales and an empty desk. And although Bush might have a little trouble appointing another theocrat/idologue (like Ashcroft) or a loyalist boob (like AG), I don’t see that as a terrible thing. If he nominnates a competent conservative, the senate is not going to blatantly obstruct confirmation – if for no reason other than that it would make them look bad.

    biwah (2dcf66)

  9. DWPittelli, Gonzalez did start off by saying that he wasn’t involved in the decision. The problem is that Kyle Sampson contradicted him, so now he’s got to do the Clintonian “It depends on what your definition of ‘involved’ is.” As far as I can tell, nobody can agree on who was responsible for the decision. Everybody’s pointing fingers at everyone else, and at least one person is taking the Fifth.

    Basically it looks like there’s a cover-up.

    If a crime is being covered up, then we need to get to the bottom of it.

    If it’s a cover-up without a crime, then the people at the DoJ need to find a less annoying way of spending their time.

    Either way, Gonzales is a liability at best.

    chaos_engineer (2c42d9)

  10. Small picky point. Please don’t say “existential threat.” If you really believe in it, then call it a “threat to our existence.” Existentialism is a literary movement which posits that there is no god and life itself is meaningless.

    David I (60152b)

  11. The problem with the suggestion that Gonzalez merely needs to defend the reasons for the firing better is that, according to his testimony yesterday, he doesn’t even know who came up with them. If that’s true (most likely because the idea came from outside Justice), then he can’t even talk directly with those people without making the problem even more obvious. If that’s the case, it’s likely true that exposing those reasons would get him into even deeper trouble. The corollary to that is that he should then just generally claim he can’t remember anything, as that’s the simplest way to make his story consistent.

    David (bd21fe)

  12. Wow, no wonder you were able to pass the IQ test low enough to get a job in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office. You are even dumber than I have been giving you credit for, and with the credit I’ve been giving you, you could have bought a nice house in Pacific Palisades.

    What a dimwitted moron you are. No wonder you have the job you do, you halfwitted fool.

    TCinLA (a7b42d)

  13. David I:

    I use the English language with clarity and precision; I need not cater to lacunae in your education.


    The grown-ups are speaking; please return to the kiddie table.


    Dafydd (445647)

  14. Psyberian:

    Dafydd, leaving the incompetent in power is the main problem with this administration. Let Bush nominate someone competent, and there will be no piñata. (Remember Chief Justice Roberts?)

    Yes, it is true that Bush’s loyalty often leads him to nominate, and then stick with, people who are (mildly) incompetent at their jobs, certainly including Gonzales.

    But you are missing a gigantic difference between now and late 2005-early 2006, when the confirmation hearings for Roberts and Alito occurred: the Democrats now control the Senate, hence the entire confirmation process.

    Before, the most they could do was threaten to filibuster; and with Bush’s job approval running mostly in the 40s, they didn’t believe they had the street cred to do it.

    But now, Bush’s approval is in the mid-30s, and the Dems no longer need to filibuster: Pat Leahy chairs the J-Com, and they can simply vote any nominee they don’t like down in committee, in a way that seems much more legitimate than filibustering. And even if a floor vote is forced somehow, if they simply hold the caucus, or grab some liberal Republican (Arlen or Lindsay or the twins) to make up for Lieberman, the nominee loses.

    It is immensely easier for the Democrats to prevent any good candidate from being confirmed; and they gain absolutely no advantage by allowing another Ashcroft through.

    Leahy will present Bush with an ultimatum: nominate someone from this approved list, or serve the rest of your term without an attorney general.


    I am still struggling to make the distinction between Gonzales and an empty desk.

    The distinction is simple: Gonzales will prosecute those cases and authorize those programs that Bush actually wants done, rather than freelancing his own policy at Justice that is at odds with the president’s policy… and at odds with prosecuting the war.

    Set the posturing aside, please. Gonzales is not the village idiot; he is competent at many things, but is likely at his “Peter Principle” as AG. That is still better, however, than having nobody at all… or worse, having a Jamie Gorelick as AG.


    Dafydd (445647)

  15. Dafydd:

    I think you see my point, and despite the slight sarcasm, it’s not posturing – the difference between Gonzales and my Outlook server is not great, based on all the evidence. Directives or less direct forms of pressure come from the White House, the AG serves as nothing more than a conduit, and then it’s up to each USA office to perform or the WH will send them packing. Nowhere has the AG proven to be anything other than a sieve.

    So if there is an existential security issue, the presence or absence of Gonzales is not going to have much of an effect – again, based on the evidence thus far.

    Moreover, the AG priorities seem to be pretty out of step with national security, esp. in light of their initiatives on obscenity, of all things, fake voter fraud prosecutions by Democrat-aligned groups in swing states, and trumped-up political corruption cases timed to swing elections, as in Milwaukee.

    Finally, I’d reiterate that if the WH did something truly innovative and conciliatory, like nominate a solid but non-ideologue, non-crony conservative with federal prosecutorial experience, you are not going to see substantive Senate opposition beyond a little hemming and hawing. I don’t know why you are so gloomy on that point.

    biwah (2dcf66)

  16. I use the English language with clarity and precision; I need not cater to lacunae in your education.

    Indeed? Why, then, must we cater to yours? Incidentally, your quote above should be two separate sentences, separated by a period rather than a semicolon.

    I really shouldn’t rise to the bait, but my goodness, flip responses from someone who spent an hour on to come up with “lacunae” are just too much to resist.

    Then again, I started it….

    David I (60152b)

  17. I will lay 10 to one he is meeting Friday with OPM to see what his benefits will be. Adios ‘berto

    Ph Elliottil (33052c)

  18. David I, I agree that using the word existential in that context seemed unusual.

    But Existentialism does not necessarily posit that there is no God. While many of them were agnostic or atheist, Kierkegaard was one existential philosophy founder who wasn’t an atheist (or agnostic) for example. There are also many facets of existentialism which have nothing to do with religion at all.

    Existentialism is one of the most fascinating areas in philosophy too.

    Psyberian (de47c4)

  19. Dafydd (15), you’re not wrong to consider those points. However, I thought that even when the Democratic Senators tried to challenge Roberts, it was a waste and worked against them for the most part. They had their chance to roast Roberts, but didn’t go too far with it. They couldn’t come up with much on him to complain about. If Bush nominated someone worthy of the position, I don’t believe that he (or she) would have a lot to worry about.

    Anyway, I would rather have a moderate-right, competent Top Cop over an incompetent one and I hope that most democrats would agree.

    Psyberian (de47c4)

  20. The truely sad thing is, while all of us fact-based folks realize that if Gonzalez loses his job, it is because of his ineptitude, the so called reality-based community will be convinced it was because he, the embodiment of the evil Bush!ther tyranny, was Guilty, GUILTY OF… of… something.

    bains (174b02)

  21. It really doesn’t matter one whit how many Senators publically call for the AG’s resignation. The Dems would want his head no matter what because he’s GW’s AG. The GOP Senators would only be effective in their call if they were making it privately in the Oval Office. It very well could serve the WH’s purpose to let the AG be a lightning-rod to deflect the fire away from other matters. Until GW decides to change AG’s, Gonzalez has a job.

    Another Drew (758608)

  22. David I,

    1) “Existential threat” is a very common idiomatic term, usually used in such a way regarding war. “Existential war” is less common, but not uncommon, and used properly by Dafydd despite the existence of the philosophy of which you speak.

    2) A semicolon can be used to separate what would otherwise be two complete sentences, if they are closely related in subject; incidentally, this is generally considered the most common use of the semicolon.

    3) Does it say more about whom you are writing, or about yourself, that you claim that the words he is using are so highfalutin that he must have used a thesaurus?

    DWPittelli (87ad39)

  23. Is anyone tracking the numerous factual claims and counterclaims from that day? When judging between, say, Schumer and Gonzalez, it seems to me that the accuracy or truthfulness of their claims would be more important to thinking people than who had the more aggressive performance.

    So who was speaking accurately or inaccurately (or for that matter, reasonably or unreasonably, by historical standards), especially with regard to the content of previous testimony? A line-by-line Fisking of both would be quite an interesting blog entry.

    DWPittelli (87ad39)

  24. […] think Gonzales is worth the political capital to save. (I’ve been following Patterico’s gonzo blogging as he reached the same […]

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