Gonzales may have resigned -- says he can't recall

August 27, 2007 by barbara

barbara writes

Okay. Puffery alert. I have been asking all summer what would happen if Alberto Gonzales resigned in August. My Chertoffian gut warned me this was likely to happen. I couldn’t get anyone to take my concern seriously. Bush’s promise (bwahahahahaha!) to Reid about no session recess appointments notwithstanding, could Bush appoint a replacement AG and make it stick? I guess we’re about to find out.

The cherub-faced Attorney General who worships at the altar of the Toxic Texan says he's movin' on down the road. Of course, he might not remember that he resigned. This is the man who uttered variations of “I don’t recall” more than 60 times while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee last spring. However, he’s a total piker compared to his chief of staff who uttered “Can’t remember” variations 122 times by actual count. Will Gonzo remember to leave office on September 17 as promised? >> Read on.

Meanwhile, Congress critters issued statements about Gonzo’s departure:

Nancy Pelosi: The President must now restore credibility to the office of the Attorney General.

Whoa! If Americans have even a scintilla of collective intelligence, they long ago deep-sixed even the remote possibility of trusting that BushCo even understands the concept of credibility, much less embraces it. I can see no possible way to restore faith in the Department of Justice under this administration. The best we can hope for is some variation of the Hippocratic “Never do harm to anyone.” I am not optimistic.

Pelosi went on to say the (AG) nominee must also pledge to cooperate with ongoing congressional oversight into the conduct of the White House in the politicization of federal law enforcement. Hearings on the nominee will provide Congress with another opportunity to examine the new, flawed FISA law and will aid in our efforts to improve it.”

Nice piece of butt-covering, Nancy. And I am encouraged by its inclusion in your comments. Apparently you've noticed that folks are furious about the Dem votes on the FISA bill that passed a heartbeat or so before the August recess. Amy Klobuchar and Tim Walz are among those who have a lot of explaining to do.

Harry Reid got deeper into the matter: Alberto Gonzales was never the right man for this job. He lacked independence, he lacked judgment, and he lacked the spine to say no to Karl Rove. This resignation is not the end of the story. Congress must get to the bottom of this mess and follow the facts where they lead, into the White House.

Again, I am marginally heartened. But our Congressional leaders have promised much and delivered little (far as we can tell, she said in her own butt-covering maneuver).

All of that aside, I’m still stewing about the possibility of a recess appointment. Hard to imagine anything worse than Gonzales, but the Republicans never fail to amaze.

KagroX at Daily Kos says: Can Bush make a recess appointment? Yes. Would it break the deal he supposedly had with Harry Reid? Probably. (Who knows whether there was "extraordinary circumstances" escape clause?) What would it take to prevent such an appointment? One or two Senators (correction: a pro forma session of the House takes ‘Congress’ out of recess, but to prevent recess appointments, the Constitution specifies the Senate must be in session, which makes sense, since it's the Senate that handles appointments) coming in to open a pro forma session.

Got all that? I think it means that Congress critters need to ride hard all night under cover of darkness so that when the next sun rises, they are all in their places with sunshiny faces. (NOTE: Congress reconvenes on September 4.)

Speaking to the same issue, Glenn Greenwald at Salon says: Obviously, there is nothing truly binding about the (Bush/Reid) agreement, and Bush could violate it. But in the Beltway world, that is a Draconian step that seems unlikely (though not impossible) for many reasons. Far more likely, it seems, is Bush's (reasonable) belief that Senate Democrats will be as accommodating as usual and confirm a replacement who is acceptable to the administration.

Meanwhile, there’s much discussion about succession. The acting AG with be Solicitor General Paul Clement (read about Clement here -- clue: he clerked for the far-right Supreme, Antonin Scalia) who apparently can stay in place for “quite a while," according to a senior BushCo official (who must be dehydrated from all the leaking he/she does). Michael Chertoff (the Homeland Security czar with the famously intuitive gut) is being touted as the possible heir apparent to Gonzales. That makes a certain amount of sense, since Chertoff has done a heckuva job at HS and is part of the BushCo inner circle.

But Greenwald notes that Democrats, who have offered up little other than one failure after the next since taking power in January, can take a big step toward redeeming themselves here. No matter what, they must ensure that Gonzales' replacement is a genuinely trustworthy and independent figure.

That means that Democrats must not confirm anyone, such as Michael Chertoff, who has been ensconced in the Bush circle.

No feces, Mr. Holmes! And how to do that?

Greenwald goes on to say about Democrats: They themselves can filibuster the confirmation of any proposed nominee to replace Gonzales. They do not need Blue Dogs or Bush Dogs or any of the other hideous cowards in their caucus who remain loyal to the most unpopular President in modern American history. The allegedly ‘Good Democrats’ can accomplish this vital step all on their own. They only need 40 Senate votes to achieve it (my bold) ….The new Attorney General must be someone who is not part of that rotted (Bush inner) circle at all -- even if they are supposedly part of the less rotted branches -- since it is that circle which ought to be the subject of multiple DOJ investigations.

Greenwald reminds us that the Dems have declared themselves repeatedly “betrayed” by Republicans, having trusted them about such things as Supreme Court appointments (think Alito and Roberts), the FISA bill, etc. Hello? Fool me once . . . .

So here's the deal. No. More. Screw-ups. None.

Zero tolerance. The primrose path is overcrowded.

It is time for our Congress critters to put the country ahead of their personal political agendas. Furthermore, betrayal excuses won’t cut it any more.

Dear Congress:

We hired you to do your job on our behalf. We can fire you in 2008, and make no mistake, we will if we have to. But you have a job to do now. And that job is to mitigate against any more BushCo damage.

You must stand up to BushCo. All day, every day. And you might as well start by figuring out how you’re going to conduct your lives in the absence of a summer recess in 2008. Because sure as creation made little green worms, 2008 will bring the summer from hell unless you’re on guard every single moment.

So readers, your assignment – and mine – is to once again lean hard on Congress. Let them know we expect them to stand up to BushCo, no exceptions. That we expect them to stand firm until an acceptable AG candidate is unearthed. (Probably no point in holding out for Patrick Fitzgerald until 2009.) And an acceptable AG has no ties whatsoever to the Core of BushCo.

UPDATE: I’m reading updates as I get ready to post this blog. There’s a torrent of ‘em.

Apparently Gonzales’ announced departure date (September 17) may preclude a recess appointment.

That would be a good thing. And for what it’s worth, here’s my advice to Congress. Over the years, I've seen organizations of every stripe make some appalling hiring decisions. And the defense later usually includes something like this: “Well, he/she was the best available candidate.” Here’s what I think. NEVER settle for “the best available.” Hold out always for the best. Period. Even if it prolongs the search.

Nowhere is this more relevant than in U.S. government appointments, and particularly now.

In other words, do the right thing.

UPDATE 2: Digby underscores the need for Dems to bring DOJ misdeeds into the light of day and keep it there:

There is a lot of chatter on the cable shows about who is going to replace Gonzales and whether there will be a confirmation fight. The gossip is that it will be Clement continuing to stonewall as acting AG for as long as they can get away with it and then Chertoff. Or maybe a member of the Senate club, Cornyn or Hatch. Jane even thinks they might put up Lieberman! (Personally, I think that might be the best thing that could happen. He'd be out of government entirely in 18 months.)

Either way, it won't be surprising if the Dems opt to quickly pass through anyone Bush puts up because Bush is such a lame duck. That would be a terrible mistake. They should fight tooth and nail and use the opportunity to highlight the fact that the entire upper echelon of the Department of Justice has resigned under a cloud of scandal. Part of being held accountable is being held accountable by the voters and the congress must make that case using every tool at their disposal. If we want to drive the stake through the GOP zombie, the modern Republican party must be thoroughly discredited in the eyes of the public. Any chance they get to keep this on the public stage, with hearings and press conferences and constitutional challenges is another chance to pound it into the electorate that these people are authoritarian crooks.

Gonzo and Rove going now is another delaying tactic. The Democrats should ratchet up the pressure instead of ratcheting it down, which is clearly what the white house is going to be attempting to do.

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Comments

susan | August 28, 2007 - 12:01am

Just got back to the north end of Lake Michigan from my oldest sister's 50th wedding anniversary celebration at the south end of Lake Michigan (and what a fine hoe-down it was, thanks E and E) to find a full moon sliding up over the horizon like a quivering orange aspic freshly out of the mold. On top of that, a total eclipse of that full moon is on deck for 4 a.m. CST. So I ask, what, if anything, does this have to do with the resignation of the Amnesiac General? I have no idea, but I think it's propitious.

Full moon plus full lunar eclipse must count for something. Word is that woods animals are gamboling about like spring lambs and fish are leaping out of the lake to twirl in the silvery moon. Or are they too celebrating Gonzo's retreat?

Reader beware. I put about as much faith in astrology as I do in George Bush, but my friend DMK has sent me some karmic musings that she researched, and given all of Barb's fussing and fretting above, I thought I'd pass some of them along.

"I cannot emphasize enough the spiritually demanding nature of this Full Moon, especially with the total lunar eclipse. Mindfully attending to the quality of our thoughts, feelings and interactions actually enlivens compassion, empathy, and depth of intention—and rewires the brain. In fact, the Full Moon is perfectly set up to help you create a ritual that will move the group's mind as well as each individual mind toward the most evolved form of the Pisces/Virgo axis: sacrifice, service and enlightenment."

Compassion, empathy, and depth of intention? Sacrifice, service and enlightenment? When's the last time we saw any of that around the Capitol?

Quick, Barbara, a ritual. Do confirmation hearings count?

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barbara aka babs (not verified) | August 28, 2007 - 9:12am

" . . . all of Barbara's fussing and fretting . . ." Yowza! I guess that depends on your point of view. I've been following the horrendous, unfolding Gonzales story closely for the past year or so.

The fact that his egregious misdeeds (for starters, he is a proponent of and liar about torture, a proponent of and liar about politicizing the American justice system, and a serial liar in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the media and the American people) could have been allowed to happen in this country is simply mind-boggling.

The fact that he, like so many BushCo loyalists, Gonzales has found The Lie to be the most expedient communications device, has been a devastating blow to our justice system and therefore to democracy. Gonzales, like Rove, Cheney, Bush et al, has found it useful to work under cover of darkness, assuming that discovery (if it ever came at all) would come too late to right the wrongs perpetrated on this nation.

The fact that the U.S. Congress allowed this to play out under its mostly patrician, highly-paid noses ("pay" provided by the American people) is almost impossible to grasp.

The fact that Gonzales was allowed to stay in an office that is absolutely essential to the well-being of this democracy, all the while thumbing his nose at the American people, is infuriating.

So fussing and fretting? About an assault on our government, the Constitution, the Geneva Conventions, and, by extension, the American people? Yeah, I guess you could say that.

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susan | August 28, 2007 - 12:15pm

Babs! I didn't mean your fussing and fretting was for naught! I was being faceitously new age, saying turn your fussin' and frettin' into a ritual. NOT. I agree 100% and worry that the slumbering nation will say, "He's gone, what more do the Dems want?" Well, the reinstatement of the constitution and the return of our country to some semblance of good health, for starters.
And a word on those slow-moving Dems in congress. (Always their apologist, I know.) Recall how it was when the Republicans had control of all committees. That's when the real damage was being done. Refresh your memory by reading Matt Taibbi's cover story from about a year ago in the Rolling Stone, called the Worst Congress Ever.

Pelosi, Reed and company are timid and willing to roll over and play along like near-dead dogs, and it's like coaxing water from stone to get them to act, but Gonzales wouldn't have been anywhere near the exit door without the work of Leahy, Schumer et al. And don't forget that perilous one vote margin in the senate. It's not as if they can steamroll things the way the Republicans did (see above) when they were in power.
It's painstakingly tedious work to obey the laws and procedures of Congress, which is why Bush/Cheney/Gonzo chose not to.
Seems to me that the maddening Dems have no choice but to move very carefully within the framework of the Constitution (Imagine!) to slowly rout these bums out of office. (And if there's a god, into prison.)
And if they do not continue to pursue the political firing of the federal prosecutors and subpoena every note and email and bit player, I will for once and for all cease to defend them.
As for the press, I've already given up. Today a dirty old man in a toilet stall; tomorrow, back to Britney.

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barbara aka babs (not verified) | August 28, 2007 - 12:57pm

Yeah, I agree that there are some highly visible Dems who seem to be trying to get it right. And because, because, because, I am inclined to give a huge hat tip to the national level bloggers who have pressed and pushed and kept the spotlight on BushCo throughout our long ordeal. That and McClatchy, the only MSM venue in which I have any trust at all. NYTimes today kind of made nice about Gonzales, in that they seemed to be suggesting that it's a whole new world for BushCo now that the weasel is on his way out.

But IF (and for me, it's still a big IF) the Dems are actually DOING something as a whole (and has anyone actually seen Tim Johnson or Fidel Castro?), it seems to me it behooves them to find a way to communicate that to their base.

I am arrogant enough to consider myself part of the base, and I ain't heard nothin' that's making me want to do my little happy dance lately.

About need to know. I'm not that important. So of course, I don't need to know particulars. Just give me something to hang onto. Any old lifeline will do at this point, but I'll be paying particular attention to who's throwing it, because, as noted, I'm having a hard time knowing whom to trust.

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