Time for Alberto Gonzales to go 

President Bush has every right to appoint U.S. attorneys on the basis of whatever qualifications he thinks appropriate, and he has every right to remove U.S. attorneys on whatever grounds he thinks appropriate. That is the core meaning of the constitutional principle that U.S. attorneys are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the president, including the eight whose dismissal has become the focus of a congressional probe.

By its very nature, the selection and appointment of U.S. attorneys involves serious and unavoidable political considerations. That is why White House advisers screen potential nominees for their compatibility with the president’s philosophy and policy agenda. Political considerations are also why presidents typically consult senators representing appointees’ home states before nominating them. So let’s have no more hypocritical cant from senators who routinely participate in this highly political process about it being "improperly politicized." Note as well that it begs credulity to hear such criticisms from the likes of Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., deputy chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

But even in politics, people ought to tell the truth. For that reason, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales can now best serve his president by submitting an immediate resignation. Gonzales’ ability to serve the president ended last Friday when it became clear from memos released by the Justice Department that, contrary to his previous assertions of being distant from the removal proceedings, he had detailed information on a process in which he actively participated.

Especially damning was a Nov. 27 meeting in Gonzales’ Justice Department conference room. The "roll-out" — i.e. how it would be announced to Congress and the media — of the dismissals was planned at that meeting. Two weeks before, on Nov. 15, Gonzales’ chief of staff Kyle Sampson had sent the names of U.S. attorneys to be dismissed to White House counsel Harriet Miers. Certainly Gonzales reviewed the list before it was sent to Miers. If he didn’t, that alone would justify his resignation for failing to be fully in charge of the department his president tasked him to manage.

It is unlikely that Gonzales’ departure will end this scandal because Senate Democrats smell blood and they are eagerly talking up criminal investigations. No wonder Monica Goodling, the former Justice Department liaison to the White House who helped plan the dismissals, has announced she will take the Fifth Amendment in her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. And Washington is rife with fevered speculation about what Sampson may tell the committee tomorrow. But at least with Gonzales gone, it will then be clear that it is hyperpartisan Democrats politicizing the dismissal of those eight U.S. attorneys.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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