Let’s be clear. Alberto Gonzales is resigning as attorney general not because he’s become an embarrassment to the Bush administration—which has repeatedly shown itself to be beyond embarrassment—but because he is no longer useful. Exposed as a serial liar and an administration hack, he can no longer be relied upon by the Bush administration to carry forward its criminal agenda of subverting the Constitution, the electoral process and the Bill of Rights, because his every step is being watched by the public and the Congress.
But this is no victory unless the Congress follows up by pursuing those who put Gonzales up to his crimes.
The whole reason felons and hacks like Gonzales resign from office is to bury their misdeeds by leaving town.
If Congress then obliges by moving on to other things, the resignation will have succeeded. Particularly if we end up with someone just as bad...or maybe worse.
It lookes at first as though we would have Michael Chertoff as AG after Gonzo. Now on one level that might have been an improvement. Gonzales was a both a house servant to Bush through his years as governor and president, doing whatever was necessary to tidy up after Bush’s messes, like hiding evidence of his drunk driving record and his dereliction of duty during the Vietnam War, and a kind of mob attorney, developing legal loopholes to protect the president from prosecution (or impeachment) for various crimes as president, like violating the Geneva Conventions or unleashing the nation’s spy apparatus against Americans. Chertoff, who is not a part of the Texas Mafia, might not have been quite so ready to cross the line into rank sycophancy and to play the role of co-conspirator, particularly given that it would only be for another 16 months.
Then again, Chertoff, in his short stint at what is still referred to as the “Justice” Department, headed up the anti-terrorism unit under Gonzales’ predecessor, John Ashcroft, and willingly played along with the sham prosecution of John Walker Lindh, the kid who was captured in Afghanistan and inflated by Ashcroft and Chertoff into “the American Taliban.” It was Chertoff who successfully deep-sixed evidence of Lindh’s weeks of torture at the hands of American forces, by threatening Lindh with a treason prosecution, while holding out the offer of a deal--“just” 15 years in the can if he agreed to sign a fraudulent statement saying he had “never been mistreated” in US captivity, and to accept a gag order barring him from talking about what had happened to him for the entire length of his sentence--an unprecedented gag order.
That prosecution and silencing of Lindh, which prevented the public from exploring the deliberate campaign of torture that had been developed in Afghanistan, later to “migrate” to Guantanamo and thence to Abu Ghraib and Iraq, was in its way as damaging to the nation as was Chertoff’s other signal disaster—his inept and callous mishandling of the catastrophe of the Katrina flooding of New Orleans.
So count it as lucky that Chertoff--a demonstrable failure both as an administrator and as a defender of justice--didn't make the cut as a replacement for Gonzales. Bush's advisors must have concluded that Chertoff would be an embarassment on the stand, with Senators questioning him about everything from Katrina to his goofy statement about "a gut feeling" the US would be attacked in August.
In the event, it is apparently going to be Solicitor General Paul Clement, a hard-right attorney who since 2005 has been the administration's chief attorney, who will take over as interim AG when Gonzo goes home to Texas on September 17. Clement, a former Federalist Society member who clerked for Antonin Scalia as a young man, can be expected to take his view of an all powerful chief executive with him into the AG's office, which will probably mean a continued hard line on both Congressional subpoenas, and on Congressional requests for special prosecutors to investigate White House wrongdoing. Going with Clement, who was next in line to Gonzales, with both the assistant and deputy assistant AG already resigned, also conveniently spares Bush the task of having to get somebody through a Senate confirmation.
The one good thing that can be said about the Gonzales resignation is that it eliminates the Democratic leadership’s latest gambit for attempting to derail the impeachment movement. As support for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney has grown, both among the public at large and in Congress, where there are now at least 20 co-sponsors for Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s Cheney impeachment bill, the Democratic leadership in the House scrambled to get behind a purely inside-the-beltway “campaign” to impeach Gonzales—a move that did succeed in dividing the real, authentic impeachment movement.
The interesting thing is that in backing the impeachment of Gonzales, those leaders and senior House Democrats who have been brushing off the broader impeachment movement gave the lie to two of their main arguments against impeachment--that it would be “too divisive” and that there “isn’t time” for impeachment. Clearly if it wasn’t too late to impeach Gonzales, and if impeaching Gonzales would not be too divisive, neither is it too late to impeach Cheney and neither would impeaching Cheney be “too divisive.”
DAVE LINDORFF is co-author with Barbara Olshansky of "The Case for Impeachment" (St. Martin's Press, 2006 and now out in paperback). A Philadelphia-based investigative journalist and columnist, his work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net