Monday, August 27, 2007

¡Ándale! ¡Ándale! ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba!

Last Friday, the Democrat Sylvesters finally got Alberto "Speedy" Gonzales, who announced his resignation as Attorney General today:
Alberto Gonzales, the nation's first Hispanic attorney general, announced his resignation Monday _ ending a nasty, monthslong standoff over his honesty and competence at the helm of the Justice Department.

Republicans and Democrats alike had demanded his resignation over the botched handling of FBI terror investigations and the firings of U.S. attorneys, but President Bush had defiantly stood by his Texas friend until accepting his resignation Friday.

"It has been one of my greatest privileges to lead the Department of Justice," Gonzales said, announcing his resignation effective September 17.

Bush planned to discuss Gonzales' departure at his Crawford, Texas, ranch later Monday.
First of all, let's lay any speculation to rest - Gonzales was not fired. To the contrary, when he informed the President of his decision last Friday, Bush tried unsuccessfully to talk him out of it. Rather, the long-time Bush confidante departed for much the same reasons as Karl Rove did:
Just talked to a DOJ source who says this is how he understands it: Gonzales went to Texas last week to spend time with his family and reflect. He thought the Josh Bolten rule about if you're going to stay on now, you should stay to the end of the administration applied to him too. He decided to leave based on the stress and impact on his family of staying on the job; on the distraction staying would have represented to the department; on the work he had done to get the department stabilized (put in place a new deputy AG, changed hiring practices, and referred entire mess to the IG); on the fact that, with a huge FISA fight coming, the department needed someone with 100% credibility leading it. He also has a kid in college and another coming up and wants to earn some money to pay college expenses. This source says of the resignation, "I have no reason to believe it wasn't fully his decision."
Put more succinctly, Speedy had had enough, and after only a fraction of the abuse that the Architect had taken. In that sense I can't say that I blame him. Not everybody can have as armadillo-thick an emotional hide as George W. Bush does, and being continually harassed by hostile congressional Democrats and having their slanderous assaults against your personal character and reputation endlessly echoed and amplified by the Enemy Media would wear down just about anybody sooner or later.

Of course, Gonzales has nobody but himself to blame if he didn't realize a fate something like this was functionally inevitable given the job he accepted, the "controversial" issues he'd be dealing with, and the President he was serving. Given how out of his league he appeared over the course of the spring and summer, perhaps it's a wonder that he lasted as long as he did.

But, in public relations terms, Speedy HAD to stick it out. The Bushies had already made a huge PR mistake when they blew out Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld right after the '06 midterm election after having given him the staunchest vote of confidence only days before. With that long-coveted scalp pocketed, the Democrats moved on down the Bush Cabinet list to Gonzales and promptly trumped up the non-scandal over the perfectly legitimate and proprietous dismissal of eight US attornies who were not carrying out Administration policy. When that non-angle proved insufficient they swiftly took the A-G into the gutter like a crocodile spinning its prey to the bottom of the river, unleashing relentless and vicious personal attacks against his intelligence and integrity. This so-called "investigation" became an impeachment-by-proxy with Gonzales as the Bush effigy, and grew so odious so quickly that the White House didn't dare bail on him or risk an overpowering left-wing feeding frenzy that would take on a life of its own in the absence of any genuine underlying scandal, a PR wildfire that would have needlessly and pointlessly decimated the Administration far beyond the attrition of lame-duckery. Something that absolutely could not be afforded with the nation still in the midst of a global war.

Doubtless Bush's trademark personal loyalty to his own also played a big part in the weathering of that storm. But in this case the President's natural instincts dovetailed with sound tactical political strategy.

The central question in this context is did Gonzales stick it out long enough? Eternal optimist Hugh Hewitt says his timing was perfect:
AG Gonzales has picked an excellent time to depart as the hearings for his successor will come after the Petraeus report, just in time to give Democrats something to again politicize while the country watches. It won't be easy on the nominee, but if the President nominates someone who actually understands the enemy, he or she won't be bothered by Ted Kennedy's harangues or Joe Biden's incoherent meanderings, and there's a chance some of the Dems and much of the public will actually learn something from the process.
NRO's Andy McCarthy concurs, though for a vastly different reason, and one that, ironically, would have been a straw-breaking-the-camel's-back moment for even me:
No matter what you think of AG Gonzales, there are crucial enforcement matters that have to be taken up in the next six months, in particular FISA reform and enemy combatants — which the Supreme Court is scheduled to take up soon, so some legislative action will be necessary unless we are ready for the Court to impose its own subjective notions of due process for the enemy. These are issues on which the Justice Department has to lead, and Gonzales was too wounded and, in any event, too lacking in vision to lead. Co-sponsoring a conference with the Islamic Society of North America at the very moment when ISNA has been cited as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism promotion trial in Texas is not leadership, and must be terribly demoralizing for prosecutors and agents in the field.
If a DoJ action causes so mild-mannered a gentleman as Brother Trunk to use words like "unconscionable," you can take it to the bank that Alberto Gonzales had officially and irretreivably jumped the shark.

However, even if the "feeding frenzy" danger is safely past, the White House is still left with the daunting prospect that keeping a "beleaguered" Speedy in place held at bay: finding a replacement that is a strong advocate of the President's war policies and bulldozing him/her through a Donk/RINO Senate that will be waiting slobberingly for the sacrificial goat like Worf undergoing the Klingon Rite of Ascension. You can tell what a slobberknocker this confirmation effort will be from Chucky Schumer's loaded "reassurance":
Democrats will not obstruct or impede a nominee who we are confident will put the rule of law above political considerations.
Translation: Save Hillary some time and effort, Mr. President, and appoint Jamie Gorelick as A-G now so she can have "the wall" rebuilt when Mrs. Clinton takes over. That way she can concentrate fully on putting you and Dick Cheney under arrest and, if you're lucky, send you to Gitmo to languish for the rest of your natural lives.

There is no shortage of suggestions for Speedy's replacement: Double H sez Andy McCarthy; McCarthy suggests acting A-G Paul Clement, HLS Secretary (and former federal judge) Mike Chertoff, retired federal Judge Michael Mukasey, or former Deputy Attorney General George Terwilliger; Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, touts former Solicitor-General Ted Olson (whose wife, if you'll recall, was on one of the planes that smashed into the World Trade Center); Todd Gaziano, director of the Center of Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation, even runs Reagan A-G Ed Meese up the flagpole.

There are, of course, drawbacks to each, especially Clement (who worked for Gonzales), Chertoff (who will be the eye around which the Dems will resurrect Hurricane Katrina, with the White House their designated New Orleans) and Olson (who argued Bush v. Gore). But to my mind, those drawbacks are almost strengths. The Leahy Committee, having finally scored Speedy's scalp, is going to try to dictate the President's choice of his replacement anyway, and nobody to the right of Janet Reno will be acceptable to them. Since it's going to be a battle to the PR death regardless, why not go for broke and appoint Chertoff or Olson, men who share Dubya's vision of fighting the War Against Islamic Fundamentalism, whom he personally trusts, and who will be highly unlikely to be as out of depth as was Gonzales?

Seeing the Donks dredge up Florida 2K again, or "bring[ing] hurricane victims to testify in order to make the hearings more television-friendly" as Robert Alt envisions would be another delightful opportunity to further educate the public on Dem extremism and partisan boorishness and drive down Congress' approval numbers into single digits at the same time.

Of course, there's one legit objection to Chertoff: moving him from HLS would mean appointing his replacement and plowing the same ground twice in quick succession. As Captain Kirk will say 260 years from now, "Too much of anything isn't necessarily a good thing."

So let it be Olson, and let the Bushies be girded for the fearsome political battle to come.

Just don't let Dubya appoint Harriet Miers again. PLEASE.