By: E&P Staff
With calls for the attorney general’s resignation in the air, The Washington Post on its Web site this afternoon launched what it calls a “special report” — a four-part study of Alberto R. Gonzales at Andrew Cohen’s “Bench Conference” blog/column.
At a press briefing this afternoon, Gonzales said he would not quit but accepted “responsibility” in the scandal over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. He said his aide Kyle Sampson, just axed, was mainly to blame.
The ‘Post’ series opens this way.
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales is the 80th attorney general of the United States and if recent events in the law and at the Justice Department are any indication, he is rapidly staking a claim to being among the worst. To test that claim and evaluate the man who is not just nominally called the “nation’s top lawyer,” we must answer three questions. To what extent did Gonzales’ public record before taking office give us clues about what sort of Attorney General he has turned out to be? Has he so far been up to the task as it is ideally defined? And, finally, does he deserve to continue to serve in office?
This series will look at each question in depth. But, here, briefly, are the answers.
First, Gonzales’ cronyistic record in both Texas and as White House counsel did indeed presage many of the serious problems Gonzales now faces at the Justice Department. He has run true to form over the past two years and has diverted hardly at all from his long history of dogged obedience to the President, which often has come at the cost of institutional independence and adherence to the rule of law.
Second, Gonzales is seen by many legal historians and scholars as an abysmal failure–not quite as bad as the worst attorneys general in our history, but much closer to the bottom than to the top.
And, third, given the burgeoning scandal over the dismissal of federal prosecutors at the request of the White House, there appear to be few legitimate reasons why he deserves to stay in office.
What follows, then, is really a bill of particulars drawn up by some of the nation’s leading lawyers and historians, that attempts to support these conclusions.