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Goodbyes for Gonzo

Goodbyes for Gonzo: Beleaguered Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned Monday after months of scandal. President Bush expressed sadness that Gonzales’ name had been “dragged through the mud for political reasons.” Few others—liberal, conservative, or in between—share the president’s sentiments.

Conservative Mary Katharine Ham sheds no tears: “Gonzales leaves without about one political ally to his name, and now we’ll hear another cloying Bush speech about how a guy no one really liked and who brought considerable problems upon the administration through his own bone-headedness was actually the greatest guy evuh.” Captain’s Quarters’ conservative Ed Morrissey agrees it was time for him to leave: “No one did anything illegal in terminating the federal prosecutors, but Gonzales and his team made it into a royal botch-up anyway. Gonzales really should have resigned after telling people publicly that the attorneys had performance issues when their reviews showed that they had performed well.”

At Obsidian Wings, liberal Hilzoy rounds up the damage Gonzales did to America. “He wrote the legal opinions that allowed the administration to disregard laws it did not wish to follow, and in so doing did real damage to the structure of our government and to the separation of powers. He took a department that was, by all accounts, superb, and trashed it. And by being so transparently interested only in advancing the interests of George Bush at the expense of the laws he swore to uphold, the Constitution, and the national interest, he deepened cynicism about government at a time when we badly needed leaders worthy of our trust and our confidence.”

Nick Anthis, an American grad student at Oxford, sees something sinister in Gonzo’s departure at the Scientific Activist:  “Surely Gonzales’ and Rove’s resignations are just attempts to shield the Bush Administration from the legal action that they will likely be facing.” At The Nation’s Online Beat, John Nichols stresses that Congress must continue investigating: “Only a continued inquiry into the lawlessness of the soon-to-be-former Attorney General will achieve what is the essential purpose of this Congress: the restoring of the rule of law to a country deeply damaged by petty little men who chose personal loyalties and political expediency over their duty to the Republic.”

Liberal Matthew Yglesias posits that Bush will opt for someone polarizing. “[M]y best guess Bush will go out of his way to pick somebody fairly controversial – someone whose confirmation liberals will find outrageous – and then start loudly and immediately declaring that each hour’s delay in confirming his nominee is putting thousands of lives at risk.” But whoever is chosen must face the Senate, and Salon’s Glenn Greenwald calls on Congress to confirm someone from outside the president’s inner circle: “[T]he DOJ and the country desperately need a completely outside figure who will ensure that the prosecutorial machinery operates independently, even if – especially if – that means finally investigating the litany of Executive branch abuses and lawbreaking which have gone almost entirely uninvestigated, as well uncovering those which remain concealed.”

It’s an “opportunity to nominate a young, charismatic terrorism-fighter from the ranks of the present or past U.S. Attorneys and Assistant U.S. Attorneys,” writes   conservative Hugh Hewitt, “someone who has actually overseen the investigation, arrest and conviction of Islamist radicals and who knows, for example, the need for the reformed FISA.”

U.S News & World Report’s Washington Whispers pegs Department of Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff as Bush’s likely nominee. “Right now, nearly every Bush appointee is a liability. Chertoff is an exception,” writes “crunchy con” E.M. Zanotti at American Princess. “[H]e’s better suited to the job than Gonzo ever was … and it would avoid a protracted, rancorous confirmation hearing and it would avoid having to bring in someone new from the outside who would spend the next 16 months trying to make certain that their time with the Bush Administration isn’t a permanent stain on their otherwise stellar career.”

Beltway-based lawyer Jon Katz at Underdog hopes Chertoff is passed over:  “Even though Chertoff has been exposed to enlightened views of the Constitution, having been a law clerk to the late Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, for two and one-half years he has been drenched in homeland security work, which would not appear to be about hugging the Constitution other than to try to squeeze the breath out of it.”

At the Chicago Tribune’s Swamp, Frank James also grumbles about Chertoff. “Despite Chertoff’s experience as a federal judge and Justice Department official, Chertoff would be controversial on Capitol Hill because of his mishandling of the Hurricane Katrina preparations and recovery efforts as well as his being one of the administration’s highest profile negotiators on the failed immigration legislation. Which leads to Paul Clement, the solicitor general of the U.S. President Bush just said he’s made Clement acting attorney general until the president nominates a replacement.”

Perturbed by Chertoff’s stance on immigration,conservative Michelle Malkin proposes a familiar face: “If they want the best qualified, most experienced AG candidate who is serious about enforcing all of our laws, including our immigration laws, and who is best equipped to serve in a time of war, the choice would be obvious: John Ashcroft.”

Pointing out that Gonzales “sucked as attorney general,” Reason Editor in Chief Nick Gillespie at Hit & Run asks an important question. “[W]as he in fact worse than Constitution-shredder and recidivist barbershop quarteter John Ashcroft (whose main qualification for the gig was losing to a dead man in an election)? Or Constitution-shredder and recidivist child abuser Janet Reno (whose main qualification for the gig was that she never paid a nanny under the table)?”

Politico rounds up Washington reaction from across the political spectrum. Count the times Gonzales says “I don’t recall,” in this YouTube clip.

Read more about Alberto Gonzales’ departure. In Slate, John Dickerson tackles why President Bush stands by his flunkies, the Gonzo-Meter runs one last time, and Bruce Reed speculates on the possible successor.