No Comment — August 27, 2007, 8:31 am

The Gonzometer Moves to “Gone”

Justice Department sources told me on Friday morning that in addition to the two resignations I cited there was a third and quite significant one which might become public before the end of the day. I had no idea at the time that the resignation they were speaking about was the Attorney General’s, but that’s the case. The New York Times is reporting this morning that Alberto Gonzales tendered his resignation to President Bush on Friday to take effect from September 16, and that it will be accepted this morning, with a public statement to follow.

Lies to the Very End
As late as Sunday, Justice Department Brian Roehrkasse (remember, this is the man who continuously tells us that there is no evidence of political prosecutions) was telling reporters in response to queries prompted by the U.S. News piece discussed below, that Gonzales’s departure was not imminent. Salon’s Tom Grieve has some appropriate comments:

It may not be perjury when you send a lie to a reporter, so let’s just say that Alberto Gonzales’ tenure as attorney general is ending in the style to which we’ve become accustomed. As the New York Times reports, Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse was asked Sunday about rumors that Gonzales’ resignation was imminent. Roehrkasse said he’d just talked with the attorney general by phone, “And he said it wasn’t true.”

That’s technically correct: Gonzales’ resignation wasn’t “imminent” because he had already submitted it. Gonzales resigned Friday, but the White House decided to delay the announcement until after Bush had lunch with Gonzales over the weekend in Crawford.

Chertoff the Successor?
The focus therefore will immediately turn to Gonzales’s successor. White House sources leaked the name of Michael Chertoff, the current Secretary of Homeland Security, to U.S. News & World Report late on Friday. This is a typical Washington move, designed to draw out potential criticism before a nomination is formally placed in contention. Chertoff has gone through the nominations process repeatedly in the past six years—as chief of the Criminal Division, as a federal appellate judge and then as head of DHS. No doubt White House insiders believe he’s been well-tested and thus can easily achieve confirmation.

But things have changed. Chertoff headed the Criminal Division when a quite striking politicization of the process occurred, and indeed, he had installed his closed protégé in the Division, Noel Hillman, as the manager of the Public Integrity Section which handled these political prosecutions. Chertoff was also deeply enmeshed in discussion of torture memoranda and has been linked, with Alice Fisher, to one memo addressing torture techniques—neither of these documents has yet surfaced. Finally, Chertoff bears principal responsibility for the FEMA catastrophe, including the mismanagement of Hurricane Katrina, which continues up to this point. Chertoff will therefore likely have a very rough time going forward, if his name is up. Stay tuned for updates through the day.

A Challenge and an Opportunity
The Department of Justice under Gonzales reached a moral low-point. It desperately needs new leadership that can begin to pull this institution out of the morass into which it has sunk. This is the time to think back to Gerald Ford and his inspired selection of Edward H. Levi as Attorney General in the dark days following Watergate. That was an appointment that fit the need perfectly; Levi was an unquestioned conservative. But he was also very distant from the rough and tumble of partisan politics and he was a person of unquestioned integrity. If Bush is concerned about the country and about the Justice Department, he will find his own Ed Levi. But at this point there is no reason to anticipate such a nominee. Jack Balkin has his pulse on the realities of this administration:

No one person can cure what ails the Justice Department these days. It will take determined leadership and reform by a large number of individuals. I have no confidence that the current Administration will put the right people in place. We may have to wait for a new Administration, and even then to fix what Alberto Gonzales did to the United States Department of Justice may take many years.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

June 2015

Loitering With Intent

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Polite Coup

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Findings

What Went Wrong

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Shooting Down Man the Hunter

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
What Went Wrong·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In the seventh year of his presidency, Barack Obama was presenting himself as a politician who followed the path of least resistance. This is a disturbing confession.”
Photograph by Pete Souza
Article
Surviving a Failed Pregnancy·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If this woman — who spent her days studying gray screens for early signs of gestation — could not see my pregnancy, what were the chances that anyone else would?”
Illustration by Leigh Wells
Article
Interesting Facts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“My husband is forty-six. I am forty-five. He does not think that, in my forties, after cancer, chemotherapy, and chemically induced menopause, I can get pregnant again, but sisters, I know my womb. It’s proven.”
Photograph by McNair Evans
Post
Kid Chocolate’s Place·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Cuban eyes often look close to tears.”
Illustration by the author
Article
Thirty Million Gallons Under the Sea·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If you short-circuit the bottom, you threaten the entire cycle,” Joye told me. “Without a healthy ocean, we’ll all be dead.”
Illustration by John Ritter

Length in days of the sentence Russian blogger Alexei Navalny served for leading an opposition rally last year:

15

Israeli researchers developed software that evaluates the depression of bloggers.

A teenager in Singapore was convicted of obscenity for posts critical of Lee Kuan Yew, the country’s founding father, that included an image of Lee having sex with Margaret Thatcher.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today