August 27, 2007

Ding, Dong!

In about two hours, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is expected to announce his resignation.

It's about time.

I know very well that the job of the Attorney General is frequently controversial. The Attorney General is supposed to be a lightning rod for the Administration generally (at least, in the modern formulation of executive political administration) and because prosecutions are frequently the business end of enforcing political and legal policies, this frequently involves being unfriendly. I've never been upset with either Gonzales or his predecessor for presenting an unfriendly face to the world.

But I applaud the resignation because Gonzales -- shockingly, even moreso than his predecessor -- has assumed an attitude of deliberate disregard, if not overt hostility, to individual rights and civil liberties. Previous Attorneys General, both Republican and Democrat, have labored to find a way to balance civil liberties with effective law enforcement. They have been mindful of their oaths as attorneys, and their oaths as officers of the republic, to protect, preserve, and defend the Constitution.

Moreover, Gonzales had, in part through criticism such as this and in part through attempting to stack the nonpolitical civil service with career officers who had demonstrated a history of being political conservatives, lost the respect of and credibility with the prosecutors he had been charged with leading. The fact of the matter is that he lost the ability to effectively administer the Department of Justice a long time ago.

Talk will begin to turn soon to the next Attorney General. CNN predicts that Michael Chertoff will get the nod, which is a safe bet considering the institutional timbre of his current position (Secretary of Homeland Security) and his apparently loyalty to the President. Chertoff was a Federal judge before taking the DHS job, so presumably he is knowledgeable enough for it -- hopefully his judicial temperament maintains and he focuses his efforts on protecting and defending all aspects of what it is to be an American -- not just our physical safety but the liberties that make us special.

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