How To Impeach Gonzales... And Maybe A Few Others

[ Posted Monday, May 21st, 2007 – 12:00 UTC ]

To paraphrase Mark Antony: "Friends, Americans, countrymen, lend me your web-surfing eyes. I come to bury Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, not to praise him. For he is not an honorable man."

[OK, that's one heckuva mangled quote, I admit, but it's Monday morning, so give me a break.]

Alberto Gonzales really should be packing up his personal effects from his office by now. For months, bloggers have been prematurely predicting his demise (I think I read the first "Gonzales will be gone in a week!" blogpost about three months ago). Although I avoided making such concrete predictions, I did write a slightly tongue-in-cheek article about Gonzales myself.

But now, with the prospect of no-confidence votes looming in both the House and the Senate, even Republican Senator Arlen Specter is predicting "I have a sense that before the vote is taken, that Attorney General Gonzales may step down."

One can only hope.

There are indeed political reasons for why President Bush has, up until now, resisted cries for Gonzales' ouster. Most stories in the mainstream media endlessly repeat the "it's all about loyalty with Bush" mantra, but it goes deeper than that when viewed though a purely political lens.

If Bush sacks Gonzales, he's going to have to get someone through the Senate confirmation process to replace him. This means nominating someone with an ounce of credibility, which may mean the Justice Department would start actually doing that "administering justice" thing, rather than just marching to the Republican National Committee's beat. The Bush administration is already going to have to get at least one person through the Senate confirmation process (to replace those who have quit already), so they really don't want to have any more confirmation fights.

There is a real fear in the White House that if they tossed Gonzales to the wolves, Karl Rove would be next. Again, one can only hope. But chucking Gonzales overboard would, as far as the administration is concerned, show weakness from the President (gasp!), something he's always been loathe to do.

But at some point, Bush is going to realize that keeping Gonzales is politically more of a liability to his administration than firing him would be. The Senate has shown no inclination to stop investigating Gonzales, and we're already moving on from the U.S. Attorney firing scandal to the wiretap reauthorization scandal, which is potentially a lot more dangerous for Bush. And who knows how many other scandals are waiting to be uncovered in Gonzales' Justice Department? Their lack of prosecuting civil rights cases, their insistence instead on chasing the wild goose of voter fraud cases, what torture has actually been approved for use against whom, and any number of possible coverups, political hit jobs, or other malfeasance.

Kudos to the Democrats for attacking this issue with all the tools they have to bear, and even one that they really don't: a no-confidence vote. Allow me to explain that statement. When I say "one that they really don't" I'm merely referring to the fact that it would be meaningless legislation. Congress does not have the power (common among the parliamentary system) of removing officials with a no-confidence vote. Therefore, just like the first attempt Democrats made to end the Iraq war (the continuing resolution) it would have no force of law behind it, and merely be a "sense of the Congress" resolution. But, also just like the war bill, it is an enormously powerful political tool at this point, and even though I have disparaged her previously on this issue, I salute Senator Dianne Feinstein for pushing it in the Senate.

This is how you play ball inside the Beltway when you have a slim majority, and want a glaring spotlight on the minority party's obstructionism: force them to vote on it. And then in the next election, force them to defend their position to the voters.

This prospect terrifies Republicans. As it should.

Imagine what would have happened if ex-FEMA-head Michael Brown hadn't resigned when he did, and we had the Congress we have now. If you were a Republican, would you want to publicly vote to show your confidence in Brown? That's where the Republican Party currently is on Gonzales.

Watch for some heavy Republican rule-bending and maneuvering this week in the Senate, in an attempt to derail or neuter the bill in some fashion or another. But also watch the House, where such legislative mischief is not possible under a strong Speaker. The Senate threatened the vote some time this week, but the House may actually move faster, and (don't forget) every representative is up for re-election next year. So it'll be interesting to count how many GOP defections there are on such a vote.

But the ultimate question is how much of this Bush can take until he shows Gonzales the door. Oh, excuse me, I meant to say: "...until Gonzales decides he needs to spend more time with his family." Will Specter be proven right? Will Gonzales step down before a no-confidence measure passes in one (or both) houses of Congress? Will it take huge delegations of GOP congressmen in an unending series of meetings with the White House where they tell him in no uncertain terms that Gonzales will destroy their election chances next year? Or will he stick it out to the bitter end?

Because there will be a bitter end. Although a no confidence vote is toothless, Democratic leaders in Congress should make it crystal clear that if Gonzales doesn't get the message, they'll take the next step. And since the Justice Department is currently in charge (via a Special Prosecutor) of investigating governmental wrongdoing, there will be an obvious and glaring conflict of interest with taking this route. Which is when Democrats will utter those three words guaranteed to strike fear in the hearts of any White House administration (and especially this one): "Independent Counsel Law."

After Kenneth Starr, the Independent Counsel Law was allowed to expire, so it's no longer on the books. But Congress can revive it any time it wants, and voting on that issue is going to be a much bigger kettle of fish than just one guy from Texas who happens to be the president's buddy.

Because naming an Independent Counsel to investigate the Bush White House means giving them unlimited power to investigate anything and everything they feel like (which is how Ken Starr went from Whitewater and Vince Foster to blowjobs in the White House). An Independent Counsel's investigation could be the first step towards impeachment -- and maybe not just of Gonzales.

So if Senator Specter turns out to be wrong and Gonzales isn't putting his diplomas and his coffee cup into moving boxes this week, then Democrats need to immediately up the stakes. And all it will take for Bush to fold is hearing those three powerful words: "Independent Counsel Law."


[Cross-posted at the Huffington Post.]

2 Comments on “How To Impeach Gonzales... And Maybe A Few Others”

  1. [1] 
    Michael Gass wrote:


    President Bush cannot afford to get rid of Gonzales. You are right that he wouldn't want to try and get someone through confirmation, but, that is secondary to the fact Gonzales is the only real firewall President Bush has at the moment.

    It is no longer about politics; it is about hiding the crimes.

    Gonzales will gladly look like an incompetent over going to jail. President Bush will gladly be seen as being stubborn over evidence of crimes coming to light.

    Every 'loyal Bushie' is now crying for immunity and pleading the 5th. We know crimes were committed. That is a fact. It is now keeping the lies hidden that they are shooting to maintain.

    Yes, re-enacting the independent counsel law would help, but, they don't really NEED it. Issue a subpeona and when the people refuse to comply to testify, you put them in jail for contempt. The 5th Amendment is from incrimination DURING testimony; that means you actually HAVE to testify. The minute they refuse to testify under subpeona send them to jail. Until the Democrat's get this, it will be pointless posturing.

    Gonzales should already be in jail for failing to provide the documents already requested.

  2. [2] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michael -

    Sadly, I fear you are right.

    I'm just not confident enough of it at this point to come right out and say it the way you have. If he is still in office after "no confidence" votes in both houses, I will start using stronger language, I assure you.


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