Charles Krauthammer argues that the Attorney General should resign:
It’s not a question of probity but of competence. Gonzales has allowed a scandal to be created where there was none. That is quite an achievement. He had a two-foot putt and he muffed it.
No scandal? Christopher Orr dissects Krauthammer’s logic:
In other words, Krauthammer thinks it is perfectly acceptable for a White House to fire attorneys because they are not following policy priorities that are explicitly intended to aid its own party at the polls. This is a truly extraordinary assertion: That the party in power is entitled to use law enforcement officers to punish the party out of power. Doubtless Krauthammer will defend this moral principle with equal vigor when a Democrat is in the White House.
To their credit, Andrew Sullivan and Ramesh Ponnuru part company with Krauthammer on this one. Andrew McCarthy apparently didn’t follow what Orr said, while Jonah Goldberg weighs in even though he hadn’t read what Orr said.
But let’s move away from the National Review nitwits and check out what Kevin Drum:
Is there, as Alberto Gonzales insists, a perfectly reasonable explanation for Purgegate? I guess there might be, but there are sure an awful lot of reasons to be skeptical. Here’s a list off the top of my head:
1. Prior to the purge, DOJ lawyers quietly inserted a clause in the Patriot Act that allowed them to appoint new U.S. Attorneys without Senate approval. Why did they do this when their own emails show that the existing system hadn’t caused them any problems?
2. They fired eight USAs at once. This is wildly unprecedented. Why did they feel the need for such an extensive sweep?
3. None of the eight were given a reason for being fired.
4. DOJ initially lied when asked why they were fired, chalking it up to “performance reasons” even though five of the eight had previously received reviews placing them in the top third of all USAs. Why lie if there’s an innocent explanation?
5. Five of the eight were either aggressively prosecuting Republicans or else failing to prosecute Democrats to the satisfaction of local politicians. Coincidence?
6. David Iglesias reported that he received case-related calls from from Heather Wilson and Pete Domenici shortly before the midterms. He believes the calls were intended to pressure him into indicting some local Democrats before election day. He didn’t, and a few weeks later he was fired.
On a similar note, the day after Carol Lam notified DOJ that she was planning to expand the Duke Cunningham investigation, Kyle Sampson emailed the White House and told William Kelly to call him so he could explain the “real reason” he wanted to get rid of Lam. What was the real reason that he didn’t want to put in email?
7. When DOJ released thousands of pages of emails last week, there was a mysterious 18-day gap from a period shortly before the firings were announced. This seems like precisely the period during which there would have been the greatest amount of email traffic. Where are the emails?
8. The email dump contained virtually nothing from before the firings discussing the reasons for targeting the eight USAs who were eventually fired. Surely there must have been such a discussion?
9. DOJ has now had weeks to come up with a plausible story for the firings and they still haven’t. This is truly remarkable. Why not just tell the truth? That doesn’t take weeks to concoct.
Except for #9, none of these things by themselves would generate much suspicion. Put them all together, though, and you have to be a real dead-end loyalist to believe there’s nothing fishy going on. Throw in #9 and even the dead-enders ought to be scratching their chins.
Update: The Krauthammer standard has been adopted by Senator Orrin Hatch and Congressman Chris Cannon:
Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Chris Cannon of Utah defended U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Saturday after newly released documents showed Gonzales was in a meeting where he approved the firing of seven U.S. attorneys. The revelation appeared to contradict Gonzales’ earlier statements that he was not aware of the details of a plan to fire the prosecutors, and to support what Kyle Sampson, a Utah native who was Gonzales’ chief of staff, has stated through his attorney: that many senior Justice Department officials were aware of the U.S. attorney discussions. Hatch on Saturday defended Gonzales. “In my long experience with Attorney General Gonzales, he has always been straightforward and honest with me,” Hatch said. “So, unless there is clear evidence that the attorney general deliberately lied or misled Congress, I see no reason to call for his resignation.” Cannon also jumped to Gonzales’ defense. “The attorney general hasn’t said he hasn’t touched this. He has said he wasn’t deeply involved,” Cannon said on Fox News. “This is highly consistent with what the attorney general has said in the past.” Cannon said that there is “nothing wrong with firing a U.S. attorney for the reason of politics,” and Democrats have been unable to prove there was any corruption involved.