At Last! [hilzoy]

From the NYT:

"Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress, has resigned. A senior administration official said he would announce the decision later this morning in Washington.

Mr. Gonzales, who had rebuffed calls for his resignation, submitted his to President Bush by telephone on Friday, the official said. His decision was not immediately announced, the official added, until after the president invited him and his wife to lunch at his ranch near here.

Mr. Bush has not yet chosen a replacement but will not leave the position open long, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the resignation had not yet been made public."

I'm actually somewhat surprised by this: the last time the man Spencer Ackerman calls "the Justice Department's master of disaster" testified before Congress, I thought his performance was so appalling, and in such easily preventable ways, that the only possible explanation was that he knew that he would never be asked to leave no matter what. But hey: from this administration, I take good news where I can get it.

The "senior administration official" who is the NYT's source blames Gonzales' departure on his critics: "“The unfair treatment that he’s been on the receiving end of has been a distraction for the department,” the official said." Naturally. It's the treatment he has received, not what he did to deserve it, that's the problem.

Moreover, the NYT reports that Gonzales lied to his own spokesman about his plans:

"As recently as Sunday afternoon, Mr. Gonzales was denying through his press spokesman, Brian Roehrkasse, that he intended to leave.

Mr. Roehrkasse said Sunday afternoon that he had telephoned Mr. Gonzales about the reports circulating in Washington that a resignation was imminent, “and he said it wasn’t true, so I don’t know what more I can say.”"

If you think about it, that's a pretty fitting coda to Gonzales' time in office. Admittedly, it doesn't hit all the low notes -- there's no torture, for instance, and no warrantless wiretapping -- but it epitomizes the pointless, transparent lies well enough. But Andrew Cohen provides the best summary of it all:

"There are times in the life of a "beat journalist"--my "beat" being the law--when the knowledge and experience you've gathered over the years--in my case, 10 years-- tells you that something is so horribly off-kilter with a particular person, institution, or practice that it cries out for a different kind of coverage, a different level of analysis; a different depth of commentary. And when that time comes, it seems to me, the commentator has a responsibility to explain forcefully and with passion why what is occurring is so different from and so much worse than what has occurred before.

And so it was for me with Gonzales. His tenure as Attorney General, on matters of both substance and procedure, was so atrocious and beneath contempt to the men and women who care deeply about the Justice Department that I felt it necessary to stridently defend them at his expense. His lack of independence from the White House on critical matters of constitutional law--say, the legality of the domestic surveillance program, for example--was so glaring and destructive that I felt it needed to be highlighted for you so that you might be roused from your slumber into outrage. His utter lack of leadership at the Department--not knowing which federal prosecutors were to be fired, he says--was so unacceptable that I felt the typical "he-said/she said" analysis would not have been able to do credit to the incompetence at work in the corridors of power.

I took no joy in going after the Attorney General the way that I did and I take absolutely no satisfaction now that he is gone. That's because there are no winners in this story. There are only losers. Because the damage he caused to the Justice Department, and to the rule of law, and to the Constitution itself is so vast that it will take years to mend. And also because I cannot help but think about how different things might be today if only President George W. Bush had selected a qualified attorney general in 2005 (there were and are plenty of Republican candidates) instead of selecting his buddy, the hack crony, whose only qualification for the job was that he would willingly do the White House's bidding."

Alberto Gonzales helped to destroy the good name of our country. 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.

Goodbye and good riddance.
(Cross-posted at Obsidian Wings.)