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Scandal, Interrupted By: Washington Times
Washington Times | Tuesday, August 28, 2007

In the end, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales could not quiet the storm against him, and he resigned. The resignation makes sense for a number of reasons, first to limit the damage wrought by the toxic political atmosphere created by Democrats when Mr. Gonzales did not explain with precision or consistency the reasons why he fired several U.S. attorneys. The apparent contradictions between Mr. Gonzales' version of events and what others have said invited an unusually strong response from those spoiling for a fight with someone, anyone, close to President Bush. He further invited criticism from usually sympathetic Republicans. His resignation was inevitable.

In thanking Mr. Gonzales for his service and praising him as a man of "integrity, decency and principle," the president, who had the benefit of having Mr. Gonzales serve him while governor of Texas, agreed that "months of unfair treatment" created "a harmful distraction at the Justice Department." Solicitor General Paul Clement will be the acting attorney general until a new attorney general is confirmed. That may be a while.

Mr. Gonzales, who also served on the Texas Supreme Court, was never popular among conservatives, but any fair assessment of his legacy must take into account his accomplishments. Among these was his constancy in the fight against terrorism, on issues ranging from detainees of terrorists to electronic surveillance. As historians study this period and others debate the merits of the president's policies looking forward, it's clear that Mr. Gonzales, flawed like we all are, stood with a handful of others in defense of the president's war policies. Everyone knew where he stood.

Mr. Gonzales deserves further credit for his work in the confirmation of the nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, which ranks as one of two or three signal achievements of the Bush administration.

Now that he is departing, Democrats will use the confirmation hearings of his successor, if there is one, as another prime opportunity for battle. Some will be tempted to imagine that his departure will mark the clearing of the clouds of toxicity that have wrapped Washington in their embrace. Fat chance.

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