White House looking for Gonzales replacement?

Mike Allen at The Politico reports that they are:

Republican officials operating at the behest of the White House have begun seeking a possible successor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whose support among GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill has collapsed, according to party sources familiar with the discussions.

Among the names floated Monday by administration officials are Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and White House anti-terrorism coordinator Frances Townsend. Former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson is a White House prospect. So is former solicitor general Theodore B. Olson, but sources were unsure whether he would want the job.

Republican sources also disclosed that it is now a virtual certainty that Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, whose incomplete and inaccurate congressional testimony about the prosecutors helped precipitate the crisis, will also resign shortly. Officials were debating whether Gonzales and McNulty should depart at the same time or whether McNulty should go a day or two after Gonzales. Still known as “The Judge” for his service on the Texas Supreme Court, Gonzales is one of the few remaining original Texans who came to Washington with President Bush.

In a sign of Republican despair, GOP political strategists on Capitol Hill said that it is too late for Gonzales’ departure to head off a full-scale Democratic investigation into the motives and timing behind the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

If Gonzales steps down or is asked to resign, I don’t think it will upset too many Republicans one way or the other because the way the Justice Department has handled the response to the first report of this ‘scandal’ has been appallingly incompetent. I don’t think Gonzales lied before Congress when he made his initial testimony; I just think he was ill-prepared and answered incorrectly. Paul Mirengoff at Powerline writes that something like that isn’t a firing offense, but I beg to differ: if you’re being called to testify about something before members of Congress, whether you are under oath or not you better be prepared or as the ‘scandal’ wears on you look like liar and you make the administration look uncoordinated at best, and liars at worst. If you can’t adequately prepare for potential firestorms, then maybe you ought to reconsider whether or not you’ve got what it takes to be/stay in that position.

Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are looking for any reason whatsoever to get rid of Bush administration officials they don’t like, especially one like Gonzales who has staunchly defended the admin’s position on war powers. By bungling the response to the allegations against him, Gonzales, others in the DOJ, and some in the admin inadvertently gave their political enemies ammunition to bring the DOJ down. Now, no matter how he goes – and I predict Gonzales will be out one way or the other – the assumption amongst the mediots and the usual suspects will be that Gonzales was let go/stepped down because he did something wrong by firing those eight attorneys when the real issue is that he screwed up royally the response to this non-scandal by going on the defensive instead of the offensive.

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