How to Stop Another Gonzales Episode
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said this weekend that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should consider resigning. Gonzales' critics say the firing of eight U.S. attorneys was politically motivated. News analyst Daniel Schorr says Congress is looking for ways to take some of the politics out of the Justice Department.
DANIEL SCHORR: Alberto Gonzales, let's face it, is not the first politicized attorney general, but perhaps he could be the last. The record reeks with names of presidential pals entrusted with the administration of justice.
President Kennedy joked that he saw nothing wrong with his brother getting some legal experience as attorney general before going out to practice law. From his office, Robert Kennedy helped to orchestrate a conspiracy to bring down Fidel Castro. President Nixon's attorneys general were John Mitchell and Richard Kleindienst. Both of them ended up as convicted Watergate defendants.
President Bush's first attorney general, John Ashcroft, was denounced by critics as playing fast and loose with civil liberties, and now Alberto Gonzales is under intense pressure to quit from Democrats and some Republicans because of his involvement in the mishandled firing of eight U.S. attorneys.
There is one way to de-politicize the appointment of U.S. attorneys. That is to take them out of the hands of the attorney general. A bill passed by the Senate before the Easter recess says that if the Senate fails to confirm a nominee for U.S. attorney within 120 days, a permanent appointment would be made by a judge of the Federal District Court. The House followed with its own version of the bill, also setting a 120-day deadline for the president to get his nominee confirmed.
The wording of the two bills remains to be reconciled in Congress, but given the huge majorities that they rolled up in both chambers, the president may be facing his first veto override. And so we may be seeing the end of the president's absolute control over appointments. This is Daniel Schorr.
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