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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
The resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales brings to a close a controversial tenure, and removes one source of conflict between the White House and Congress. It doesn't mean the end of Congressional investigations into the firings of federal prosecutors, and difficult confirmations hearings may lie ahead for the president's choice to replace Gonzales.
Joining us now is NPR's White House correspondent Don Gonyea. Good morning.
DON GONYEA: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: The president praised his attorney general yesterday, but in a brief statement, he also made it clear he was angry over how Gonzales has been treated most especially recently. He also acknowledged something for the first time.
GONYEA: He did. For months, Renee, through the spring and summer, the White House has always insisted that at the Justice Department it was business as usual. No problems at all. Everything functioning fine. That changed yesterday. The president was forced to admit that Gonzales had indeed become a liability. And without saying the actual words, he acknowledged that his loyalty to him wasn't enough to keep Gonzales in the job.
The president was in Texas. He's been on vacation there. You could hear in his voice yesterday as he spoke that this was not a pleasant thing for him to come to grips with. Here's the president.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: It's sad that we live in a time that a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeding from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons.
GONYEA: The president's critics, though, note that his statement ignores one very basic fact - that Republicans also lost faith in Gonzales. That it wasn't just Democrats. That Gonzales' conflicting versions of events and shifting explanations over time would really hurt his credibility.
MONTAGNE: And looking ahead now to a replacement. The most prominent name to emerge has been that of the Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Could an announcement of any name come soon?
GONYEA: It could come at anytime. There's a sense the White House wants to get this done, but it's not a done deal yet. Chertoff's name comes up more than anyone else. He certainly has qualifications. He's a former federal judge. He's also a former assistant attorney general. The president thinks very highly of him. But he has one big piece of baggage that would likely get a full and possibly ugly airing in any confirmation hearing - Hurricane Katrina. As Homeland Security secretary, he was the man in charge of the response to Hurricane Katrina.
MONTAGNE: And as it happens, the president arrives in New Orleans this evening. What are his plans on what is tomorrow going to be the second anniversary of that storm? But a storm, as you pointed out, also marks one of the low points of his presidency.
GONYEA: Absolutely. And this, too, is going to be a, you know, a difficult day for the president. He's going to visit a school in New Orleans. He'll head out to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. And he brings what he says is a positive message: $114 billion federal dollars allocated, 90 percent of that spent already or available to states to draw from. He'll say that he's committed to New Orleans' rebound, but he faces so much skepticism. Certainly there may be problems with how the money has been dispersed and the progress of things on all levels of government, but that doesn't left the president off the hook and a whole lot of people just view anything he says skeptically.
MONTAGNE: And before he gets to New Orleans, the president is going to talk about Iraq again to veterans.
GONYEA: Another difficult topic in a difficult week for the president. This is part of that tour selling his Iraq policies, trying to maintain some level -some level - of public support to keep people from abandoning him completely in advance of the big report we're all expecting mid-September from General David Petraeus.
MONTAGNE: Don, thanks very much.
GONYEA: My pleasure.
MONTAGNE: NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea.
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