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Shields and Brooks Discuss Gonzales Resignation

Pressure had been building for months in Washington surrounding the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and his departure was finally announced on Monday. Political analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks discuss the politically-charged announcement.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Now to the political, the Gonzales resignation as seen by Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    David, timing, everything is timing. A few weeks ago, we saw Karl Rove take his leave, and now we see Alberto Gonzales. Does that have anything to do with anything?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    It's August. They want to get back to Texas before the temperature dips below 100. I suspect, with Gonzales' case, there's been a gathering sense that he couldn't do the job. And by doing the job, I think there's a gathering sense even among Republicans he couldn't represent the administration in combats with Congress over executive power because he was regarded as uncredible and not competent.

    And so I suspect, as with Donald Rumsfeld, there was a gathering series of criticism, decision he needed to go, and they were just waiting for a moment when nobody was calling for his resignation so they could do it on their own initiative.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Did the attorney general have any defenders left, Mark, not that you were looking for them, but were there any?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    He really didn't. And Alberto Gonzales started with a constituency of one: That one was George W. Bush who plucked from a Houston law firm, made him his counsel as governor of Texas, where he was best known for green-lighting 50-plus executions that made Texas the capital punishment headquarters of the world.

    Then he went on the Texas Supreme Court, again, the president. Then he came to Washington as White House counsel, again, the president, and was even mentioned seriously for the Supreme Court. I mean, he was on the short list at one point — we have to remember that — and then became attorney general.

    All the president — and I think ultimately his downfall was that, at every stage, his client was the president of the United States and was attorney general of the United States when his client should have been the people of the country.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The president came out today. He put up a photograph of them being very friendly down at the ranch, and he also came out and said that he felt this was a good man who had been dragged through the mud. Was he correct?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    No. I'm sure he believes that; I'm sure he still likes Gonzales. He's the sort of man, when he values loyalty, he judges people's character and often at the expense of judging how they're doing at their job.

    But the fact is, Gonzales was the author of his own downfall. If he had been a competent witness, if he had been able to get his story straight, if he'd have been able to rebut the firing of the prosecutors, the idea that this was grand conspiracy, which I don't think it was, but his incompetence in the face of these political challenges was what really undid him.

    He didn't have the intelligence, frankly, and the competence and the experience to be an effective attorney general. If you look at people who have been effective attorney generals, they have long experience in Washington. And as Mark indicated, they have independent stature in the legal community, and he had neither.

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