UPDATE: This just in from ABC News: “In an exclusive interview to air Wednesday morning, March 14, on “Good Morning America,” Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, for the first time called for the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.” HRC wasn’t going to let Edwards enjoy his first-to-call-on-Gonzales-to-resign status for very long. See below.
Former Senator John Edwards wins. He’s the first of the leading Democratic presidential candidates to call for the head of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on a stick–that is, for the A.G. to resign over the still-expanding U.S. attorney scandal. After news stories appeared on Tuesday reporting White House involvement in the recent firings of federal prosecutors (including those who were unresponsive to Republican pressure to investigate Democrats), Edwards released this statement:
Today’s news is only the latest and most disturbing sign of the politicization of justice under President Bush. From the abuse of investigative authority under the Patriot Act to the unconstitutional imprisonment of the Guantanamo Bay detainees and illegal torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Bagram Air Force Base, this president has consistently shown contempt for the rule of law.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales betrayed his public trust by playing politics when his job is to enforce and uphold the law. By violating that trust, he’s done a great disservice to his office. If White House officials ordered this purge, he should have refused them. If they insisted, he should have resigned in protest. Attorney General Gonzales should certainly resign now.
Edwards left current Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the dust. Earlier in the day, HRC’s office put out a statement in which she called for more answers–from President Bush:
With the White House now acknowledging a direct role in the Justice Department’s U.S. Attorney firings, the president must affirmatively step forward to explain what he is doing to address the politicization of our prosecutorial system and what role he and his aides played in this controversy.
The president is the chief executive of the country and this matter goes to the heart of his ability to manage our federal law enforcement and U.S. Attorney system. It is imperative that the president act swiftly to explain what role the White House played in this situation, hold those who acted inappropriately accountable, and take responsibility.
Yes, she asked Bush to take responsibility. Has she not been paying attention?
Obama took a similar stance, highlighting his previous opposition to Gonzales:
I opposed Mr. Gonzalez’s nomination, in part, because he had shown in his role as White House Counsel a penchant for subverting justice to serve the President’s political goals, and I feared that in an Attorney General. Sadly, the latest revelations underscore my concern. Americans deserve to know who in the White House is pulling the strings at the Department of Justice, and why. Anyone involved should appear under oath and answer these questions.
Round to Edwards.
That is perhaps a flippant way of looking at today’s flurry of press releases from the Democratic candidates. But if this scandal does widen, expect Edwards to remind Democratic primary voters (over and over) that when evidence emerged suggesting the Bush administration perverted the federal prosecution system, he was the first to demand that Gonzales, who in 2005 approved the idea of firing a group of prosecutors, leave the administration. If the scandal peters out, no Democratic voter will hold it against Edwards that he demanded Gonzales’ resignation. Yet he may well end up with the bragging rights. After all, you never know where a scandal is heading or how big it will become.
What’s Alberto Gonzalez’s worst mistake? Cast your vote in the Nation Poll.