This was not "an overblown personnel matter," as Gonzales wrote in USA Today last week. Apparently, the eight prosecutors were removed because they failed to move fast enough on demands that they perform politically motivated investigations on behalf of the Republican Party.
Documents have shown that the Bush White House was deeply involved in the whole affair, and tried to use the Patriot Act to justify circumventing the Senate to pick the fired prosecutors' replacements.
Manipulating investigations to benefit the fortunes of a political party is not unusual or new. But it is clearly wrong and taints the whole U.S. Department of Justice. It will make future investigations more difficult to perform, for it will be too easy to slap the tag of "partisan revenge" on any investigation by a Democratic successor.
This is disturbing, but the bigger problem is that Gonzales, one of the architects of the Bush administration's most egregious abuses of the Constitution and international law, has repeatedly lied to Congress and has put a higher premium on protecting President Bush and the Republican Party than on upholding the law.
As legal counsel to President Bush during his first term, Gonzales was the man who helped formulate and later defend the administration's policies regarding kidnapping, secret detention against suspected terrorists and the use of torture in the interrogation process.
Gonzales was the man who considered the Geneva Conventions a quaint relic that did not apply to President Bush. He was the man who helped formulate the "unitary executive" theory of government -- basically, in a time of war, the commander-in-chief has the power to do whatever he wishes.
Gonzales has said the federal courts have no right to judge the Bush administration's national security policies and that Congress has no right to investigate them. He has made clear, time and time again, his utter disdain for civil liberties, the Constitution and the rule of law.
Despite this sorry record, Gonzales was confirmed as attorney general in 2005 with little opposition from the then-Republican controlled Senate. His abuses of power would have gone unnoticed, except that the days of a rubber-stamp GOP Congress are over. Now that the Democrats control Congress and have the power to hold hearings and issue subpoenas, corrupt acts that have been swept under the rug are now coming out into the open for all to see.
Gonzales still seems to think he's working for President Bush. He isn't. Gonzales is working for us, the American people. His job isn't defending the president. It's defending the Constitution and upholding the laws of this nation.
He has failed in this job.
Gonzales needs to resign. If he doesn't, he needs to be removed from office. But even his leaving will not be the end of it. This whole affair is too reminiscent of Watergate -- a president using the Justice Department as his own personal bludgeon against political enemies -- to be dropped.
More heads need to roll, including President Bush and Vice President Cheney. If Congress won't impeach Bush and Cheney for lying about a war, will they have the guts to begin impeachment proceedings for obstruction of justice and a clear and consistent pattern of politicizing the Justice Department?