by David Epstein
My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Alberto Gonzales has --- at long last, and somewhat surprisingly --- resigned.
The analogy to Watergate is apt; not since Nixon has the executive branch done so much damage to the Constitution. But historians will have a hard time, I predict, determining whether Gonzales did more damage with the policies he promoted, as opposed to his spectacular mismanagement of the Justice Department, which has now been gutted of many of its skilled, dedicated employees, to be replaced by partisan hacks. Gonzo, you did a heck of a job.
The timing is a bit curious, too. Is this Gonzales's version of leaving on his own terms? Rove wouldn't resign after the 2006 elections; he gutted it out for another half a year in order to prove that no one was forcing him out. (On the other hand, this had a price: the fact that his leaving was treated as a bit of a non-event just underscored how irrelevant he had become in the interim. Better, I think, to leave at the zenith of your unpopularity than to slink away as a diminished former-someone.) Perhaps Gonzales didn't want to leave right after one of his so-horrible-it's-(almost)-funny testimonies before Congress, but before he was actually impeached or indicted for perjury. (And if he really did commit perjury, that investigation should continue, but of course it won't.)
So, what's next for his former eminence? He's still a close Bush friend, of course, which would indicate at least a cushy lobbying job or a high-end law firm in Texas. But he might have made himself radioactive by agreeing to wash the administration's dirty laundry for so long. Perhaps the Hoover Institution needs another senior scholar....