Resigning was best decision, officials say.
The resignation announcement Monday of embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should have come sooner and is a "good thing for the Bush administration," U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood said.
"The guy has been an embarrassment for the president, and I could never figure out why he didn’t resign earlier," said LaHood, R-Peoria. "What he did is he botched the whole appointment process for federal prosecutors and wouldn’t own up to it. He should have taken responsibility for it, but he wasn’t willing to do it."
LaHood’s thoughts were echoed by several area lawmakers who say Gonzales’ resignation was important to restore integrity to the Justice Department.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Gonzales did the right thing in tendering his resignation and said President Bush now has an opportunity to appoint someone of high skill and integrity to the post.
"The American people and the Congress have lost faith in him and many were losing faith in our entire justice system," Durbin said in a prepared statement.
"The attorney general is not intended to serve as the president’s lawyer — he represents all Americans and the interests of justice. The American people will not tolerate another attorney general who tarnishes the Department of Justice by rising to defend questionable acts of an administration as Gonzales did with warrantless wiretapping, the torture of detainees and the political firing of U.S. attorneys."
Gonzales, 52, resigned amid swirling controversy concerning his competence at the helm of the Justice Department. At the center of the discussion was his firings of eight U.S. attorneys across the country and botched handling of FBI terror investigations.
"It’s been a political embarrassment for the (Bush) administration," LaHood said. "You can’t have the attorney general, the highest legal position in the administration, going up to Congress and telling several different stories."
Gonzales, the nation’s first Hispanic attorney general, served more than two years in the position.
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., hoping to become the next president, said Gonzales "subverted justice to promote a political agenda."
"The president needs to nominate an attorney general who will be the people’s lawyer, not the president’s lawyer, and in an Obama administration that person will first and foremost defend and promote the rights and liberties enshrined in our Constitution," Obama said in a statement on his Web site.
U.S. Rep. Phil Hare, D-Rock Island, called on Bush to nominate an attorney general with "unquestioned credibility and respect for the Constitution."
"I hope the attorney general’s resignation is the first in a series of steps to restore integrity to the Justice Department. Alberto Gonzales put politics above the law and unacceptably jeopardized the Constitutional rights of the American people in the process," Hare said in a prepared statement.
Karen McDonald can be reached at (309) 686-3285 or firstname.lastname@example.org.