Gonzales’ resignation puzzles critics

Bad news on a Monday is rare

One of D.C.’s rituals holds that bad political news gets dumped quietly on a Friday afternoon to minimize media coverage and good news is touted on Monday mornings to maximize same.

So what was Attorney General Alberto Gonzales doing announcing his impending resignation — news that his boss made clear he was not happy to receive — on a Monday? Especially when Gonzales had decided to quit the previous Friday?

Gonzales gave no reason for his resignation, effective Sept. 17, much less its timing, except to say it just seemed like “the right time.” But in a city where even a sneeze can be premeditated, political watchers and educated guessers suffered no lack of theories.

A blogger on RedState.com predicted that the Gonzales departure — one of several by former top administration types recently — is “not the end, but the beginning. Why else do you think he did it today instead of Friday, the start of a three-day holiday weekend? Expect some seriously bad news from Justice (Dept.) in the next few days.”

The resignation thus adheres to the ritual by being good news, which prompted Frank Benenati, press secretary for Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), to observe, “If this is good news, what’s it say about the administration?” Benenati speculated that the resignation’s announcement, coinciding with the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, is not entirely coincidental. It will help divert media attention from “one of the biggest screw-ups of this administration,” Benenati said.

TalkingPointsMemo.com posited that the resignation is a kind of decoy for the real bad news that’s coming later this week — a recess appointment by President Bush to fill the vacancy, bypassing what would certainly be a bruising Senate confirmation battle over almost anyone Bush would nominate for the job.

Or maybe Nora Ephron got it right, suggesting as she did on HuffingtonPost.com that something new about Gonzales himself is about to come out. “The mind reels at the possibilities,” she wrote. “What could possibly be even worse than all the things he’s survived?”

It could also be much simpler, as in Bush’s getting any media attention on this behind him as quickly as possible so that, come next month, he can focus on bigger matters. As Politico.com reported, with the departure of Gonzales and that of Karl Rove, “Bush has been freed from two of the most radioactive members of his political team as he gears up for big fights over the budget and the Iraq war.”

Even simpler: “I don’t see any kind of secret agenda with the timing,” said Cliff Kincaid, editor of Accuracy in Media. “If the White House didn’t want much attention on Gonzales, they would’ve gotten rid of him long ago.”

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