As former Gonzales Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson wrote to Miers, "There are practical obstacles to removing and replacing U.S. attorneys." Such as, "Wholesale removal of U.S. attorneys would cause a significant disruption to the work of the Department of Justice." And replacing them would be really, really messy.
Sampson resigned last Monday, after the Justice Department released memos that showed how he reviewed all 93 U.S. attorneys based on whether they were effective prosecutors who "exhibited loyalty" or "ineffectual managers" who "chafed against administration initiatives."
If Gonzales had been forthcoming early on, he could have sold this story: Flush with victory in 2004, some overeager Bush aides wanted to ax all U.S. attorneys. Cooler heads prevailed. After a full review, the Department of Justice office decided to make some changes. The administration rewarded Griffin and replaced some bad eggs (like San Francisco prosecutor Kevin Ryan, whose performance reviews found high office turnover and low morale).
White House spokeswoman Jeanie Mamo said she thinks it important for the public to remember that the White House didn't act on bad political advice. "The idea to replace all 93 U.S. attorneys was not pursued. DOJ did an evaluation, based on policy and performance considerations, which was absolutely appropriate," she told me.
But it is not enough for President Bush to mumble, "Mistakes were made." Right now, U.S. troops in Iraq need Bush to sell his surge policy to the public. The president has to safeguard his credibility. He has to let Gonzales go. America wants to see a White House that puts performance before loyalty.