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Democrats sing the same song on Gonzales

August 27, 2007 | 11:14 am

The field of Democratic presidential contenders won't win many points for originality in reacting to Alberto Gonzales' resignation as attorney general.

"Long overdue" was the phrase of the day, used -- typically in the first sentence -- in news releases from Hillary Clinton, Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd and Joe Biden.

Barack Obama steered clear of the line in pronouncing himself "pleased that (Gonzales) has finally resigned today."

The pithiest comment came from John Edwards.  The sum total of his release: "Better late than never."

Edwards seems to be cornering the market on brevity.  Reacting to the resignation two weeks ago by Karl Rove, the longtime chief political aide to President Bush, Edwards said, "Goodbye. Good riddance."

Virtually all of the responses to the Gonzales departure were short -- along with welcoming the news, the candidates took quick shots at him for, in their view, turning the Justice Department into a "political wing of the Bush administration," as Dodd put it.

The one candidate who went on at length was Clinton (who also broke from the pack in issuing her statement through her Senate office, rather than her campaign).  She expressed her disapproval of Gonzales and called for Bush to do better in nominating a replacement over five paragraphs.  The last one is sure to catch the attention of the White House.

It said: "The second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is one more reminder that the president must appoint someone to lead the Department of Justice with the leadership and competence necessary to defend the Constitution."

At first blush, the connection between the catastrophe that afflicted New Orleans and defending the Constitution struck us as puzzling.  But it made more sense in light of speculation that Michael Chertoff, head of the of Department of Homeland Security, could be Bush's choice to succeed Gonzales.

Both Chertoff and his agency were roundly criticized for the poor federal response to Katrina.  Clinton seems to be sending a clear signal that Bush should think twice about asking the Senate to confirm Chertoff as the next attorney general. Richard Schmitt's full story, including the President's reaction, is on the website here and will be in Tuesday's print editions.

-- Don Frederick