Jack Danforth for Attorney General

Congress should promote and the president should appoint former Sen. John Danforth to replace Alberto Gonzales -- now.

Jack Danforth is one of the most respected and admired Americans in public life.  He is a lawyer of premier intellect and stature, a minister of unquestioned integrity and faith, and a Republican who is admired on both sides of the aisle in the Senate.

When I worked for Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, Danforth was a friend and collaborator of Bentsen's and I saw his work up close. He is truly outstanding on every level.  While Sen. Bentsen has left us, I feel very confident suggesting that he would volunteer to be at Sen. Danforth's side, introducing him at confirmation.

While confirmation hearings for any Attorney General will and should raise hard and controversial issues, hearings for Danforth would elevate bipartisanship and civility.

Sen. Bentsen accomplished many great things. One issue we talked about often and at great length, which we could not accomplish, was his passionate judgment that the Attorney General should be an independent figure of stature, far above partisan politics.

If ever there were a president who needed an Attorney General of universal crediblity and independent legal stature, it is George Bush. Yes, there are many scandals to come, from the years of one party Republican rule and a president who believes his personal whims and ideologies take precedence over the time-honored requirement of faithfully executing the law.

The President is on extremely dangerous ground right now and personally engenders profound levels of partisanship, anger and even hate among far too many Americans and among America's friends around the world.  He has shown equal contempt for the legislative branch under the control of both parties, and contempt for the judicial branch when he falsely claims the plenary, unilateral and secret powers to bypass courts, at will.

I have long relationships with many Republican and conservative movers in Washington and guarantee that there is far more alarm and concern in these circles than has been publicly reported or widely understood.

As a centrist Democrat it is fine with me, that Bush is giving Republicanism and conservatism a bad name. But as a patriotic American who devoutly believes in national unity while our troops are under fire, I believe that what this President has done is destructive, tragic and wrong.

Having worked for progressive Democratic Leaders in the House during the administration of conservative Republican President Reagan, what is happening today is outside the history of American political tradition and outside the mainstream of traditional American values of constitutional consensus and political civility.

If the President tries to replace Gonzales with a partisan or sycophant, he will have trouble finding a successor to accept the job, for fear of being prosecuted. Any confirmation hearings for such a successor would be politically good for Democrats, but disastrous for the President, for Republicans and for Americans who want to end rampant partisanship and the endless angry political wars that are a hallmark of the Bush years.

It may well be, that George W. Bush is so preternaturally partisan that he is incapable for ever serving the unifying responsibility of an American President. It may well be that there have been actions taken under his presidency, but not yet revealed, that are so extreme that he will never consider an Attorney General of enormous stature, character, integrity and bipartisanship.

My advice to the President: Bite the bullet and name Jack Danforth Attorney General, and close your term with a man of justice who rises above partisan smallness and stands tall for the rule of law. Use the final months of your presidency to step back from the polarization, partisanship, anger and rage you create.

My advice to Republicans in Congress: You do not want to go down with this ship.  It is bad for the country and bad for your party. Advocate Danforth for Attorney General and you might help save your party from further disaster, and might help save your president from himself.

My advice to Democratic Leaders: Investigate aggressively but always keep the door open to moving America beyond partisanship and support Danforth as the noble move to restore political civility and the rule of law.

My advice to presidential candidates in both parties:  Lloyd Bentsen was right.  Promise that in your administration the rule of law will come first, and your Attorney General will not be an enabler or consigliere for unacceptable conduct, but a man or woman of true stature and integrity.

There is a gathering storm engulfing the closing hours of the Bush presidency, and wise men and women in government must find ways to step back from the brink. Never was a person so right for the job, or a nomination so right for the historical times, as Jack Danforth for Attorney General today.

The president and Congress should move forward from the place it all began: respect for the rule of law, and the Constitution, in a government of, by and for the people, not the partisans.