Slade Gorton could be the answer to President Bush's latest challenge — replacing his embattled attorney general, Alberto Gonzales...

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Slade Gorton could be the answer to President Bush’s latest challenge — replacing his embattled attorney general, Alberto Gonzales.

Gorton, a former U.S. senator, 9/11 Commission member and Washington state attorney general, could also be a solution to some of the president’s related problems.

First, the Seattle attorney is eminently qualified. As former state attorney general, he argued 14 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. After leading the state agency for 12 years, he’s got the chops to restore credible management to the federal Justice Department that has lost top managers related to the scandal over the firings of a Seattle-based U.S. attorney and eight others.

Second, he would restore integrity to the top of the Justice Department. Gonzales never seemed to grasp the unique role of U.S. attorney general to serve justice, not to propagate a political agenda at its expense.

As a civil libertarian by nature, training and practice, Gorton would return that much-missing sensibility to the agency. This Bush appointment could disarm critics of the administration’s propensities to take shortcuts in this area.

Also, Gorton was a stalwart member of the venerable National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, who with his colleagues demonstrated a commitment to bipartisan consensus. The commission combed through extensive evidence and did the heavy lifting required to reach agreement on a blockbuster truth-telling report that has sharply informed Congress and the administration.

Third, Gorton likely would be confirmed easily by the U.S. Senate. Though he lost his Senate seat by a hair to Maria Cantwell in 2000, the character of Gorton, who served three terms, is well known among senators. Gorton has supported Bush since his 2000 campaign, but he has also demonstrated enough independence through occasional criticism to enhance his credibility with those especially skeptical of any Bush choice.

An easy confirmation would be good not only for Bush, but for the Justice Department, whose professional men and women need to move beyond the rancor and disgruntlement that has festered under Gonzales.

Public faith must be restored. Gorton could do that for Bush, the agency and the nation.