Republicans said that the attorney general was a victim of partisan attacks from Congress' Democratic majority. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) called Gonzales' resignation "another casualty of the hyper-partisan atmosphere in Washington."
Gonzales' mistake, Cornyn said, was "underestimating the ferocity of relentless partisan attacks and not preparing more to address them."
The resignation marks a stunning fall from grace. Gonzales, 52, had once been on Bush's short list of nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court. He made history as the first Latino to hold the post of attorney general.
But he seemed ill-suited to manage a far-flung department of more than 100,000 people; in testimony to Congress he sometimes appeared detached and uninformed about many operational details he was questioned about. He also granted unprecedented authority to a circle of inexperienced young aides and did little to hold them accountable for their actions. The lax oversight prompted a Justice Department inspector general investigation into whether career prosecutors and immigration judges were chosen based on their political leanings. That investigation continues.
Mostly, he was unable to shake the impression that he was a political arm of Bush masquerading as the country's top law enforcement officer.
In his parting remarks, Gonzales, the son of migrant workers, sought to downplay the controversy surrounding his tenure. "Even my worst days as attorney general have been better than my father's best days," he told reporters.
In a resignation letter, dated Sunday, he told Bush that he believed "this is the right time for my family and I to begin a new chapter in our lives."
"I remain by your side."
Times staff writers Richard Simon and James Gerstenzang contributed to this report.