It’s all up to Al.

Today’s Chance of a Gonzales Departure: 50 percent

(Previously: 45 percent)

The Gonzo-Meter

So, riddle us this: Does the growing “constitutional crisis” over congressional subpoenas for Karl Rove and company ultimately help Alberto Gonzales or hurt him? Hard to tell. Yesterday we suggested that as that story grows and takes first position in Washington’s ongoing partisan spat, Gonzales and his role in the scandal decreases. As this fight becomes a fight about Karl Rove, Gonzales starts to look like a small fish that ought to be thrown back. On the other hand, every other front-page story today points to more misdeeds at the Justice Department—from the national security letters to Tobacco-gate (covered yesterday in Slate) to Gap-gate. How any of these things could actually improve Gonzales’ prospects is mystifying. (And even if he didn’t have anything to do with these problems, he should go for being such an absentee AG.)

And yet. Gonzales says he’s staying “for the kids.” His spinners have managed to spin the calls for his ouster as a racially motivated hate crime. According to the L.A. Times, “His office released a dozen testimonials from Latinos and law enforcement groups, with many saying that Gonzales, the first Latino attorney general, was being unfairly held accountable for the fiasco.”

And yet. His former aide Kyle Sampson, who already fought back once against efforts by his former colleagues to characterize his role, appears to be capable of pulling down the palace walls around him. Sometimes the fall guy refuses to stay felled. This could be the end of Gonzales, if Sampson implicates him. Or it could help protect him if Sampson implicates someone else (Rove?).

Another question to stir up the mix: How loyal is Gonzales to Bush? So loyal that he will do what Bush says he wants and stay on and on and on? Or so loyal that he will do what’s clearly in Bush’s best interest—even if Bush doesn’t know it yet—and go, a la Harriet Miers when she withdrew her own Supreme Court nomination? The latter seems more plausible; on the other hand, the dynamic isn’t quite the same. An unnamed administration adviser tells us today that it “would be tough for Bush to back down now, but Al may implode of his own weight. He has to quiet the hill himself.” It’s all on Gonzales now. Whatever that means.

We could go on and on. The takeaway is that we are at 50 percent today as we imagine are you. Except if you’re Michael Chertoff, whom we’ve heard may be in the bullpen.

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