Today’s Chance of a Gonzales Departure: 45 percent
(Previously: 55 percent)
We know that the president’s recent support for Alberto Gonzales doesn’t preclude the attorney general from doing himself in. But we’re feeling pretty good about the call we made yesterday, and today we think the attorney general’s chances of sticking around are even better. Last night at his press conference, Bush was resolute. “He’s got support with me,” the president said. “I support the attorney general.” Sure, that could mean nothing as soon as it means nothing. But a former White House official tells us that Bush is really taken with Gonzales’ story of rags to riches. So, in addition to all the other reasons the president would want his man to stay (like, he does what Bush wants, or makes what Bush wants legal), standing solidly by Gonzales also appeals to Bush’s romantic and patrician side.
Also in Gonzales’ favor: He’s very quickly becoming last week’s editorial. The pending showdown between Congress and the White House over the testimony of Karl Rove and Harriet Miers about the group firing of eight U.S. attorneys is eclipsing the question of whether the attorney general should take the fall for the scandal. Today the House judiciary committee voted to subpoena Rove and Miers. Tomorrow the corresponding Senate committee does the same. The Gonzales ship has sailed amid talk of “constitutional crisis.”
Democratic leaders yesterday pooh-poohed White House counsel Fred Fielding’s offer of voluntary testimony by Rove and Miers. The Democrats don’t want private—no oath and no transcript; they want public—under oath and on the record. And they’re in a position to insist on that, or at least are game to try. Bush was resolute last night about this, too, saying he’s “absolutely” prepared to go to court over the issue. Usually the executive and legislative branches resolve such confrontations between themselves. The incentives don’t necessarily line up that way this time, though. We’re talking about a White House that treasures its prerogatives mightily and a Democratic Congress eager to flex its new muscles.
So, we think it’s increasingly up to Gonzales: Until something else breaks (or until we learn that he’s broken something else), he may just get to stay.