Today’s chance of a Gonzales departure: 85 percent
(Previously: 95 percent)
Despite his unprepossessing performance before the Senate last week, Alberto “I don’t recall” Gonzales lives to see another Monday. He even showed his face at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner over the weekend (we would have been under the blanket with a box of Kleenex and soup). We give the attorney general and the White House points for chutzpah and take the Gonzo-Meter down to 85.
We wonder, though, if his continued presence hasn’t become an exercise in humiliation for Republicans in Congress. How many Republican senators and House members have to say they’ve lost confidence in the attorney general before the White House gives them the time of day? Talking Points Memo counted six senators and four representatives dissing Gonzales by Friday. It’s not a list of mavericks, but rather includes administration stalwarts like Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla. There’s also this addition to the list: Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., chair of the House Republican conference and No. 3 in the party’s leadership. Sunday on Fox, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., went so far as to say that Gonzales’ continuing presence “is bad for the Department of Justice.” And on ABC’s This Week, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich criticized Bush for letting loyalty cloud his view of Gonzales.
Before Gonzales testified, President Bush and White House spokespeople said that it was up to him to prove himself to Congress. Now that he has clearly “lost the Hill,” as Newsweek put it, Bush has this to say today: “The attorney general went up and gave a very candid assessment, and answered every question he could possibly answer, honestly answer, in a way that increased my confidence in his ability to do the job.” Increased no less.
Why the stubbornly alternative version of reality? We like Newsweek’s explanation that Bush thinks “a Gonzales resignation would embolden the Dems to go after other targets—like Karl Rove.” So now the choice for Bush is this: Find a way to let your ruined man say his goodbyes or let him stand as a monument to the irrelevance of the opinions of Republican members of Congress.