How long will Alberto Gonzales stick around?

Down and on the way out.
March 20 2007 6:17 PM

Gonzo-Meter

Is Alberto Gonzales going down?

Today's Chance of a Gonzales Departure: 55 percent

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We know. You think we're nuts. You think he's already packing. But we have some insider info from an unnamed administration source to tell you about. "We are not throwing him overboard," we're told today, in no uncertain terms.

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Plus there's the president's unequivocal telephone call of support to the AG this morning, and our failure so far to find anything pointy, sharp, or smoking in last night's document dump. Instead, there's evidence to show that the Justice Department was worrying over aspects of former U.S. attorney of Southern California Carol Lam's record on immigration prosecutions—as opposed to her plans to charge more Republican officials in the wake of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's guilty plea. And there's this e-mail, about Gonzales being upset that some of the February Senate testimony of Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty was "inaccurate," which makes him seem more on the ball rather than less. We think all of this suggests that the AG may be sticking around for a while.

Slate has a long and varied history of whatever-o-meters. The Saddameter tracked the chances of a U.S. invasion of Iraq. The Clintometer gauged the likelihood of a Clinton removal over the Lewinsky scandal; and most recently, the tragically inaccurate Miers-o-Meter measured the likelihood of Harriet Miers' confirmation to the Supreme Court. On the day she stepped down, we three posited that her chance of confirmation to the Supreme Court was 60 percent. (We might add, just for context, that administration officials were just as adamant about her sticking with it as we were that day.)

Undaunted—sort-of—we now bring you the Gonzo-Meter, in which we predict the likelihood that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will leave the Bush administration. We will rely, for our predictions, on the usual clutch of gossip and misinformation, the shifting odds at intrade, and the direction of the wind. We also rely, as ever, on your insights and tips. Please send those along to slatepolitics@gmail.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless otherwise stipulated.)

Today, there is a 55 percentage chance that Gonzales will depart. *  Had you asked us last night, when there was gossip about the White House actually naming AG replacements, we'd have set it higher. Between that and Tony Snow's "don't forget your three-hole-punch and your ficus" vote of no-confidence yesterday—"We hope he stays" (nice)—it looked like Gonzales wouldn't last. Also, to review, at least one Republican senator has called for him to step down, and one other has said he's lost confidence in him. Another GOP representative has asked for his resignation, and we stopped counting the editorial pages that did so last week.

But a senior administration official confirms this morning that Snow's tepid support yesterday was not a sign that the White House is writing Gonzales off. It was an effort to avoid the mistake they made in committing to keeping former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on for a fixed period. When asked if Gonzales was staying or going, our source said quickly: "Staying." We believe that—for today. Let's also keep in mind, however, that sometimes a White House refusal to throw someone under the bus is the prelude to that person's decision to dive under it.

Thoughts, quibbles, scoops? E-mail us at slatepolitics@gmail.com.

Correction March 21, 2007: The article originally and incorrectly described the "odds" of Gonzales' departure as 55 percent. The odds would be 55:45. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

Emily Bazelon was a Slate senior editor from 2005 to 2014. She is the author of Sticks and Stones.

John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. Read his series on the presidency and on risk.

Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate. Follow her on Twitter.

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