Loyalty goes both ways.

Down and on the way out.
April 26 2007 4:36 PM

Gonzo-Meter

Loyalty goes both ways.

Today's chance of a Gonzales departure: 76 percent

(Yesterday: 76 percent)

Today's chance of a Gonzales departure: 76 percent.

There has been a lot written recently about the price George Bush pays for his extraordinary loyalty to his subordinates. He continues to embrace his old friend Alberto Gonzales, even as the number of members of his own party who express doubts about the attorney general and call for his ouster grows. The latest GOP Gonzales-basher is presidential candidate John McCain, who deftly turned the loyalty question around. "I am very disappointed in his performance," Sen. McCain told Larry King. "I think that out of loyalty to the president that that would probably be the best thing that he could do." Why is Bush clinging to a drowning man? Maybe because Gonzales won't let go.

Meanwhile, revelations about the fired U.S. attorneys continue. In his testimony before the Senate last week, Gonzales said that Paul Charlton, former U.S. attorney in Arizona, was fired because of "his poor judgment in pushing forward a recommendation on a death penalty case." It sounded thin, but at least there was a reason, which was an improvement over those firings for which he couldn't seem to come up with any. But an alternative reason for Charlton's firing is gaining credibility. Charlton was investigating Arizona Republican Rep. Rick Renzi's role in a suspect land deal. According to the Wall Street Journal, federal investigators met unexpected resistance from the Justice Department in getting approval to proceed. This delay appears to have pushed back the investigation until after the election, allowing the vulnerable Renzi to retain his seat.

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Before the election, Renzi's top aide called Charlton, who properly refused to tell him about the status of the case. Charlton was fired a few weeks later. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has now asked Gonzales and the White House for all communications related to the Renzi flap. Now, if you think about the fact that Gonzales keeps insisting that he's staying put in order to do important DoJ business, both the Renzi dust-up and the impending testimony of his former deputy James Comey  point in the opposite direction. How can the AG—who's missed several weeks of work cramming for his Hill testimony—possibly find time to mind the store when he's devoting whole days to tracking down documents and apologizing to those he's wronged? We leave the meter at 76 percent. Not because Gonzales is in less trouble, but because he still doesn't know it.

Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and 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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