Al, you're not helping.

Down and on the way out.
April 19 2007 7:20 PM

Gonzo-Meter

Al, you're not helping.

Today's chance of a Gonzales departure: 95 percent
(Previously: 92 percent)

The Gonzo-Meter

Oh, boy. Alberto Gonzales did not have a good day in front of the Senate judiciary committee. It started badly, with ranking Republican Arlen Specter dressing him down within minutes, and it didn't get much better. For almost five hours, we kept waiting for some trainer in the corner to throw in the white towel or a White House aide to come forward to explain we were watching an elaborate skit connected with the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner.

Gonzales only answered some of the key questions about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, and those questions he did answer he answered badly. He did little to dispel the impression that some of the firings were politically motivated. Significantly, to explain the dismissal of former New Mexico prosecutor David Iglesias, who says he was fired because he did not indict Democrats on public corruption charges before the 2006 election, Gonzales offered only vague assertions about Iglesias' lack of aggressiveness. * Judging from the reactions of senators in both parties, he raised more questions than he answered about his competency, candor, and judgment. Republican Sen. Tom Coburn called for his resignation, and Specter stopped just short of doing so. CNN reported that White House aides compared the testimony to the clubbing of a baby seal, but the president stood by his man. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the attorney general "has the full confidence'' of President George W. Bush, which makes us think that to have only "partial confidence," Gonzales would have to knock over a bank.

We are bumping the meter up to 95. It may take the attorney general a few days to recognize that he did not exactly pull off a rout. But if the president was indeed waiting for his boy to turn this thing around today, the president must have been sorely disappointed. If anything, Gonzales probably lost support today. And if he persuaded even a single soul of his great competence, we'll eat our meter.

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* Correction, April 23, 2007: This sentence originally referred to voter fraud charges that former U.S. attorney David Iglesias declined to bring before the 2006 election instead of public corruption charges. Click here to return to the corrected sentence.

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.