D-Day Minus 1

Down and on the way out.
April 16 2007 2:43 PM


D-Day Minus 1

Today's chance of a Gonzales departure: 92 percent
(Previously: 85 percent)

The Gonzo-Meter

Tuesday is the big day for Alberto Gonzales. He's testifying in front of the Senate judiciary committee. To prepare the ground, he's lowering expectations. In the Washington Post on Sunday, the embattled attorney general wrote an embarrassing opinion column filled with such flaccid spin that we can only guess that the idea was to make his live testimony seem dazzling by comparison. Either that, or whoever erased all of those White House e-mails is also submitting satirical op-eds. But no, Gonzales plans to offer a version of the same as his opening statement tomorrow, which means he may not have to resign. There may be nothing left of him.

Titled "Nothing Improper," Gonzales' op-ed attempts to shift the central question regarding the U.S. attorney firings from whether the attorneys were fired for "political reasons" to whether they were fired for "improper reasons." Only two of us are lawyers, but all of us are parents, and we recognize this as Gonzales playing the toddler who thinks he can't be seen because he's covering his eyes. Denying the U.S. attorneys were fired for political reasons has become a nearly impossible position to defend. Sixty-seven percent of the public believes the firings were politically motivated in part because the Justice Department and the administration have been serially incapable of presenting plausible, substantive reasons for the firings, or are explaining away the signs that political considerations were involved.

Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican member of the judiciary committee, called Gonzales on his sad letter Sunday on This Week With George Stephanopoulos: "When he has a full column in the Washington Post, I think he would have been better advised if he would have dealt with some facts." Ouch.


The best that may be said for Gonzales is at least he didn't try to get his girlfriend a government job, à la Paul Wolfowitz. However the attorney general elects to defend himself against his prior false statements and the contradictions raised by his former Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson, or to explain the role of the White House in the firings, he still has a "steep hill to climb," as Specter put it, to prove that he's in any way competent to lead DoJ. If his actions weren't "improper," they were clueless or confused, a point that comes across in his op-ed—like Schrödinger's cat, he presents himself as simultaneously in charge and not in charge at all: "My decision some months ago to privately seek the resignations of a small number of U.S. attorneys has erupted into a public firestorm," nestled in next to, "to my knowledge, I did not make decisions about who should or should not be asked to resign."

In other bad news for Gonzales, the Wall Street Journal reports (subscription required) that his deputy Paul McNulty may be on his way out. Time reports that a group of conservatives, including a former senior official in the Reagan Justice Department, has written a letter to the president saying Gonzales should be fired, reminding us yet again that unlike previous political fights, the Gonzales one has open opposition from conservatives like Newt Gingrich, Sen. John Sununu, and the editors of the National Review—and a lot of silence with no real public defenders. Gonzales says he's looking forward to testifying. Add that to the list of things he can help explain to us tomorrow.

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.



The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers


Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.


The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.