D-Day Minus 1

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

Gonzo-Meter

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.

Advertisement

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 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.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Behold
Sept. 21 2014 11:00 AM Sometimes You Just Need to Print Your Photos the Old-Fashioned Way 
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.