For whom the bell polls.

Down and on the way out.
April 11 2007 1:55 PM


For whom the bell polls.

Today's chance of a Gonzales departure: 85 percent
(Previously: 88 percent)

The Gonzo-Meter

In the real world, when the polls show that 53 percent of the country believes the U.S. attorney general should resign, the Gonzo-meter would shoot up to reflect that fact. But in the Bizarro World of the Bush administration, a poll indicating a significant lack of national confidence in the AG is pretty much a guarantee the guy will be sticking around.

We drop the meter to 85 percent today, on the theory that the more America hates Gonzales, the better his chances become.

The new poll brings even more bad news for the president. Apparently a full 74 percent of the country believes that Bush's aides, including Karl Rove, should testify under oath. And meanwhile, Senate Democrats are broadening the scope of their inquiry, asking very pointed questions about the U.S. attorney from Milwaukee—possibly a very "loyal Bushie"—who got the state purchasing supervisor an 18 month visit to jail (reversed last week by an irate appeals court).  Justice Department staff can't seem to respond to the subpoenas fast enough these days.


But some of our readers suggest that instead of focusing on why the AG should leave, the Gonzo-meter should consider why he will stay. Notes reader Mark Votruba, "There is no political gain to Bush in jettisoning Gonzales. If anything, it hurts him by damaging the storyline that's been sold to his true believers (Bush is a strong leader, unaffected by popular opinion; this "controversy," like all the others, was manufactured by the liberal media)." Votruba wants the meter knocked down to 60 percent. (Our view: True believers don't much like Gonzales and his self-inflicted wounds. That's why the National Review Online and Newt want him gone.)

In a similar vein, reader Kevin Coburn observes, "Gonzalez and Bush are joined at the hip. Bush owes his political career to Gonzo, and Gonzo would be nowhere without his patron. For all his patina of toughness, Bush shows a remarkable reticence to fire anybody, whether it's because he's afraid the original appointment would be construed as a mistake (emperors do not make errors after all), because he values personal loyalty over competence, or because he's secretly intimidated by the people he surrounds himself with. And why shouldn't he be?" (Our view is that there is much sense in this view, though the Gonzo/Bush bond is very strong not so much because Bush won't fire people (Rummy) but because that bond goes back to Texas and Bush is emotional about Gonzales' rags-to-riches story.)

Reader Doug Pickrell adds, "If Bush and Cheney were to fire Gonzales, they would lose control over one of the insiders who would be aware of their complicity in formulating illegal rules of interrogation. Gonzales might or might not volunteer to speak out. In either event Gonzales would not be able to invoke executive privilege, if and when the Congress ever gets around to investigating the chain of command which led to these abuses." (Maybe. But our view is that it's hard to imagine Bush's most loyal foot soldier turning on him. Ever.)

Still, Pickrell speaks for a lot of us, of whatever political persuasion, when he concludes, "Gonzales has them by the balls." Somehow, in Bizarro World, that's a good thing.

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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