How to measure the attorney general's yuck factor?

Down and on the way out.
May 16 2007 4:02 PM

Gonzo-Meter

How to measure the attorney general's yuck factor?

Today's chance of a Gonzales departure: 50 percent

(Previously:  55 percent)

The Gonzo-Meter

Here at the Gonzo-meter, we find ourselves longing for the days when we monitored the attorney general only for his special secret blend of craven incompetence. We find ourselves playing the game at a new level today, totting up instances of vile personal conduct. Gonzales is now the kind of guy who would harass a sick John Ashcroft in the intensive care unit. And the kind of guy who suddenly remembers, less than 24 hours after Paul McNulty resigned, that absolutely every misfiring at the Justice Department during his own tenure was in fact McNulty's fault.

We lower the meter to 50 percent, reluctantly, because we think that although Gonzales is proving to be Christmas in May for the Democrats, that which might come after Gonzales (special prosecutors, brutal confirmation hearings) looks even worse to the Bush administration. No matter how many Republicans call for Gonzales to step down (welcome, Chuck Hagel!), no matter how few people are left standing at DoJ, and no matter the   seven-point jump at Intrade today, it looks like Gonzales is not budging.

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We noted last week that Gonzales' silly new rhetorical trick is to suggest that the Justice Department runs itself. It's built, he insists, to withstand all of these resignations and departures. The subtext here: National law enforcement is so trivial that even if my deputy, his deputy, and the deputy's liaison all quit, it hardly makes a difference. Wow. We beg to differ: If nothing else, the dramatic drop in DOJ personnel may explain why document production has become such a hardship.

We continue to eagerly await the Senate testimony of Monica Goodling. We recognize, however, that if Gonzales survives this week's gruesome front-page headlines, he will survive whatever Goodling can dish out. Unless, of course, she arrives with evidence that her former boss loves to rip the heads off small woodland creatures. Even so, it's tough to know what more damage she can do.

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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