Whodunnit?

Down and on the way out.
May 1 2007 3:29 PM

Gonzo-Meter

Whodunnit?

Today's chance of a Gonzales departure: 78 percent

(Last week: 76 percent)

Today's chance of a Gonzales departure: 78 percent.

Certainly loads of Gonzales news today, thus undermining the principle that the presence of many, many, many other scandals might somehow drive the U.S. attorney imbroglio off the front pages. Turns out that even in the era of shrinking newspapers and smaller pages, there's still plenty of room in the A section for the attorney general.

First, for anyone still attempting to play "pin-the-blame-on-the-decider" at DoJ, we have today's Washington Post revelation that Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty had virtually nothing to do with the U.S. attorney firings. He claims he was misled about the extent of the White House's involvement in the process, which explains his earlier testimony. McNulty's story jibes perfectly with the news from Murray Waas at the National Journal:It looks like Gonzales approved a secret order last year granting the wee "puppies" (Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling) extensive and perhaps unprecedented authority to go around firing people at the Justice Department. Only after the lawyers intervened with the view that allowing small children to sack people without supervision was perhaps unconstitutional was the requirement added that Gonzales actually sign off on the list, even if he neither read nor cared about who was on it. Goodling's attorney insists she was granted no such authority. McNulty was apparently deliberately bypassed. All of which still leaves Col. Mustard in the conservatory with the lead pipe to have decided on the actual firings.

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So, why aren't we moving the meter up to 85, as our readers urge? Because as we keep insisting, the worse the news gets, the less the president and Gonzales are inclined to budge. Here's a nice little history lesson laying out the costs of confirming a new AG. And lest you believe that the cost to the Justice Department, staff morale, and public opinion outweigh all that, well, how to put this nicely? They don't care.

We do relish the fact that Gonzales is hitting the books hard again. If it's really true that between now and May 10, "Gonzales' days will be spent in much the same way they have been for most of the spring: preparing to defend himself before Congress," we have a lot to look forward to. By what strange trick of neurochemistry is it possible that the more you cram, the more you forget??

Stay tuned for former Deputy AG James Comey's testimony this Thursday. Recognize that even if he says it was Karl in the Oval Office with a lead pipe, it may not make a lick of difference.

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

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