AttorneyGate Heating Up

Last week I said Al Gonzales needs to resign as attorney general, and nothing I've seen since then changes my mind. I don't think it is going to end that easily, though. If anything, both sides are digging in and the story is getting big enough to earn the ultimate scandal award: the "-gate" suffix.

The sad part is there are plenty of bigger reasons, based on actual policy decisions and actions, that Gonzales and other people in the Bush Administration should resign. They haven't because they have no appreciation for little things like "separation of powers" and "checks and balances." I've wanted for a long time to put Gonzales under oath and ask him one simple question:

Mr. Attorney General: please give me an example, just one, of something you think the President does not have the legal authority to do? If the president wanted to go beyond the powers the Constitution gives him, how could he do it?

After everything Gonzales has said and done, he would have no answer to this question. In his view, the president is an absolute dictator who simply cannot be questioned by Congress or courts. He doesn't say it quite so boldly, of course, but that is the logical conclusion of his arguments. This whole U.S. Attorney thing is a minor sideshow. But that's often how it goes in Washington - it's not the scandal that gets you, it's the cover-up.

Today the president expressed support for Gonzales. This could be the kiss of death but I suspect he really means it. Bush is intensely loyal to his friends and few are closer than Gonzales. The honorable thing would be for Gonzales to resign and spare Bush the agony of firing him, but I don't think he has that kind of honor.

Politically, keeping Gonzales around is the worst case for Bush. The Democrats smell blood in the water and they aren't going to give up. The administration seems to be digging in by refusing to let Karl Rove and Harriett Miers testify to Congress while under oath. This will lead to a constitutional showdown that will drag on for months.

The last thing Bush should do right now is pick a fight with Congress. He needs to get this whole issue off the table. That is unlikely to happen unless he sacrifices Gonzales and Rove. I doubt Bush will do it, so it's anyone's guess where this will end up. The e-mails released so far paint an unflattering picture of both DOJ and the White House staff. More heads are going to roll. The only question is whose they will be, and how long the agony will last.

Steven Taylor at Poliblog is keeping a close eye on this story. Follow the link for more info.

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