The Great Unraveling

The Washington Post's editorial page isn't exactly a hotbed when it comes to calling for thorough investigation of the various (and numerous) scandals that have unfolded in the Bush White House. The Post goes so far as to remind us that this is an "account of Bush administration lawlessness so shocking it would have been unbelievable coming from a less reputable source" right in the opening sentence. Here's the meat of the editorial:

The dramatic details should not obscure the bottom line: the administration’s alarming willingness, championed by, among others, Vice President Cheney and his counsel, David Addington, to ignore its own lawyers. Remember, this was a Justice Department that had embraced an expansive view of the president’s inherent constitutional powers, allowing the administration to dispense with following the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Justice’s conclusions are supposed to be the final word in the executive branch about what is lawful or not, and the administration has emphasized since the warrantless wiretapping story broke that it was being done under the department’s supervision.

Now, it emerges, they were willing to override Justice if need be. That Mr. Gonzales is now in charge of the department he tried to steamroll may be most disturbing of all.
The Post is, of course, reacting to the testimony of James B. Comey, "the straight-as-an-arrow" Deputy Attorney General under Alberto Gonzales.

Think Progress has compiled these high-lights of Comey's testimony:
– The high-speed pursuit that took place when Comey learned that Card and Gonzales were on their way to see Ashcroft at the hospital;

– The hospital meeting, in which the seriously ill Ashcroft “stunned” Comey by lifting “his head off the pillow and in very strong terms” rejecting Card and Gonzales’ effort to have him reauthorize the spying program;

– Comey’s admission that he believed he had “witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man, who did not have the powers of the attorney general because they had been transferred to me”;

– Andrew Card’s subsequent “very upset” call to Comey, in which Card claimed that he and Gonzales had visited Ashcroft “just…to wish him well”;

– The White House’s eventual agreement to suspend the warrantless spying in the face of a threat of mass resignations, including from FBI Director Robert Mueller and Attorney General Ashcroft
The New York Times has a full account.

This scandal is setting up to be a long, drawn out unraveling of the Bush Administration. The fact that Alberto Gonzales was deeply involved in 'unsavory' activity at the White House before being put in charge of the Justice Department means that the subject of his constant testimony before congress will become more far ranging - and more damaging - as time goes on.

One would assume that the Bush White House would 'encourage' Gonzales to resign simply to stop the bleeding. They haven't. It doesn't appear likely that they're going to any time soon.


If there's one thing (only thing?) that the Bush Administration is good at, it's at playing the political 'game.' You could argue that Bush doesn't want go through the confirmation process for a new Attorney General right now. It's a legitimate reason to hold onto Gonzales but I think the real reason Gonzales is still in the Administration is to protect Rove.

As long as Gonzales is in between Congress and Karl Rove, 'Bush's Brain' feels safe.

The Bush White House has decided that damage of the slow bleed resulting from keeping Gonzales around for the next 18 months is better than what can only be assumed to be catastrophic damage that would result from any sort of investigation getting near Karl Rove.

This tells us a couple of things. First, it tells us that Bush has given up on regaining any kind of positive standing in the polls. There will be no attempt to 'dump' the scandal and move on. That means that the Republicans will go into the 2008 elections burdened with a President whose approval ratings are struggling to stay out of the twenties. If congressional GOPers don't feel like they're going to be getting any help from the White House, they're unlikely to feel any great loyalty to the person that may cost them their seats. As long as Bush's numbers continue to slip away, expect Republican support for his agenda in the congress to slip away as well. Lastly, the fact that Gonzales is still running the Justice Department tells us that things within the Bush Administration must be bad. BAD. The Nixon kind of Bad. No administration would make these kinds of political sacrifices to keep people from seeing inside a clean, even clean-ish, administration.

No comments: