Revisiting Gonzales and Other Fairytales

Remember last week when I wrote about Alberto Gonzales’s testimony? Where I agreed with Dahlia Lithwick’s take that the president was more worried about losing presidential authority than having a spat with congress?

An interesting Op-Ed got in the LA Times gives a slightly different slant to the issue. The president is standing by Alberto because he doesn’t really have any choice. You see, no matter whether Bush likes him or not, the current Senate would attach too many strings to conformation hearings for a new one. It seems Bush is stuck with the remedial recaller.

From (former Democratic congressperson) Elizabeth Holtzman,

No matter how many members of Congress lose confidence in Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales, President Bush is unlikely to let him go. If Gonzales resigns, the vacancy must be filled by a new presidential nominee, and the last thing the White House wants is a confirmation hearing.

Already, the Senate is outlining conditions for confirming a Gonzales successor. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has said that his panel would not hold confirmation hearings unless Karl Rove and other White House aides testify about the firing of U.S. attorneys to clarify whether “the White House has interfered with prosecution.”

All this is reminiscent of the Watergate scandal. In 1973, as the coverup was unraveling, the Senate imposed a condition on the confirmation of President Nixon’s nominee for attorney general, Elliot Richardson. Richardson’s predecessor had resigned because of Watergate troubles. Concerned that the Justice Department would not get at the truth, the Senate insisted that Richardson would name a special prosecutor to investigate Watergate. Richardson duly appointed Archibald Cox.

I think this gives even more support to the theory that Bush will simply ignore calls for resignation. It goes even further; he would actively try to keep Gonzales from stepping down. It would be a catastrophe. The tone of my original post was that by backing down Bush would show weakness. He thinks keeping Gonzales on the job shows power. The Op-Ed points out it would also seriously weaken his current position. Not something he is likely to do.

On the rare occasions where Bush does appear to make a concession, it never lasts long.

Case in point, un-warranted wire tapping. Bush has said he won’t do it any more. Not because he can’t – just because he’s a really nice guy. From the New York Times,

Senior Bush administration officials told Congress on Tuesday that they could not pledge that the administration would continue to seek warrants from a secret court for a domestic wiretapping program, as it agreed to do in January.

Rather, they argued that the president had the constitutional authority to decide for himself whether to conduct surveillance without warrants.

As a result of the January agreement, the administration said that the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program has been brought under the legal structure laid out in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires court-approved warrants for the wiretapping of American citizens and others inside the United States.

But on Tuesday, the senior officials, including Michael McConnell, the new director of national intelligence, said they believed that the president still had the authority under Article II of the Constitution to once again order the N.S.A. to conduct surveillance inside the country without warrants.

This is a very clear No Trespassing sign. Back off Buster – um – Bessie! Warrants, Schmorrants. I do what I want.

Congressional limits on Iraq? Vetoed. Unfit Attorney General hated by both sides of the aisle. Don’t touch his homie. Listen in on whoever he wants, whenever he wants? If he wants to. Bush trying to out-do Ohmert in getting single digit approval ratings? At the rate he’s going, he might just manage it.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like he’s even broken into a sweat resisting Congress yet.

Does anyone really think this Congress can rein in Bush without a Republican schism? If you believe in that fairytale, I’ve got a good one one about a fisher’s wife who ended up pope

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