The fate of Alberto Gonzales

A Republican senator calls for his resignation, but would a subpoena for Rove be the tipping point?

Published March 15, 2007 1:16PM (EDT)

Harry Reid may well be right -- it may now be possible to measure Alberto Gonzales' future as attorney general in days. But count us among those who don't think New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu's call for Gonzales' resignation is going to have much effect at either the Justice Department or the White House. Everyone knows that Sununu is heading into a difficult reelection campaign, and it's easy enough for Bush loyalists to write him off as a RINO -- a "Republican In Name Only" -- anyway. And even if Sununu were more of a heartland Republican than he is, the views of a single GOP senator -- or even a bunch of them -- don't always hold sway with the White House. Remember how George W. Bush abandoned his plan to escalate the war in Iraq after Chuck Hagel and John Warner and Olympia Snowe voiced their concerns?

Bush will dump Gonzales if, and only if, he thinks it's in his best interests to do so. As badly as the attorney general and his men may have lied to Congress -- and the Washington Post's Dan Eggen lays out that case pretty convincingly today -- the president and his advisors may not yet see the U.S. attorneys scandal as either serious enough or damaging enough to warrant the dumping of Gonzales, let alone the big public spectacle of confirmation hearings for a new A.G.

What would make Bush move? The knowledge that keeping Gonzales will be more painful than letting him go. And that brings us to the possibility that Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy will succeed in his plan to subpoena Karl Rove and former White House counsel Harriet Miers to testify on the U.S. attorney firings. As much as the president may not be enjoying the slow torture of Gonzales-gate, he probably likes the idea of watching Rove under oath even less. So the senators to watch today may not be the Republicans deciding whether to join Sununu in calling for the ouster of Alberto Gonzales; they may be the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee deciding whether to block, at least for now, a subpoena for Karl Rove.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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