The no-confidence man

Will Gonzales leave before a vote? Does he really tell Bush no?

Published May 21, 2007 1:48PM (EDT)

Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, says he has "a sense" that Alberto Gonzales will resign before the Senate expresses its lack of confidence in him later this week.

Of course, this presumes that Democrats -- and the not insubstantial number of Republicans -- who lack confidence in Gonzales will have the opportunity to say so clearly. Appearing on "Face the Nation" over the weekend, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear that he'll help muddy the waters for Gonzales by introducing or supporting some other kind of resolution on the attorney general. "In the Senate, nobody gets a clear shot," McConnell boasted. "If there's a resolution on Attorney General Gonzales, there will probably be another kind of resolution. So we'll see what happens."

But does that mean that McConnell thinks Gonzales can still run the Justice Department effectively? His damning-by-no-praise response: "Look, that's for the president to decide."

Oh, right, the president. He's a longtime pal of Alberto Gonzales', and here's what the attorney general has been telling reporters about his relationship with the Decider:

Gonzales: Being able to go and having a very candid conversation and telling the president, "Mr. President, this cannot be done. You can't do this," -- I think you want that. And I think having a personal relationship makes that, quite frankly, much easier always to deliver bad news.

Reporter: Do you recall a time when you [were] in there and said, "Mr. President, we can't do this?"

Gonzales: Oh, yeah.

Reporter: Can you share it with us?

Gonzales: No.

As Talking Points Memo's Steve Benen says, there are two ways to read this tale, and it's hard to know which is worse: Either Gonzales is lying, or George W. Bush has suggested doing things that even Gonzales thinks would be wrong.

By Tim Grieve

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

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Arlen Specter D-pa. Department Of Justice