President Bush doesn’t like to lose battles over his political nominees. The White House’s tenaciousness on this front was clear in a 21 month long battle and three major drives to get John Bolton confirmed as US Ambassador to the United Nations — a battle that President Bush and his team finally lost.
As with John Bolton that often had the veneer of being a partisan battle but was really driven by internal Republican differences, the struggle over Alberto Gonzales today is really a function of frustration among Republicans with their leader, George W. Bush.
Bush has reaffirmed his support of Gonzales despite the Attorney General’s inadequate testimony that revealed that Gonzales is as incompetent as his Republican credits claims he is. Bush doesn’t really care about the details — much like Gonzales seems to care little about the details of the state attorney firings.
Bush and Gonzales have had the kind of relationship over the years that was based on as few details as possible — and trusting each other’s judgment no matter what the situation, whether the issue be about America’s torture policy or on death penalty cases.
People should remind themselves of the nearly criminal disinterest that Gonzales and Bush showed in making sure that innocent people were not wrongly executed when Bush served as Texas’s governor and Gonzales was then his legal counsel.
It appears that Bush will not yield in his support of Gonzales, and Gonzales won’t leave — at least not yet.
The key question now is whether jilted Republicans now treated to the same kind of stonewalling and harassment from White House that Democrats have been regularly shown will find other ways to punish Bush — whether it is on appropriations or other legislation Bush cares about.
Many Senators like to keep their powder dry and to not link one political battle with another. They suggest that they could support President Bush generally but disagree with him strongly on Gonzales.
Well, that’s an immature way to play the political game in Washington. Republican Senators and House Members can only win if they identify other pressure points to apply to Bush’s. They will need to have a proxy war played out over some unrelated policy battle — perhaps over trade deals or stem cell research or Iraq war funding — to give Bush a sense of “cost” for his inappropriate, unquestioning support of the mediocre Alberto Gonzales.
— Steve Clemons