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Is Gonzales a Diversion?

"The revelations prompted another outcry on Capitol Hill over the firings and new demands for Gonzales's resignation from key Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.). 'It appears he's over his head in this job,' Reid said."

Not Listening Carefully Enough

Kevin Johnson and David Jackson of USA Today miss a crucial distinction. They report that Gonzales "acknowledged Tuesday that 'mistakes were made' in the Bush administration's firings of eight federal prosecutors." But he didn't.

And Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Jeff Zeleny, writing in the New York Times, call it a "mea culpa" -- which it is not.

Cutting Gonzales Loose?

Stolberg and Zeleny also disclose what could be a sign that the White House will cut Gonzales loose.

They write: "With Democrats, including the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, insisting that Mr. Gonzales step down, his appearance underscored what two Republicans close to the Bush administration described as a growing rift between the White House and the attorney general. Mr. Gonzales has long been a confidant of the president but has aroused the ire of lawmakers of both parties on several issues, including the administration's domestic eavesdropping program.

"The two Republicans, who spoke anonymously so they could share private conversations with senior White House officials, said top aides to Mr. Bush, including Fred F. Fielding, the new White House counsel, were concerned that the controversy had so damaged Mr. Gonzales's credibility that he would be unable to advance the White House agenda on national security matters, including terrorism prosecutions.

"'I really think there's a serious estrangement between the White House and Alberto now,' one of the Republicans said. . . .

"[A]ides to the president, including Mr. Rove and Joshua B. Bolten, the chief of staff, were said to be increasingly concerned that the controversy could damage Mr. Bush.

"'They're taking it seriously,' said the other of the two Republicans who spoke about the White House's relationship with Mr. Gonzales. 'I think Rove and Bolten believe there is the potential for erosion of the president's credibility on this issue.'"

Who's Next?

James Gordon Meek writes in the New York Daily News: "A senior GOP leadership source predicted Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty will be forced out next. McNulty told Congress that the firings were performance-related, but he received copies of many e-mails in which political decisions were made."

The Clinton Excuse

New presidents typically start with a clean slate of U.S. attorneys, appointed by them. That's standard practice.

But from that point forward, the prosecutors are expected to behave with a certain amount of independence.


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