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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bush Administration Doesn't Have a Political Strategy, Either

I know it's pretty damned obvious at this point, but the Bush administration seems intent on putting their needs above the needs of the nation. No real groundbreaking, earth shattering revelation there. As the attorney purge scandal spirals out of control, the administration seems intent on digging in and riding it out. But this isn't going to blow over.

Let me give you an idea of just how screwed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is. Sen. Tom Coburn told Gonzales, "I believe that you ought to suffer the consequences that these [federal prosecutors] have suffered. The best way to put this behind us is your resignation."

Now, Tom Coburn is about as conservative as you can possibly get. In fact, he's completely insane -- in the way that right wing lunatics want people to be insane. He supports a death penalty for abortion providers, is a former physician who once sterilized a woman without her consent, and believes that gays represent a bigger threat to the United States than al Qaeda. In other words, as far as those few religious right crazies who still support Bush are concerned, Coburn is a perfect senator.

Coburn's a canary in a coalmine here. Gonzales's performance before the Senate committee was surprisingly weak -- the AG may know law, but he'd make a lousy trial lawyer. His excuses were incredible -- he said, "I can't recall," over seventy times, at one point denying he remembered a meeting clearly marked on his calendar. He also claimed he couldn't remember a meeting where the president passed on complaints about three of the attorneys. He didn't deny the meeting -- he said he 'understands' he attended -- he just can't remember it. Why this is supposed to give him some sort of pass on it is a mystery to me. There are plenty of drunk drivers who wake up in jail and can't remember how they got there.

Newsweek explains that if GOP senators had hoped that Gonzales could explain away this whole thing, they were profoundly disappointed:

With that performance, Gonzales lost the Hill. When he spoke with the attorney general on Friday, [GOP Sen. Jeff] Sessions urged Gonzales to "take the weekend" to determine whether he can still "be an effective leader," he said later in a statement. Rep. Adam Putnam, chairman of the House Republican Conference, called on Gonzales to step down -- echoing a position that a group of top House GOPers privately delivered to Bush earlier in the month. "He's done something I didn't think possible. He's lost the confidence of almost all the Republicans in Congress," said one top GOP strategist who is close to the White House, anonymous when talking about sensitive personnel matters. A big GOP concern: Gonzales's continued presence will make it hard to move measures important to the party's base, like immigration reform, through the judiciary committees, said the strategist.

Yet the administration seems to totally misread the situation. "We believe the burden is now on the Democrats to prove that something improper occurred here -- and they haven't done that," Newsweek quotes a top Justice official as saying. This thing has stopped splitting along partisan lines; did this official even know about the hearings? The statement is just so at odds with reality that you really have to wonder what the hell they're talking about.

And it gets even nuttier. Think Progress looks at the article and comes up with this:

One White House adviser explains that President Bush continues to support Attorney General Alberto Gonzales because a "resignation would embolden the Dems to go after other targets -- like Karl Rove. 'This is about Bush saying, "Screw you,"' said the adviser, conceding that a Gonzales resignation might still be inevitable. The trick, said the adviser, would be to find a graceful exit strategy for Bush's old friend."

What is it with this administration and their love of the word 'embolden?' Do they really believe this crap? Is it possible that they believe that supporting Gonzales to the bitter end will end investigations into the White House? It makes no sense at all. If roads lead to Karl Rove, investigations will go to Karl Rove. No one's going to look at the way Bush stuck with Gonzales and say, "Well, we'd better not mess with them..." At this point, having allies in the Oval Office is synonymous with having no allies -- no effective allies, anyway. Dems hardly need to be 'emboldened.'

Worse, this strategy (such as it is) is causing the US to stick with a top law enforcement official who's completely ineffective. Whatever advantage they think there is in standing by him, it should be outweighed by the harm that crippling federal law enforcement does to the nation.

I'm not a mindreader, but I don't think I have to be -- these people don't care. If Gonzales hurts the nation, but helps the Bush administration, then Gonzales stays and the nation can go screw itself.


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