In Washington, and across the American media and blogstream, US Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, is both laughed at and afforded amazement and grudging respect for his ability to twist the truth, bend the facts and endure the harshest of congressional questioning marathons and still coming out smiling smugly.
Even some senior Republicans now believe Gonzales has far too much dirt and controversy attached to remain the government official who should be the most dedicated adherent of federal law in the land. But Gonzales is not going anywhere. He's been by George W. Bush's side since the 1970s, and there he will stay. Helping Bush out of tight corners, taking the heat over the president's devolution of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution and making sure that if President Bush sees the need to cancel the 2008 presidential elections and declare a 'soft' dictatorship, complete with martial law, then everything legal, or close as possible to legal, will have been done and set in stone so Bush can do as he wishes.
Dan Froomkin, of the required reading White House Watch, rounds up some of opinion on why Gonzales is still the Attorney General and why he won't be leaving office before Bush does :
As we've said before on this blog, in a decade or two, people who lived through it will read books on the eight (or more) years of the Bush presidency and shake their heads in stunned disbelief at what really happened inside 'the secret government'.
Peter Grier writes in the Christian Science Monitor: "Seldom have a cabinet official and a Congress been so at odds. After months of bickering over fired US attorneys, congressional subpoenas, and secret eavesdropping, embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales now has few supporters left on Capitol Hill, even among his fellow Republicans. . . .
"But it remains unlikely that lawmakers alone will oust the attorney general from office. By all accounts Gonzales retains the support of the person who could fire him in a stroke: President Bush."
Massimo Calabresi writes in Time with "four reasons why Bush can't afford to let Gonzales go:
"1. Gonzales is all that stands between the White House and special prosecutors. As dicey as things are for Bush right now, his advisers know that they could get much worse. . . .
"2. A post-Gonzales DOJ would be in the hands of a nonpartisan, tough prosecutor, not a political hand. Newly appointed Deputy Attorney General Craig Morford is in line to take over until a new Attorney General could be confirmed. . . .
"3. If Gonzales goes, the White House fears that other losses will follow. . . . Republicans are loath to hand Democrats some high-profile casualties to use in the 2008 campaign. Stonewalling, they believe, is their best way to avoid another election focused on corruption issues. . . .
"4. Nobody at the White House wants the legal bills and headaches that come with being a target of investigations. In backing Gonzales, Bush is influenced by advisers whose future depends on the survival of their political bodyguard."
Sidney Blumenthal is even more blunt in his Salon opinion column: "If Attorney General Alberto Gonzales were miraculously to tell the truth, or if he were to resign or be removed, the secret government of the past six years would be unlocked. . . .
"Gonzales is a unique figure of disrepute in the history of the Justice Department, a cipher, enabler and useful idiot who was nonetheless indispensable in the rise of his patron and whose survival is elemental to that of the administration."
Froomkin's latest White House Watch can he read in full here.