Perhaps I’m confused about something. Bob Novak tells us that “the base” wants Bush to get rid of Gonzales and pardon Libby. As much as loyal party men love and support Libby, they are just as embarrassed by Gonzales’ awesome political and managerial incompetence. So you might expect that, if the Senate GOP wanted to keep faith with what “the base” thinks, the Senators voting the party line would not vote with the President and Gonzales, since they regard Gonzales as a ridiculous failure.
Instead they would express the lack of confidence that virtually everyone has already expressed about Gonzales. Because it is a non-binding resolution, it provides everyone with an easy, symbolic vote to demonstrate some small amount of independence from the administration. It does not compel anyone to do anything, but makes Gonzales’ position much more difficult. It even gives Bush a pretext for removing Gonzales. Everybody–except Gonzales–wins, right? Well, apparently only moderate and vulnerable Senate Republicans (a category that seems to overlap more and more all the time) saw the value in siding with the Democrats. The Republicans who crossed over are the usual suspects of administration critics and “surge” opponents, and almost all are slated to run in 2008.
Rather than take the opportunity to repudiate Gonzales, Mr. Bush has settled into stubborn attachment to one of his Texan hangers-on and the Senate leadership has followed his lead. Just as he did with Rumsfeld, he will eventually yield, but not before it will be too late to do him any good. Gonzales cannot realistically remain Attorney General until January 2009, unless Mr. Bush wants to see Justice ground to a halt or rendered fairly dysfunctional for the next year and a half, and the sooner he goes the less damage Gonzales and any hint of impropriety do to Mr. Bush’s party. If the majority of the public comes to see the defense of Gonzales as another exercise in irresponsible and/or unethical government by Republicans, the Congressional GOP and ’08 nominee will be the ones who suffer the consequences, which are already going to be quite ugly.