Does the term "walking cadaver" mean anything to you?
That's how opposition partisans are referring to the political status of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Two pivotal events took place on Thursday that seemed to cement Gonzales's troubled future:
- The release of E-mails from recently resigned Justice Department aide Kyle Sampson discussing with "Judge" Gonzales, who was facing Senate confirmation as attorney general at the time the E-mails were written, the prospect of replacing all 93 U.S. attorneys. "Judge" Gonzalez was how the White House referred to him while he served as White House counsel because of his prior tenure on the Texas Supreme Court.
- A second Republican senator called for Gonzales's resignation. The first was New Hampshire Republican John Sununu; the second was Oregon's Gordon Smith. Both men are to be admired for taking on a White House that does not brook partisan dissent with élan.
The next question is, will this new information similarly prompt prominent Republicans to reverse support for top White House political adviser Karl Rove? Those same E-mails released on Thursday detail Rove's involvement in the growing scandal.
Sampson's E-mail was responding to a forwarded message originally from another White House aide, Colin Newman. Newman wrote that Rove had asked "how we were going to proceed regarding U.S. attorneys, whether we were going to allow all to stay, request resignations from all and accept only some of them or selectively replace them, etc."
Conservative bloggers are trying to portray mainstream media as liberally biased in reporting on this topic for failing to point out that "President Clinton ... fired all the U.S. attorneys upon assuming office." It is routine for an incoming president, whether Democrat or Republican, to clean house, not just in the Justice Department but in all federal agencies upon assuming office. It's even routine when one Republican president takes over from another Republican, as was the case when Bush 41 took over from Reagan. What is not routine is to order large-scale firings in the middle of the same administration.
This is an important clarification that has not received widespread attention.