03/15/2007 04:54 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Bush Gives Gonzales a Brownie

Ah those dreaded words: "Hi, I'm from the government and here to help!" No, no, not those dreaded words, I mean these: "I have full confidence in {insert administration official name here}." Michael Brown, former FEMA director heard them from President Bush during the Katrina fiasco. Now it seems it is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's turn. A hallmark of this administration has been the appointment of political cronies to our nation's most critical offices. And when their misdeeds are brought to light, we get a half-hearted show of support - which, as Brown's case showed, quickly evaporates if the scandal doesn't go away.

In the lingering aftermath of the heavy-handed and clumsy firing of eight United States attorneys by the Department of Justice, the president took to the podium Wednesday to give thumbs up to the job his attorney general is doing. It is now anyone's guess how long that support lasts. So far Gonzales's strategy to shift blame to his chief of staff has proven unsuccessful in calming the tempest, especially on Capitol Hill. It's a strategy quite reminiscent of the efforts of officials at Enron, whom Gonzales once counted as a client in Texas, to pass the buck in its corporate governance scandal.

David Iglesias, the New Mexico U.S. attorney removed as part of the recent purge, said he was willing to testify about the political nature of the removals, despite a long allegiance to the Republican Party, because "loyalty is a two-way street," and the Republicans betrayed that loyalty when they ousted him. But this administration views loyalty as a one-way street. Comply with our partisan whims, do what we expect, get your hands dirty and be our fall guy if someone uncovers our abuses.

What is lost in this tale is the impact on the fair administration of justice in the 93 districts in which U.S. attorneys serve. They reportedly exercised their prosecutorial discretion independently - and paid a price. What chill must be coursing through those ranks today. The message seems clear: Get on board or get lost. Serve political interlopers - senators and representatives, and no doubt high-roller donors, likely included - or lose your paycheck.

Questions now must be asked whether investigations are, or have been, aborted, sidetracked, manipulated, avoided by U.S. attorneys by direct order or not so subtle persuasion. Hopefully House and Senate Judiciary Committees will ask those questions, and even more hopefully the damage done to important investigations and prosecutions can be limited.

Meanwhile sign and circulate our petition to get Mr. Gonzales fired.