Obviously, the writing is on the Attorney General's wall. Tony Snow would only say yesterday that White House officials "hope" Gonzales stays on. There are multiple reports this morning that the search is already on for a new AG, and a list of possible replacements is already being floated, presumably as a trial balloon.
But here's an interesting twist: what if Bush simply rejects all of this out of hand and keeps Gonzales on the job?
The White House ... denied reports that it was looking for possible successors for Gonzales. "Those rumors are untrue," White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.
Bush called Gonzales from the Oval Office at 7:15 a.m. EDT and they spoke for several minutes about the political uproar over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, an issue that has thrust the attorney general into controversy and raised questions about whether he can survive. The White House disclosed Bush's call to bolster Gonzales and attempt to rally Republicans to support him.
"The president reaffirmed his strong backing of the attorney general and his support for him," Perino said. "The president called him to reaffirm his support."
Bush, as we all know, is The Decider; he hates being told what to do; he has a breathtaking tolerance for incompetence and corruption; and Gonzales is one of the few remaining Texas buddies the president has left. This morning's news seems to send a signal to White House allies: Stick together.
There's a certain reality that even the closest political observers sometimes forget: Bush doesn't care about traditional norms. Our political system is supposed to follow certain unwritten political "rules." When a cabinet secretary screws up, creates a scandal, becomes a distraction, loses the nation's confidence, and possibly engages in criminal behavior, he or she is supposed to resign. If a resignation isn't offered, a president is supposed to ask for it.
I frequently forget this myself, but Bush doesn't concern himself with these "rules." Rumsfeld's political obituary was written dozens of times, but Bush didn't care how tragic Rumsfeld's tenure was or how many lives it cost. HUD's Alphonso Jackson admitted publicly that he denied grants to Bush critics. The rules said Jackson had to go; Bush didn't care. Education Secretary Rod Paige called the National Education Association a "terrorist" organization; gave tax dollars to Armstrong Williams, and had no idea what the No Child Left Behind policy even meant. The rules said Paige had to go; Bush didn't care.
And now Gonzales has been caught in a massive, possibly criminal, scandal. The rules say Gonzales has to go. As of this morning, Bush, true to form, doesn't care.
In the big picture, does it matter? Maybe not.
Bush has a choice. Keep an incompetent Attorney General who's become a lightening rod for scandal, or find a real AG. Either way, the purge scandal's wheels keep turning.