The Magazine


There may be a good reason Bush hangs on to his attorney general.

May 21, 2007, Vol. 12, No. 34 • By TOD LINDBERG
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Sen. Patrick Leahy has already indicated that he would insist on the testimony of Karl Rove and others before he confirmed a new attorney general, but that was clearly just an opening bid. Why wouldn't he insist that a nominee recuse himself from investigating the firings and charter a special counsel to do so instead? Four weeks before Richardson took office, Nixon made it clear that the decision about appointing a special prosecutor was Richardson's alone to make. Then Richardson had to queue up an acceptable one prior to his confirmation. Could Bush put forward an attorney general nominee either under White House instruction not to appoint an independent counsel or unwilling to tell the Senate whether he would make such an appointment? Not if he expects to get past Leahy.

Holtzman was presciently skeptical about Gonzales actually leaving. She understood the risks to Bush, as did some graybeards on the other side of the aisle. Whether Bush got effective counsel about the danger of caving over Gonzales, figured it out himself, or simply lucked into it because of loyalty to an old friend, he seems to have managed to escape the greatest politico-legal peril he has faced.

Contributing editor and Hoover Institution fellow Tod Lindberg's The Political Teachings of Jesus will be published next month by HC/HarperCollins.