A user's guide

March 16, 2007

When Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales says he intends to stay in his job, that's a sign he probably won't. When President Bush says, "I do have confidence in Attorney General Al Gonzales," you have to assume his days are numbered.

Six years into the Bush administration, this is the way you have to think sometimes. Pronouncements are strong contra-indicators. (There are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It's up to Saddam Hussein to choose war or peace.)

The White House releases a ton of e-mails on the firing of U.S. attorneys. None comes from Karl Rove. That makes people suspect Karl Rove must be behind it.

The White House fingers Harriet E. Miers, the conveniently former White House counsel. That suggests Ms. Miers is blameless, and perhaps belonged on the Supreme Court after all. But, no, the e-mails show she wanted to can all 93 U.S. attorneys. But, wait, that was after President Bush won re-election back in 2004, and what she was suggesting was a general housecleaning such as a newly elected president might pursue; somehow the much reduced Gonzales firings, confined to politically sensitive posts, only took place in the latter half of 2006. Justice is slow - but not that slow.

When the president says, "The issue was mishandled," he doesn't mean that the firings were wrong but that the packaging was wrong.

"These firings were not politically motivated," Mr. Gonzales says. Well, you know what that means.

"They were not done to interfere with the public corruption case," he says. Hey, there might just be a crumb of fact in that one; it appears that at least some of them stemmed from the U.S. attorneys' failure to pursue cases, specifically of voter fraud. Shock and horror over voter fraud is one of the pillars of this Republican administration - which suggests, yes, that maybe voter fraud is one of the few things that doesn't threaten the republic.

"Mistakes were made," it is said. Passive sentence construction is chosen. Meaning can be gleaned from that. Fault will be found. More firings will be pursued. Bungling will be regretted. The price will be paid. Hands will be cleaned - and shoulders shrugged.

Contradictions will be ignored. Subpoenas can't be.

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