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September 4, 2007

And Still They Go

Roy Meachum

Writing two weeks ago I listed the more prominent departures from the White House, but I strongly pointed out the men and women should not be compared to "rats deserting a sinking ship." I may have been wrong.

That column dealt specifically with presidential guru Karl Rove and White House media magician Tony Snow. My general view was abruptly altered by the sudden bombshell otherwise known as the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez.

Mr. Rove should have turned in his office keys Friday, the last day of August. I can't imagine his talent for political management being wasted this presidential campaign. His timing fit exactly former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson's anticipated announcement. We'll see.

Reporters might not have enjoyed the news at Mr. Snow's press conferences, but they had to like and admire his showmanship. He was one of them temporarily gone astray, that was his approach.

"Mr. Snow stands out, however, by putting a price tag on his services," my August 21 TheTentacle column said. "For those who know about the pre-college kids at home and his continuing bouts with cancer, that observation may seem unfair. But he asked for it when advertising he's open to bids higher than his current pay." That's what he did.

Not unexpectedly, within a week the Right Wing raconteur had snagged an offer he felt unable to refuse. Given his name's recent national saturation, Mr. Snow obviously is worth a considerable bundle - if not with a company, then on the rubber chicken circuit.

Bill Clinton reportedly mines millions from regaling those with money enough to pay their way into breathing the same air with his celebrity. The ex-press secretary and conservative media star can look forward to similar payoffs, certainly during the next 16 months, while George W. Bush still sits in the Oval Office.

As an unabashed admirer of free enterprise, I must cheer Tony Snow's one-upmanship. Since a weakening presidency hurts this nation, I seriously question his approach. Instead of advertising his talents for sale, why didn't the fading media maven quietly negotiate to take care of his family's needs. At the same time, he could have worked out a timing that fit Mr. Bush better.

Waving sayonara, as he plans, in two weeks leaves the lame-duck administration predictably flailing: dealing with the blast certain to follow mid-September's next Iraq report from America's top military and diplomatic authorities in that country. What a bummer for Bush supporters!

A greater blow accompanied Alberto Gonzales' announcement he was heading back to Texas and abandoning a president who had already abandoned him. That's how it seems from here.

Despite entreaties and pleas from influential Republicans and powerful allies, Mr. Bush had sworn Mr. Gonzales would be his attorney general to the very end: January 20, 2009. The impression was given and reinforced the president would refuse to serve if the former White House counsel got out of town.

If anybody knows what happened it would be lovely if the rest of us were told. I have no bloody clue! It was almost as if the latest senatorial sex scandal was manufactured as a diversion. Of course, it was not. (I think!)

Giving the same departure date as Mr. Snow, the attorney general reportedly called the White House last Friday. And Idaho's Sen. Larry Craig allegedly accosted an undercover vice cop the same weekend. The story broke Monday.

Readers and editors agree: sex sells lots more newspapers than politics, anytime. The discussion received short shrift about why Mr. Gonzales was allowed to leave, in spite of all those Oval Office protests. Sunday talking heads had their say and that was it! By the time Mr. Craig handed in the obligatory resignation, Mr. Gonzales's ducking out was stale.

Valuing loyalty and promises, maybe too much, I find that sad. I did not care for the attorney general and thought he was way too political.

Ditto for FEMA's Michael Brown who took the undeserved brunt for wholesale failures to take care of New Orleans. Mr. Brown received high presidential praise before getting the shaft. How cruel.

Add Donald Rumsfeld to the list. When the computers whirred GOP loses in the last election Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was thrown out of the White House "sled." None of the media "wolves" was fooled. The culprit for most things drastically wrong in Iraq is Dick Cheney, but the Constitution does not allow Mr. Bush to fire his vice president. Even if he wanted to! And he does not!

We are left to wonder whose head will be next into the tumbrel at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The guillotine was messier but it was quick. There's no sign the administration has finished its bloodletting.

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