Robert Novak

While the current clich is that Bush never should have named Gonzales as attorney general in the first place, the consensus in the administration was that he also was at sea in his first post as White House counsel. Colin Powell, Bush's first-term secretary of state, was so appalled by Gonzales that he shunted contact with him off to Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage, who in turn handed him down to lower levels along the State Department chain of command.

Such derision of Gonzales is viewed by Bush as the arrogance of Washington, and he seems determined not to appease that mindset. For now at least, the president refuses to yield on grounds that Gonzales -- whatever his shortcomings -- broke no laws.

Bush's position, however, may be undermined by an unexpected development this week. It was announced that a little known government agency -- the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, headed by Scott J. Bloch -- has launched an investigation into possible illegal White House political participation in the case of the U.S. attorneys. The irony here was not noted in early news accounts.

Bloch, a devout Catholic, has been under attack for three years in leading the independent investigative agency because of his interpretation of statutes covering workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. He also has been publicly accused of hiring too many Catholics. Clay Johnson, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget and another Texan brought to Washington by Bush, joined the attack on Bush-appointee Bloch. The case became a cause celebre on the Right when Bloch was told by a prominent Catholic layman close to Bush that it would be better if he just resigned.

Now, the tables are turned with Bloch investigating the White House. In an administration in trouble on several fronts, the president barricading himself with Al Gonzales by his side does not help.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

©Creators Syndicate