The Week in Politics
ALEX COHEN, host:
This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Alex Cohen.
ALEX CHADWICK, host
Maybe it was quiet in Lake Wobegon this weekend, but there's an awful lot to talk about coming out of Washington for a week in late August.
Attorney General ALBERTO GONZALES (U.S. Justice Department): Yesterday I met with President Bush and informed him of my decision to conclude my government service as attorney general of the United States.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: Because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons.
Senator LARRY CRAIG (Republican, Idaho): Let me be clear. I am not gay. I never have been gay.
CHADWICK: NPR News analyst Juan Williams joins us again as he does every Friday.
Juan, welcome back.
JUAN WILLIAMS: Good to be with you, Alex.
CHADWICK: So let's start off with Monday's surprise announcement by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, that he's going to step down from that position next month. He was the last of the close circle of trusted Bush aides known as the Texas Mafia. Where does this leave Mr. Bush now with 17 months left in his presidency?
WILLIAMS: Well, it's going to be a real change in the character of the Bush White House. I mean, the obvious thing to say is that he looks more than ever like a lame duck. But I said lame duck without his ducklings, if you will, because most notably Karl Rove, his top political adviser, has gone. You also have people like Dan Bartlett, who was his top communications director, gone. You have, of course, Karen Hughes, a long-time friend. She's been gone for a while but in and out; she's over at the State Department.
And so it looks like the president - what remains of his tenure, 17 months, is going to be very much a defensive action with people who are basically political professionals surrounding the president. People like Ed Gillespie, who used to run the Republican National Committee, rather than anybody who you would say is a long-term friend or associate of the president's.
CHADWICK: Well, the Attorney General will still be around for a couple of weeks, anyway. But today is Karl Rove's last day on the job. How do you expect things to change in Washington in the post-Rove era?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think one thing that's going to change, and I think you already see it in terms of the conversations taking place about finding a replacement for Attorney General Gonzales, is that it's not as confrontational. Rove did a round of interviews on the Sunday talk shows now about two weeks ago when his resignation was announced, and he said, you know, they've made me out to be this large, threatening creature. I am not, you know, I have never been what the Democrats that made me out to be.
But for whatever reason, he was seen as embodying, personifying the idea of polarized, partisan politics in Washington. And with his departure, and I think back to the departure of another Texan, Tom DeLay in, you know, who was a congressman who was head of the Republicans in the Congress, I think that what you're seeing now is a conversation about how we can make things work, from the Bush White House perspective, how we can make the best of these last months of the Bush administration.
CHADWICK: Senator Larry Craig of Idaho pleaded guilty in August to charges of disorderly conduct after what he insist was a big misunderstanding with a vice cop in a Minneapolis airport restroom. Congress is back in session next week. Will Senator Craig be there?
WILLIAMS: I think at this moment the pressure is on for him to resign, to leave. The pressure is coming not only from the Republicans in the Congress. It's coming from Republican National Committee. It's coming from the White House. The damage is substantial, not just to Senator Craig but to the Republican brand because of charges of hypocrisy, it's on the gay rights issue, on the family values issue.
You see pressure coming from likes of Tony Perkins over at the Family Research Council, this kind of socially conservative wing of the Republican Party. And I don't see how he survives this, except that he is a stubborn person and you've got to realize on a human level his entire career, his reputation is at stake here. And he feels embattled. He's become, you know, a laughing stock. There's all sorts of jokes around town about tapping your foot and all that.
So I don't see how he can survive in this atmosphere, Alex. But obviously Louisiana Senator David Vitter had survived recent charges and his admission that he was sleeping with prostitutes.
CHADWICK: Juan, that's a heck of a town you're living in.
NPR News analyst Juan Williams with us from Washington again. Thank you.
WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Alex.