Renee Montaigne talks to Wayne Slater, Austin bureau chief of The Dallas Morning News, about Bush's loyalty to Alberto Gonzales.
How would you describe their relationship?
It's a very good relationship. When George Bush was governor, he named Gonzales as his general counsel and, in part, he did it because he was enamored of Gonzales's personal life story. The son of migrant workers, worked his way through Rice University, then ultimately Harvard Law. So their relationship is very, very good, in part because of who Gonzales was, and in large part because Gonzales, through the years, has pretty much presented George Bush's interests impeccably.
Is that his problem, that Gonzales is seen as serving Bush's interests, rather than being the nation's top law enforcement official?
That's exactly his problem. He is seen by too many folks — especially Democrats — as acting as an extension of the president's counselor. He seems in the minds of many to have been unsuccessful in making that break between the general counsel, who represents the president's interests, and the attorney general, who must forcefully represent the interests of the American people in general.
It's common for presidents to bring staffers from their home states. What's different about the Texas mafia?
It is that so many of them were really with the president from the very beginning. This group was not only a group that the president ... assembled as he prepared to go to Washington; this was a group who in the early '90s were around him, preparing what has been his entire political rise.
The circle has been shrinking?
[Former White House Counsel] Harriet Miers ... is now gone.
Joe Allbaugh, who went to FEMA, is now no longer there.
[Former Press Secretary] Scott McClellan, who was important really early on behind the scenes, has left the White House.
[Former White House adviser] Karen Hughes ... is in the State Department.
Really, you now have Margaret Spelling at Education. You have Karl Rove inside the White House, and Alberto Gonzales. And at the moment, it looks like Alberto Gonzales is in big trouble.
How would the president weigh loyalty against real harm done to the administration?
If you know George Bush, and you know his political, and sort of, personal instincts, it is to stay loyal to those people who are closest to him. ... Ultimately, there is a limit. At the point that it clearly seems to be affecting the president himself — not those around him — but the president himself ... that's when the cut will be made.
I don't sense that Bush himself has made that calculation yet, but by the time the week is over, he may have.