See, the problem is simple: Bush has to appoint a new prosecutor, right? Well, the Dems have the ability to hold that up indefinitely, so they'll set conditions. They already have, actually...
Already, the Senate is outlining conditions for confirming a Gonzales successor. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has said that his panel would not hold confirmation hearings unless Karl Rove and other White House aides testify about the firing of U.S. attorneys to clarify whether "the White House has interfered with prosecution."You got that right.
All this is reminiscent of the Watergate scandal. In 1973, as the coverup was unraveling, the Senate imposed a condition on the confirmation of President Nixon's nominee for attorney general, Elliot Richardson. Richardson's predecessor had resigned because of Watergate troubles. Concerned that the Justice Department would not get at the truth, the Senate insisted that Richardson would name a special prosecutor to investigate Watergate. Richardson duly appointed Archibald Cox.
The rest is history. Cox's aggressive investigations led to the prosecution of top administration officials and the naming of Nixon as an unindicted co-conspirator in the coverup. When Cox sought White House tapes of Nixon's conversations with his staff, the president had him fired, unleashing a firestorm of protests. Americans demanded that a previously reluctant Congress start impeachment proceedings against Nixon. Congress complied; the House Judiciary Committee, of which I was a member, voted for impeachment, and Nixon resigned.
Aspects of this history could easily repeat themselves. The Senate could demand, as it did in 1973, that a new attorney general appoint a special prosecutor, and this could again have dire consequences for the White House.
A new special prosecutor would have many questions to investigate.
Holtzman goes on to point out that there's little reason to believe that Bush wouldn't just chug along with a damaged AG instead of going through the poltically painful process of replacing him. Can't say I disagree: look at how long Rumsfeld was around. It may sap the energy of the DoJ, but I can't believe at this point that Bush gives a rat's ass, as the only thing that he seems to be concerned with right now is trying to salvage his foreign policy and maybe save his party. Strengthening the DoJ at the cost of a special investigator helps him with neither, so I don't think Gonzalez is going anywhere unless the House removes him themselves.
Which, I think, will be the logical end-point of all this. At this point they're just building the case. Having AGAG as a trophy on the wall will both ease the internal tensions between the DLC types and the "netroots", and cement public opinion of the Republicans as a pack of thieves and crooks. The only possible downside is that they'll look "partisan", but since Gonzalez is so very damaged, it's unlikely that charge will stick.
No, they can't really impeach the president, or his veep. But damned if they can't nibble around the edges a little.