The Note: Clinton in Crossfire


Herewith six (plus one) observations to take us into the final week of August:

1. Alberto Gonzales will not be missed (except when confirmation hearings make us long for conclusion -- any conclusion), and his resignation will only embolden Democratic probes.

2. Hypotheticals are dangerous (and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton knew that before she answered her own last week) but blistering statements don't pierce thick armor.

3. Sen. John Warner, R-Va., is telling the president to put "teeth behind your words," but it's his Republican colleagues who need to fear a bite for anything to change.

4. Rules may be rules, but the only Democrats who'll decide whether Florida's primary votes matter are named Hillary and Barack (with apologies to Alexis and Jim).

5. For the second straight year, the dominant late-summer political anniversary will be the one commemorating Hurricane Katrina, not 9/11 (and no volume of congressional testimony will change that).

6. Karl Rove is spinning when he issues Clinton-related predictions, but there is no Democrat he and the rest of the GOP would rather see atop the ticket.

6.1 All this Clinton-bashing -- from both parties -- says more about the bashers than those whom they bash (but that doesn't make it less dangerous to the Democratic frontrunner).

More on that in a second, but first the news flash that will drive the day: Attorney General Gonzales has resigned his post, The New York Times' Steven Lee Myers reports on the newspaper's Website. "Mr. Gonzales, who had rebuffed calls for his resignation, submitted his to President Bush by telephone on Friday," Myers writes. "Mr. Bush has not yet chosen a replacement but will not leave the position open long."

Gonzales will face the cameras at a 10:30 am ET press conference. Cue the jubilant reactions from the Democratic '08ers, and the calls for an attorney general who will "unite the country," "heal the divisions," "fight for all Americans," etc. etc. Former senator John Edwards, D-N.C., was first out of the box: "Better late than never." (Karl Rove only got three words from Edwards -- "Goodbye, good riddance" -- in case you're keeping score.)

When the Gonzales furor dies down, Clinton, D-N.Y., will still have her 20-point lead in the national polls, her tuned fundraising machine, her crisp messaging and oppo-research operation, and the help of the most popular Democrat who currently exists. But she's also being tested like never before, with a growing chorus of critics emerging from inside and outside of her party -- making her candidacy into a battle for the heart of the Democratic Party -- and, to a degree, the Republican Party.

Clinton has precisely zero margin for error in the Democratic primary. She received another turn on the hot seat over the weekend with an uncharacteristic mini-gaffe: asking and answering her own "what if?" with regard to terrorism. "If certain things happen between now and the election, particularly with respect to terrorism, that will automatically give the Republicans an advantage again," she said last week in New Hampshire. "So I think I'm the best of the Democrats to deal with that, as well."

Her rivals (and the lefty blogosphere) begged to differ -- and they were more than happy to deliver lectures on what is and is not presidential. (Wait -- isn't that Clinton's game?) Politicization of terrorism, they said in near-unison, with Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., one-upping his rivals by calling it "tasteless."

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