Campaigning in 2000, Texas Gov. George W. Bush would repeatedly raise his right hand as if taking an oath and vow to “restore honor and integrity” to the White House. He pledged to usher in a new era of bipartisanship.
The dual themes of honesty and bipartisanship struck a chord with many voters and helped propel Bush to the White House in one of the nation’s closest-ever elections. Americans re-elected him in 2004 after he characterized himself as best suited to protect a nation at war.
Now, with fewer than two years left of his second term, the Bush administration is embroiled in multiple scandals and ethics investigations. The war in Iraq still rages. Bush’s approval ratings are hovering in the mid-30s. And Democratic-Republican relations have seldom been more rancorous.
In the highest-profile current case, even some key Republicans are questioning the truthfulness and judgment of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. The panel is investigating whether the prosecutors were dumped to make way for more politically obedient successors.
Gonzales is fighting to hold onto his job. So far, two top aides have resigned, one indicating she would invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if questioned by Congress. E-mails and other evidence released by the Justice Department suggest Bush political adviser Karl Rove played a part in the firings.
Congress is also investigating whether Rove and other Bush political advisers improperly used Republican e-mail accounts to discuss the firings and other official business. The White House concedes the possibility but says much of the e-mail was lost or deleted.