This is what we know about Alberto Gonzales, who is still, amazingly, attorney general of the United States:

This is what we know about Alberto Gonzales, who is still, amazingly, attorney general of the United States:

He thinks it is moral and legal for the United States to lock people up for years at a time, without access to such legal niceties as a lawyer or even knowledge of the charges against them, much less a public trial. He thinks it's OK for American interrogators to torture prisoners so long as it is part of the fight against terrorism, the Geneva Convention be damned. He thinks federal prosecutors who do not adhere to the political philosophy of the person in the White House should be fired, investigative independence be damned. He thinks the federal government should be able to spy on Americans' international phone calls and e-mails without a court warrant. He is, from all available evidence, constitutionally incapable of giving a clear, concise, honest answer to questions put to him by members of Congress (more on this later). President Bush loves him.

And why not?

No one in the Bush administration has done a better job of distracting Americans' attention from the truly disastrous news in Iraq than the attorney general, who owes his entire professional career to the former governor of Texas. Every time Gonzales tells Congress another whopper and Democrats call for his head, the news of Shiites and Sunnis murdering each other in Bush's once-upon-a-dream cradle of MidEast democracy gets kicked inside the newspapers.

Furthermore, Gonzales, as presidential counsel and now as attorney general, has given Bush legal cover — flimsy and phony though it may be — for an attempted rewriting of the Bill of Rights and an extraordinary expansion of presidential powers. It's hard to find this kind of unremitting, conscienceless loyalty without Kool-Aid being somewhere in the picture.

Plus, despite what he doesn't tell Congress, Gonzales knows everything about anything that went on in discussions within the White House about wiretapping and every other effort to invade the privacy and erode the rights of American citizens. He knows who was onboard and who wasn't. Even if he's a pathological liar, he isn't stupid. His loyalty has its own price.

Clearly, Bush is never going to fire him. This has led some Democrats, justifiably frustrated and angered by Gonzales' evasions, to ask for a special prosecutor.

Dear God, no. Not again. Those probes go on forever, costing taxpayers millions of dollars, and don't always provide answers. A special prosecutor would ensure that Gonzales stays in office probably until the end of Bush's presidency and have the excuse of not commenting on anything the special prosecutor was investigating. It would also provide another distraction from Iraq.

If Democrats want to hold congressional hearings into the latest Gonzales problem, fine. Do it. Make a big public splash.

Threaten impeachment. Subpoena everyone. Make the White House show even further disregard for the constitutional balance of powers and the right of the people to know what is going on. Let Gonzales and Bush decide when the lawyer has outlived his usefulness as a shield. (What's the tipping point, a 30 percent favorable rating?)

For the record, the renewed calls for Gonzales' head arise out of testimony he gave to Congress regarding the wiretapping program. He told the Senate Judiciary Committee there was no dissent within the administration about implementing the warrantless spying. But FBI Director Robert Mueller and James Comey, a former deputy attorney general, disagree. Both say they almost resigned because of it. They said they refused to support extending the program in 2004 because it was illegal.

They say Gonzales, who was White House counsel at the time, went to the hospital room of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to get his approval for the program. An annoyed Ashcroft refused, saying it was illegal. Comey, who was running the department in Ashcroft's absence, said he thought Gonzales was trying to take advantage of a sick man. Comey and Mueller were both in the hospital room at the time of Gonzales' visit.

Gonzales says the disagreement was not about wiretapping, but another "classified" aspect of the program. Some reports say it may have been "data mining," which is examining the e-mails and phone records of individuals to establish patterns and connections. It also may have been domestic, as opposed to international, spying. But even so, this would still be part of the same surveillance program, which means, at best, Gonzales is playing semantics with people's rights, not to mention the truth.

So, yes, we see why Bush loves the guy and they surely deserve each other. But American citizens deserve something better. Something nobler. Something called respect.