So, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales escaped the wrath of Congress after the Senate bill for a vote of “no confidence” in him fell short last night.

A front page story in this morning’s Times called the event “A Defeat for Democrats.” But are things so simple?

“The attorney general certainly inspires confidence in no one,” writes A.B. Stoddard at The Hill. “But any real attempt to impeach him or force his resignation would obviously begin in the Judiciary Committee, where ranking Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) seems ready to help. Democrats held their vote, which failed like they knew it would, but they dragged vulnerable Republicans on the record, just like they wanted to.”

(Not all of the Republicans were so dragged, or even the Democrats, as the Hotline gives us the following very interesting list: “The ‘08ers who did not vote on the Gonzales resolution: Joe Biden, Sam Brownback, Chris Dodd, McCain, and Obama.”)

Indeed, many conservatives fail to see this as a victory. “Republicans should’ve beaten the Dems to this long ago,” insists James G. Poulos at American Spectator. “A whipping operation with an ounce of discipline could have nipped this entire thing in the bud simply by telling the President in public what he failed to hear privately: Gonzales is a marshmallow with eyes and hair and ought to be dismissed accordingly. He is a witless oaf at Justice and a lead-footed albatross round the neck of the Republican Party.”

Dick Polman even sees a trend here:

Conservatives wanted Bush to retain Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, but last Thursday Bush dumped him. Conservatives want Bush to pardon Scooter Libby (who, after all, merely lied under oath to impede a national security investigation), but Bush refuses to do it. Conservatives want Bush to dump attorney general Alberto Gonzales (whom they consider an incompetent toady), but Bush won’t do that either. So here’s the right-wing recipe thus far: Keep Pace, free Scooter, ditch Gonzo. Whereas the Bush recipe is: ditch Pace, ditch Scooter, keep Gonzo.

Thinking about the relationship President Bush’s father had with conservatives, one is tempted to say this is, in fact, an old family recipe.