Watching Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee was a dreadful spectacle. After writing an Op-Ed in the Washington Post about his eagerness to testify and a delay caused by the tragic news out of Blacksburg, VA, AG Gonzales had more than enough time to prepare to defend against charges that he more or less brought upon himself.
AG Gonzales was unconvincing, rattled, flustered and confused under intense scrutiny. He took a non-issue matter of personnel matters at the DOJ and created an appearance of suspect credibility by fumbling his responses to questions regarding the firing of eight attorneys. And perhaps most disturbing, Gonzales brought more inconsistency than clarity to the points in question today.
The main defense of the firing of the attorneys was that “they serve at the pleasure of the President.” AG Gonzales insisted the basis for the firings were “performance based,” rather than political. Gonzales acknowledged and apologized that he had misled people over his involvement in the firings, but grew defensive and almost arrogant in discussing it further.
And finally, he waffled on recollections and looked guilty when the main event began: discussion of the Democrat’s Moby Dick – Karl Rove.
Welcome to Washington, Mr. Gonzales.
Was he trying to win them over with charm and good looks? If so, it definitely didn’t work.
I’m not a lawyer and I don’t regularly follow or report on the DOJ’s affairs. I can’t tell you that Gonzales was either effective or lacking in his capacity as an attorney general. But his testimony today came across as an unintended indictment of the White House’s role in a matter than bears little significance on the carrying out of the nations’ laws as well as ample evidence of his lacking management skills.
What was at issue here is whether AG Gonzales let partisan politics play a leading role at the DOJ. Yet somehow, Gonzales succeeded in so confusing everyone to the point that the integrity of the office is now in question.
I thought one of the most telling moments came not when he was being manhandled by the likes of Schumer, Leahy, Feinstein, Durbin or Specter – but in a simple question by Sen. Herb Kohl.
Sen. Kohl asked Gonzales why he should remain AG given the mismanagement and shroud of political confluence. Gonzales responded by citing the acceptance of Bob Ney’s plea prior to the elections of 2004 as evidence of “not playing partisan politics.”
Who in their professional integrity would even CONSIDER not prosecuting Ney immediately?!
And the death knell came from the most unsuspecting griller, staunch conservative Republican Sen. Tom Coburn who said:
It was handled incompetently, the communication was atrocious; it was inconsistent. It’s generous to say there was misstatements and I believe you should suffer the consequences these others have suffered and the best way to put this behind us is your resignation.
The only conclusion I can draw from today’s hearing is that AG Gonzales is serving at the displeasure of the President at this point.
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