Glad handing and back slapping everyone in sight on his way to his seat in the Senate hearing last Thursday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales did not appear to be someone who’s job was on the line. However, once the questioning began, it quickly became apparent the niceties were over. The questions were brutal, but the answers were not forthcoming.
He cajoled and denied, he frowned and grimaced, he stalled and stammered, he argued and apologized. In fact, Gonzales did just about everything but give a straight answer to any question. He answered with “I can’t recall” 74 times to the frustration and disgust of the Senators on the panel.
“All of America saw why so many of us had felt for so long that he shouldn’t be attorney,” said Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y), a Judiciary committee member. “He was not in command of the facts. He contradicted himself. And he doesn’t really appreciate the role of attorney general.”
In an e-mail to the Associated Press, Schumer maintained that Gonzales should step down as soon as possible.
It wasn’t just Democrats calling for his ouster as Republicans also called for his resignation, including Senators John Sununu of New Hampshire and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
In fact, the only person who seemed pleased with Gonzales’ testimony was President Bush, who stated, “The attorney general went up to Capitol Hill and gave a very candid assessment, and answered every question he could possibly answer, honestly answer, in a way that increased my confidence in his ability to do the job.” (L.A. Times 4/24/07)
Increased his confidence in his ability to do the job? One wonders if Bush even listened to any of the testimony, and all the “I can’t recalls”. However, if Gonzales’ job is to provide a smoke screen to detract from further investigation in the White House, then, yes, he is doing a fine job. And he apparently intends to stay the course, stating, “As long as I think that I can be effective and the president believes that I should continue….I’ll continue serving as the attorney general.” (L.A. Times 4/24/07)
Since he hasn’t been very effective since taking the job of attorney general, that seems more of a threat than a promise. Throughout his testimony it quickly became apparent that he seemed out of touch with all the activity going on in his office, letting young, unqualified subordinates make significant decisions, including what U.S. attorneys should be fired. He was pointedly vague about his involvement.
Gonzales did try to make a show of force on the day he testified, however, by having federal agents raid the office of the wife of Representative Rick Renzi (R- AZ). The investigation, initiated last November by Paul Charlton, one of the eight fired U.S. attorneys, involves accusations that Renzi improperly used his influence as a congressman to engineer a land swap benefiting a business associate. Why did it become so important after languishing for 6 months?
As David Wald, chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, said in a statement, “After half a year of sitting on this probe, the Department of Justice pursues it on the very day that Attorney General Gonzales is called before Congress for firing the very prosecutor who opened the Renzi investigation in the first place.”
Mr. Wald continued, “the dots are connected, and they lead right back to the attorney general’s doorstep.” (NY Times, 4/21/07)
He has not been an effective attorney general during his time in office, his testimony on Capitol Hill was dismal and it appears the only support he has is from the president. Republicans are lining up to chastise him and call for his resignation, fearing backlash at election time. It’s time for ‘Gonzales the Smokescreen’ to go, so the Senate Judiciary Committee can go after the real culprit - Karl Rove.
“Today on Capitol Hill, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales raised his right hand and swore to tell the truth. Then everybody had a good laugh and went back to business.
Jay Leno 4/19/07
Cheri Cabot, Politics Correspondent
Cheri’s column, “Personal About Politics”, published every Tuesday, will reflect on how the life of a 57 year-old, middle class woman is affected by politics, policy and the current state of the nation - a look at the personal aspects of politics. The articles will be posted to Politics.gather.com as part of Gather Essentials.
Cheri is a single teacher and writer, living in Southern California. She has two grown children, one in Iowa and one at Columbia University, and is the proud grandmother of two. Cheri is also a purveyor of fine coffee, warm chatter and dry wit.
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