Thursday's "reconfirmation hearing" for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, as Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., called it, didn't go particularly well - but then again, there was no reason to expect that it would.
It was impossible to watch the hearing without feeling sorry for Gonzales, who is bogged down in uncomfortable terrain. He has to acknowledge that he knew something, but not much, about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, which makes him appear a feckless manager, a dissembler, or both. His long-awaited appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee underscored the degree to which his credibility gap has widened into a chasm, for Republicans as well as Democrats.
Reliable administration supporters also were scathing. "I believe that you should have been more involved in the entire process," said Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions. When Gonzales said he did not remember a Nov. 27 meeting at which the firings were discussed, Sessions replied: "I'm concerned about your recollection, really, because it's not that long ago. It was an important issue. And that's troubling to me, I've got to tell you."
Similarly, Texas Republican John Cornyn: "General Gonzales, you and I have known each other a long time, and I believe that you are a good and decent man. But I have to tell you that the way that this investigation has been handled has just been - been really deplorable." And Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn bluntly told Gonzales that he should quit. "It was handled incompetently. The communication was atrocious," Coburn said. "It's generous to say that there were misstatements. ... And I believe you ought to suffer the consequences that these others have suffered."
Some Republicans were more supportive, but the overall attitude toward Gonzales was skeptical, and appropriately so.
"The moment I believe I can no longer be effective I will resign as attorney general," Gonzales said Thursday. That moment has arrived, whether or not the attorney general and the president are willing to acknowledge it.
- Washington Post
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