My what a difference a day or two makes. I recall listening to a news item on NPR on the way into work Tuesday about Gonzales’ scheduled grilling at the hands of Congress which pretty much everyone believed wouldn’t actually accomplish much of anything. More than one person, mostly Republicans, rhetorically wondered why the Democrats were insisting on wasting time on such a pointless activity:
“Nobody thinks this is consequential,” Rogers says. “Nobody thinks the attorney general’s job is on the line, so it’s just kind of going to be more of the same, and the Democrats and their sympathizers will have more to snicker about, but nothing will come of it.”
Then on the way home yesterday the news was abuzz with how the Attorney General may very well have perjured himself to Congress:
Specter later circled back to Gonzales on the matter, warning him: “My suggestion to you is you review your testimony to find out if your credibility has been breached to the point of being actionable,” Specter said. The maximum penalty for being caught lying to Congress is five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 per count. Specter wryly noted to reporters during a break that there is a jail in the Capitol complex.
Last night a statement was released saying that Gonzales stands by the testimony he gave to Congress yesterday which has finally resulted in a call today for a probe of Gonzales for perjury:
WASHINGTON – A group of Senate Democrats called Wednesday for a special counsel to investigate whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales perjured himself regarding the firings of U.S. attorneys and administration dissent over President Bush’s domestic surveillance program.
“We ask that you immediately appoint an independent special counsel from outside the Department of Justice to determine whether Attorney General Gonzales may have misled Congress or perjured himself in testimony before Congress,” four Democratic senators wrote in a letter Wednesday, according to a draft obtained by The Associated Press.
“It has become apparent that the Attorney General has provided at a minimum half-truths and misleading statements” to the Judiciary Committee, they added.
It’s still too early to tell if this will actually lead up to anything or not, but it’s certainly does my heart some good to see the A.G. getting tripped up in his own repeated lies. It also clearly illustrates why the Democrats are entirely in the right for repeatedly challenging the White House’s insistence that they’ll only allow administration members to testify in private and without swearing an oath. Had the A.G. been able to testify to Congress without being under oath and with no official record kept he probably wouldn’t be in the sticky situation he now finds himself in.
But what really amuses me about this whole mess is the following quote from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales:
“Reinforcing public confidence in the department is also critical, and will be one of my top priorities as attorney general for the remainder of my term,” Gonzales said in the prepared statement.
“I believe very strongly that there is no place for political considerations in the hiring of our career employees or in the administration of justice,” he said. “As such, these allegations have been troubling to hear. From my perspective, there are two options available in light of these allegations. I would walk away or I could devote my time, effort and energy to fix the problems. Since I have never been one to quit, I decided that the best course of action was to remain here and fix the problems.”
I had to laugh that bitter, cynical laugh that I have when I heard him promise he was going to keep his job in order to restore public confidence DOJ. Surely he must know that he’s the reason the public’s confidence is waining. However, just in case he really is that clueless, allow me to say:
Mr. Attorney General, if you’re truly serious about restoring public confidence then do us all a favor and quit. I realize there’s nothing stopping Bush from appointing someone even more dishonest and inept as you have been to the office, but it’s a chance I think most Americans at this point are willing to take.