What Now? Gonzales Failing, But Only Bush Has Firing Power

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Yesterday’s all-day hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the eight U.S. attorneys allegedly fired for political reasons struck many observers as a blistering bipartisan attack. It not only failed to restore U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ fast-dwindling credibility but left him looking worse than ever as he repeatedly equivocated and evaded questions, news reports agreed.

“I think anyone who’s watched this would say we could do better for attorney general,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-NY, during a break, the New York Times (registration required) reported in a news analysis piece. “He seems to be far less qualified than the U.S. attorneys that he’s fired.”

The piece, headlined “On a Very Hot Seat with Little Cover and Less Support,” cast doubt on whether any of the committee members, Republican or Democrat, still thinks the attorney general should remain in office.

Similar, albeit a bit less scathing, conclusions were reached in standard news stories by the Washington Post (“Members of His Own Party Pile On”) (registration required), the Wall Street Journal (“Gonzales’s Hold Slips Further”) (subscription required) and the LA Times. The AG’s “inability to recall basic facts at the hearing — he answered ‘I don’t recall’ more than 50 times — also often baffled and bewildered lawmakers,” the latter reported.

Maybe Gonzales Won’t Recall His Painful Day on the Hill” was the headline of Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank’s opinion piece on the AG’s skewering. Another Post columnist’s opinion piece is headed: “The Right Also Sees Wrong in Attorney General.”

However, Gonzales didn’t appear inclined to resign at the hearing. Meanwhile, only President Bush has the power to fire the U.S. Attorney General, all seemingly agreed, and it is unclear, at this point, whether that will occur.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said on the day of the hearing that the president “was pleased with the attorney general’s testimony” and that the AG has his “full confidence,” the Washington Post reported.

See yesterday’s real-time post for detailed coverage of the hearing.

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