Friday, July 27, 2007

Bedtime for Gonzo By Eugene Robinson

It's way past bedtime for Gonzo. At this point, every day Alberto Gonzales continues as attorney general means more dishonor for the office and the nation -- and higher blood pressure for Senate Judiciary Committee members trying desperately to get a straight answer out of the man.

Gonzo has managed to do something no one else in Washington has managed in years: create a spirit of true bipartisanship. After his pathetic act in front of the committee Tuesday, it's no surprise that Democrats are threatening to investigate him for perjury. But it was Sen. Arlen Specter, a Republican, who looked Gonzo in the face and told him, 'I do not find your testimony credible, candidly.'

Specter seems ready to pop a gasket. 'The hearing two days ago was devastating' for Gonzo, Specter said yesterday. 'But so was the hearing before that, and so was the hearing before that.'...

Asked about the glaring discrepancy, Gonzo said Tuesday that the disagreement and the hospital visit were about "other intelligence activities," and "not about the terrorist surveillance program that the president announced to the American people."

Specter's response: "Mr. Attorney General, do you expect us to believe that?"

No one believes it. The most generous interpretation is that Gonzo, fearful of facing a perjury rap, is insisting on an artificially and dishonestly narrow definition of "the terrorist surveillance program that the president announced" -- leaving out "intelligence activities" that any reasonable person, including Comey, would consider part of the program. The nice word for that would be dissembling.

The not-so-nice word would be lying. Hence the call yesterday by a group of Senate Democrats for a perjury investigation.

I hope they nail him. Anyone tempted to feel sympathy for Gonzo should check out his weaselly explanation for why he would think it appropriate to buttonhole a sick man in his hospital room, regardless of the issue.

"There are no rules governing whether or not General Ashcroft can decide 'I'm feeling well enough to make this decision,' " Gonzo said. When Specter pointed out that Ashcroft had already turned his powers over to Comey, Gonzo replied, "And he could always reclaim it. There are no rules."

"While he was in the hospital under sedation?" Specter interrupted, before giving up on getting a straight answer.

Gonzo answered the question, all right -- inadvertently, of course: "There are no rules."

That's the guiding philosophy of this administration. As far as these people are concerned, there are no rules of common decency. There are no rules of customary practice. There are no rules governing respect for the truth, or even respect for the privacy and health of an ailing colleague. ...

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