Has there ever been a worse-reviewed appearance before a Congressional panel than Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s testimony yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee? By early afternoon, National Review White House correspondent Byron York had given up hope that Gonzales could salvage his reputation. Calling it “a disastrous morning,” York wrote:
The major problem with his testimony is that Gonzales maintains, in essence, that he doesn’t know why he fired at least some of the eight dismissed U.S. attorneys. When, under questioning by Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, Gonzales listed the reasons for each firing, it was clear that in a number of cases, he had reconstructed the reason for the dismissal after the fact. He didn’t know why he fired them at the time, other than the action was recommended by senior Justice Department staff.
Later, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham returned to the subject. “Mr. Attorney General, most of this is a stretch,” Graham told Gonzales. “I think most of them [the U.S. attorneys] had personality disagreements with the White House, and you made up reasons to fire them.” Gonzales disagreed but had nothing to support his position. Throughout the morning, Gonzales insisted that he is the man in charge of the Justice Department, and accepted responsibility for the firings, but his testimony suggests he had little idea what was going on.
Most conservatives found themselves in agreement with York. Patrick Frey, a prosecutor in Los Angeles County who blogs at Patterico’s Pontifications, writes, “It’s clear from Gonzales’s answer that, when he approved these firings, he really didn’t know why he was firing each U.S. Attorney. He just did what other people told him to do.” Frey pleads, “Please resign. Put us out of our misery. Please.”
The American Spectator’s Quin Hillyer mounted a semi-defense of Gonzales by arguing that the attorney general is not mendacious, just moronic. “I really believe he is no deliberate liar,” Hillyer wrote at his magazine’s blog. “I think even the Dems are starting to realize that his problem isn’t with honesty; it’s a major problem with cluelessness. He comes across like Dan Quayle in that first press conference after Bush named him as his running mate. I.e, just not up to the job.”
Gonzales was so clearly incompetent that Ed Morrissey of Captain’s Quarters can’t imagine that he will keep his job. “[E]ven with hindsight, he still couldn’t come up with a good reason for two of the seven [firings],” Morrissey writes. “What does all of this mean? It means that Gonzales is toast.”