Dana Bash of CNN reported comments made by appalled Republicans during breaks in the hearing. "Loyal Republican after loyal Republican in this hearing room," said Bash, "and more specifically in private to CNN today, have made it clear that they are frankly flabbergasted by how poorly they think the attorney general has done in this hearing. During the lunch break, in private, several very loyal Republicans made it clear to CNN that they were really dripping with disappointment."Link from Janette.
Another CNN reporter, Suzanne Malveaux, offered other Republican statements of dismay. "Two senior White House aides here," reported Malveaux, "described the situation, Gonzales's testimony, as 'going down in flames.' That he was 'not doing himself any favors.' One prominent Republican described watching his testimony as 'clubbing a baby seal.'"
So what is to be made of this? As attorney general, Gonzales is the top official in the Department of Justice. The list of DOJ-related agencies that Gonzales is expected to oversee is nearly 60 items long. Among these are the FBI, the ATF, the DEA, the Civil Rights division, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the US Marshals Service, the Office of the Solicitor General and, of course, all the US attorneys spread across the 50 states. The DOJ's own web site explains that, "Since the 1870 Act that established the Department of Justice as an executive department of the government of the United States, the attorney general has guided the world's largest law office and the central agency for enforcement of federal laws."
Is it possible that the man charged with such awesome responsibilities is, in fact, a blithering idiot? Nothing in Thursday's hearing served to disabuse anyone of this notion, and in the final analysis that may be the whole point of the exercise ... and the tip of a very dangerous iceberg....
It can be easily argued that Gonzales couldn't answer simple questions, not because he is especially dumb, but because he truly didn't know how. He wasn't there to run the place, but to open doors for, and get out of the way of, Bush's political hatchetmen. Any appointees who weren't going along with the program, including those fired US attorneys, were swept aside.
It can just as easily be argued that he was able to answer those questions, but avoided doing so for tactical reasons. The New York Times's editorial on Friday raised this line of thinking by stating: "At the end of the day, we were left wondering why the nation's chief law-enforcement officer would paint himself as a bumbling fool. Perhaps it's because the alternative is that he is not telling the truth. There is strong evidence that this purge was directed from the White House, and that Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's top political adviser, and Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, were deeply involved."
Either way, subpoenas need to be delivered to the hatchetman-in-chief, Karl Rove, as well as to members of his crew, to gather their sworn public testimony on the matter. It was made clear Thursday that Gonzales wasn't in charge at Justice, and Rove appears likely to have been the man who stood in his stead. Why? That's why we ask questions.