By: E&P Staff
Lovitz or leave it? Andrew Cohen, who writes the Bench Conference online column for The Washington Post, thought he was watching an old Saturday Night Live skit on Tuesday in viewing Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ latest appearance before Congress.
Here is an excerpt from the column which followed, at www.washingtonpost.com, along with a bit of the transcript cited by Cohen.
No reasonable person watching Gonzales’ tragically comedic performance Tuesday’s on Capitol Hill– especially his miserable exchange with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in late morning– can any longer defend his appalling lack of competence, courage and credibility. And no one who hears him say that he is what’s best for the Department right now should forget that on the eve of his testimony (and a few days after he urged his subordinates to work diligently to regain their morale) the nation’s top law enforcement official reportedly left work early to go for a bike ride Monday afternoon– at about 3:50 p.m.
I am running out of words to describe how inept this public servant is and how awful is the message our government sends to the nation and to the world by allowing him to continue to represent us. So I’ll just turn it over to Sen. Schumer. Here is part of the exchange between the two….
SCHUMER: How can we — this is constant, sir, in all due respect with you. You constantly make statements that are clear on their face that you’re deceiving the committee. And then you go back and say, “Well, I corrected the record two days later.” How can we trust your leadership when the basic facts about serious questions that have been in the spotlight, you just constantly change the story, seemingly to fit your needs to wiggle out of being caught, frankly, telling mistruths? It’s clear here. It’s clear. One program. That’s what you just said to me. That’s what locks this in. Because before that, you were, sort of, alluding — in your letter to me on May 17th, you said, “Well, there was one program,” — you said there was the program, TSP, and then there were other intelligence activities.
GONZALES: That’s correct.
SCHUMER: You wanted us to go away and say, “Well, maybe it was other” — wait a second, sir. Wait a second.
GONZALES: And the disagreements related to other intelligence activities.
SCHUMER: I’ll let you speak in a minute, but this is serious, because you’re getting right close to the edge right here.
You just said there was just one program — just one. So the letter, which was, sort of, intended to deceive, but doesn’t directly do so, because there are other intelligence activities, gets you off the hook, but you just put yourself right back on here.
GONZALES: I clarified my statement two days later with the reporter.
SCHUMER: What did you say to the reporter?
GONZALES: I did not speak directly to the reporter.
SCHUMER: Oh, wait a second — you did not.
OK. What did your spokesperson say to the reporter?
GONZALES: I don’t know. But I told the spokesperson to go back and clarify my statement…
SCHUMER: Well, wait a minute, sir. Sir, with all due respect — and if I could have some order here, Mr. Chairman — in all due respect, you’re just saying, “Well, it was clarified with the reporter,” and you don’t even know what he said. You don’t even know what the clarification is. Sir, how can you say that you should stay on as attorney general when we go through exercise like this, where you’re bobbing and weaving and ducking to avoid admitting that you deceived the committee? And now you don’t even know. I’ll give you another chance: You’re hanging your hat on the fact that you clarified the statement two days later. You’re now telling us that is was a spokesperson who did it. What did that spokesperson say? Tell me now, how do you clarify this?
GONZALES: I don’t know, but I’ll find out and get back to you.