LawFuel – The New York Times reports that despite Alberto Gonzales’ bumbling congressional testimony and the quiet moans it provoked from the White House, President Bush yesterday remained committed to his beleaguered attorney general.
“They were unhappy with his performance and embarrassed by it,” said a Republican source with West Wing ties, “but for the moment, they’re hanging in there, and he might survive.”
Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.), third-ranking House Republican, told CNN it was time for Gonzales to quit, a view also held by many Republican senators.
But deputy press secretary Dana Perino said Bush called Gonzales after returning from a trip to Ohio on Thursday in a fresh show of support for his longtime Texas friend.
“The attorney general continues to have the President’s full confidence,” Perino said. “He has done a fantastic job at the Department of Justice. He is our No. 1 crimefighter.”
For a witness who claimed to have prepared intensively for Thursday’s Senate hearing over fired U.S. attorneys, Gonzales had usually loyal Republicans sputtering over his evasiveness, memory loss and generally lame showing.
“It was awful,” one top GOP source complained. “About the worst I’ve ever seen.”
A colleague who often confers with the White House added, “He was inept, pathetic.”
Justice Department officials taking the glass-half-full view wouldn’t call their boss’ showing a total fiasco, but “nobody’s running around saying, ‘We’re safe,’ either,” an insider said.
Some Gonzales aides were relieved there was no smoking gun or gotcha moment, but “obviously it didn’t go well,” the source said, specifically citing the AG’s damaging admission that he consulted with Bush political architect Karl Rove.
Despite Bush’s embrace, Gonzales’ future appears to hinge on whether key GOP senators who believe he has shredded his credibility go beyond the public spanking they gave him Thursday and demand his resignation.