The Alberto Gonzales defense

The attorney general says he takes responsibility even if he doesn't think he was responsible.

Published March 13, 2007 6:38PM (EDT)

At a press conference at the Justice Department a few minutes ago, Alberto Gonzales stood by the decision to fire eight U.S. attorneys last year, said "mistakes were made" in misinforming Congress about what really happened, and defended himself twice by saying that he oversees "110,000 employees" and can't be "aware of every bit of information that passes through the halls of Justice."

He's right about that last part. The Justice Department is a huge organization, and there's no way that the attorney general can keep his finger on the pulse of what each of his employees is doing. But the discussions that led to the firing of eight U.S. attorneys last year weren't random snippets of conversation among low-level workers in far-flung offices. They were ongoing talks between Gonzales' own chief of staff and Harriet Miers, the woman who succeeded Gonzales as White House counsel, and they sometimes involved George W. Bush, Karl Rove and Gonzales himself.

So you're right, Attorney General Gonzales. We really can't expect you to know about every little thing that happens at the Justice Department. But it simply defies all credulity that you wouldn't have involved yourself pretty completely in communications between the White House and your own chief of staff about the fate of top federal prosecutors around the country -- and that you and your top deputies wouldn't have educated yourselves pretty thoroughly about that process before heading up to Capitol Hill to testify about it. And if you really didn't do either of those things, then Sen. Chuck Schumer is right: You don't deserve to keep your job.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

MORE FROM Tim Grieve

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Department Of Justice War Room