Gonzales faces the music

Arlen Specter tells the attorney general that his job is on the line.

Published April 19, 2007 1:48PM (EDT)

Alberto Gonzales' appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee has just begun, and it looks to be a long day for the attorney general. The attorney general hasn't spoken yet, but the committee's Democratic chairman and ranking Republican member have.

Chairman Patrick Leahy told Gonzales that sworn testimony from other witnesses about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys "contradicts" what the attorney general has told the committee and the American people. He also laid into the attorney general for the Bush administration's refusal to make witnesses available and its efforts to block production of documents the committee has sought. "If there's nothing to hide," Leahy said, "the White House should stop hiding it."

And while there's often a disconnect between the words Arlen Specter says and the actions he ultimately takes, he made it clear to Gonzales that the committee believes his job is on the line. The purpose of today's "reconfirmation" hearing, Specter said, is to determine whether "Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should continue in that capacity." And on that point, Specter said, Gonzales comes to the hearing "with a heavy burden of proof."

By Tim Grieve

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

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