"He's our No. 1 crime fighter"

As Republicans jump ship, the White House stands by Alberto Gonzales.

Published April 20, 2007 7:16PM (EDT)

Republican Sen. Tom Coburn called on Alberto Gonzales to resign in the midst of the attorney general's appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday. Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions waited until it was over. "There are some problems that he just hasn't handled well," Sessions told the Associated Press. "It might just be best if he came to a conclusion that the department is better served if he's not there."

At least two other Senate Republicans have called for Gonzales' departure, and a few more Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee gave every signal Thursday that they wouldn't be disappointed to see the attorney general go. In the House, both Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Adam Putnam, chairman of the House Republican Caucus, said today that Gonzales should be history.

So how's it going at the White House? At today's White House press briefing -- conducted on Air Force One en route to Michigan -- Dana Perino had this to say about the new calls for Gonzales to step aside:

"There is no doubt that there were many members from both sides of the aisle who had expressed frustration over the confusing remarks from the initial responses on this matter. And that frustration had built up over many weeks. The president believes that the attorney general answered all of their questions honestly and forthrightly. I can understand there are some people who still don't want to support the attorney general; that is their right. But he has done a fantastic job at the Department of Justice. He is our No. 1 crime fighter. He has done so much to help keep this country safe from terrorists. He has worked determinately to prevent predators from attacking our children. He has worked -- they have a fantastic record of fighting corruption in government and in keeping gang violence off our streets.

"And I could go on and on" -- no really, Dana, please do -- "but I think that following the hearing and following the tension that was in the room, I think on this new day I think -- hopefully people will be able to take a step back, realize that there was no credible evidence of wrongdoing, that the attorney general has apologized for how it was handled, and that he has a job to do, and he's been doing it very well. And the president has full confidence in him."

Next question from the White House press corps: "Dana, has the president spoken with Paul Wolfowitz over the last couple weeks?" "No, not that I'm aware of," Perino said. "And there's no change -- the president still has confidence in him."

And two questions after that: "Does the president ever get tired of having to express his full confidence in the people around him these days?" Perino's response: "When you're president of the United States and you have this many folks that you are employing, it's a pretty small number that he's had to express full confidence in."

Thank God for small miracles. Or, as we were just saying, "Make sure the rug says 'optimistic person comes to work.'"

By Tim Grieve

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

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