Bubble or bunker?

The White House says the president is "pleased" with Alberto Gonzales' Senate testimony.

Published April 20, 2007 1:45PM (EDT)

By the end of Alberto Gonzales' turn before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer was proclaiming that every Democrat on the committee believes that the attorney general should resign. And, he said, "if you sort of went inside the brain of every Republican on this committee, there might be one who thinks he should stay, even though ... not everyone of them has said it."

Schumer may be guilty of a little hyperbole; while Republican Sen. Tom Coburn called for Gonzales' resignation Thursday, and while every other Republican on the committee except for Orrin Hatch expressed some level of unhappiness with the attorney general, we really don't know whether they all think he ought to go. But by any measure, it was a bad day for Gonzales -- the National Review's Byron York called it "disastrous" -- and you'd think that the president would be thinking twice about his ongoing support for someone who is now plainly damaged goods.

Or not.

In a statement from the White House Thursday evening, Dana Perino said that George W. Bush still has "full confidence" in Gonzales. "President Bush was pleased with the attorney general's testimony today," Perino said, adding that Gonzales had "again showed that nothing improper occurred" in the firing of U.S. attorneys last year by providing "thousands of pages of documents" and giving "hours of testimony in which he answered all of the senators' questions."

Perino didn't mention that the White House is still blocking attempts to obtain documents related to the firings -- especially e-mails sent on private, RNC-owned accounts. And in her mind, "answering" a question must mean nothing more than making sounds after one is asked. While it is true that Gonzales neither took the Fifth nor stormed out of the room when questions were put to him Thursday, it's also true that he responded to senators' questions with either "I don't remember" or "I don't recall" more than 50 times over the course of the day. That means that a lot of senators' questions about the prosecutor purge have not, in fact, been "answered" in any meaningful sense of the word. First and foremost among them: Who put the names of U.S. attorneys on the list to be fired in the first place?

By Tim Grieve

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

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