George W. Bush said this morning that Alberto Gonzales answered questions from the U.S. Senate last week "in a way that increased my confidence in his ability to do the job." We'd say here that the president might be the only person in America whose confidence in Gonzales increased after watching him testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. But that wouldn't be right. The president, it turns out, didn't actually see Gonzales' testimony.
From today's White House press briefing:
Reporter: The fact of the matter is that, after the testimony, you could crawl all over this town -- I'm not just talking about the Jon Stewarts of the world, the late-night comics; I'm talking about Republican senators and congressmen and women, who were saying, "You know what, the attorney general has no credibility; he did a lousy job on Capitol Hill yesterday." And now the president seems to be the only one saying, "You know what? He's doing a fantastic job."
Dana Perino: Look, I understand that there are people who disagree, who are not supportive of the attorney general. The president is. He appreciates the work that he's done to combat terrorism and to protect children from predators and to stamp out corruption in government. And the president stands by him ...
Reporter: But did the president actually see the testimony?
Perino: He got regular updates from us while we were on the road. We were on the road that day on the way to Ohio.
Reporter: Can you say he has increased confidence if he got updates from other people -- he didn't actually see the testimony himself ...
Perino: I think he got updates from it. And I think he saw some news coverage of it later that day.
Reporter: But, as Jim noted, I mean, Arlen Specter yesterday said that it was "very, very damaging to [Gonzales'] own credibility." So what did the president see -- he didn't see the testimony. But what did he hear ...
Perino: What the president knows is that the attorney general was -- answered honestly, truthfully and was as responsive to Congress as he could possibly be during hours of testimony, and in turning over all the documents and in making people that work for him available to the Congress in order to answer their questions.
Asked a bit later whether Bush expects Gonzales to stay on through the end of his term, Perino said, "The president hopes so."