- The Washington Times - Monday, May 21, 2007

President Bush today gave his most emphatic declaration of support to date for Alberto R. Gonzales, saying the embattled attorney general has done “nothing wrong” and has become the victim of “political theater.”

“He has got my confidence. He has done nothing wrong,” Mr. Bush said, during a press conference at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, with NATO Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer.

The president’s defense of Mr. Gonzales came just days after the attorney general, a long-time associate and friend, came under renewed pressure to resign from Democrats and a growing number of Republicans.

Mr. Gonzales has admitted mistakes in how he handled the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors last year, and in fact, Mr. Bush has also said that “mistakes were made” by the Justice Department.

But Mr. Bush also said last month that Mr. Gonzales’ testimony before a Senate panel had increased his confidence in the attorney general, despite the fact that many Republicans were skeptical of Mr. Gonzales’ answers.

Today, Mr. Bush went a step further in his attempts to bolster Mr. Gonzales from political attack, saying that he views “what’s taking place in Washington today as pure political theater.”

“And it is this kind of political theater that has caused the American people to lose confidence in how Washington operates,” Mr. Bush said.

The Democratic charge to investigate the U.S. attorney firings has been led by Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat.

Mr. Schumer responded to the president’s comments today with a simply worded statement.

“The president should understand that while he has confidence in Attorney General Gonzales, very few others do,” Mr. Schumer said. “The right thing to do is to replace him with a new attorney general who will restore confidence in the rule of law.”

Mr. Schumer last week announced that he and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, plan to introduce a resolution of no-confidence in Mr. Gonzales on the Senate floor, forcing a vote by every U.S. senator on the question.

Mr. Schumer introduced his resolution after congressional testimony on Tuesday by former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey cast a negative light on Mr. Gonzales’ actions as White House Counsel in 2004.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said today that no decision had been reached on whether to allow a vote on the no confidence measure this week.

Mr. Bush implied that the Democratic-controlled Congress was too busy engaging in partisan witchhunts to do more serious work.

“I stand by Al Gonzales, and I would hope that people would be more sober in how they address these important issues,” the president said. “And they ought to get the job done of passing legislation as opposed to figuring out how to be actors on the political theater stage.”

Mr. Schumer, however, said that “Congress has a right [-] and even an obligation [-] to express its views when things are this serious.”

Mr. Schumer has been criticized for exploiting the Justice Department’s firings for partisan political gain, by the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Arlen Specter, of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Specter accused Mr. Schumer of hypocrisy, because Mr. Schumer chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, a fundraising arm of the party, and information produced by Mr. Schumer’s congressional hearings was being placed on the DSCC Web site.

But Mr. Specter has of late directed all of his criticism at Mr. Gonzales, saying the Justice Department is now “dysfunctional” under his leadership.

Mr. Specter said yesterday that a no-confidence vote would be “a very forceful, historical statement” and predicted that Mr. Gonzales may resign before such a vote is taken.

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