- The Washington Times - Monday, May 21, 2007

President Bush yesterday 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 at a press conference at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, with NATO Secretary-General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer.

The president made his passionate defense of Mr. Gonzales just days after the attorney general, a longtime associate and friend of Mr. Bush, 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 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.

Yesterday, 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. attorneys’ firings has been led by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat.

Mr. Schumer responded to the president’s comments yesterday 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 senators to vote 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 yesterday that no decision had been reached on whether to allow a vote on the no-confidence measure this week.

Mr. Bush implied that the Democrat-controlled Congress was too busy engaging in partisan witch hunts 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 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, dscc.org.

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

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