- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2007

Several leading Republicans added their voices to the ongoing criticism of embattled Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales this past weekend, but most stopped short of calling for his resignation.

“The attorney general’s testimony was very, very damaging to his own credibility. It has been damaging to the administration,” said Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “No doubt, it is bad for the Department of Justice. It is harmful. There has been a very substantial decrease in morale. There’s no doubt about that.”

However, Mr. Specter, who last week told Mr. Gonzales that his appearance before the committee was in effect a second confirmation hearing, declined to say if the attorney general should lose his job.

“I do not think that it is appropriate for me to call for his resignation,” Mr. Specter told “Fox News Sunday.” “I don’t challenge anybody else who wants to do it. But my own mind-set is to leave it up to the attorney general and the president.”

Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, also deferred to the White House despite criticizing Mr. Gonzales. “I think he can survive, and the opinion that matters here is the president of the United States, the attorney general himself,” Mr. Brownback, who is seeking his party’s 2008 presidential nomination, told CNN’s “Late Edition.”

“I think he has problems, but if he has the confidence of the president, I really think it’s probably time to move on.”

Nonetheless, a growing number of conservative leaders have called for Mr. Gonzales to be fired or resign after what many have called a disappointing appearance on Capitol Hill.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is also considering a 2008 presidential campaign targeting conservative voters, strongly criticized Mr. Gonzales and the Bush administration during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” yesterday.

“I think it’s very clear to any reasonable person that an entirely new team at the Justice Department would be better for America, would be better for President Bush, and the sooner that happens, the better,” said Mr. Gingrich, Georgia Republican. “I think that it is a tremendous mistake which this administration has made on several occasions to have personal loyalty transcend service to the nation.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy said he thought the mounting pressure from both parties would push Mr. Gonzales out.

“I don’t think he can be effective,” the Vermont Democrat told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Several conservatives previously have expressed disappointment with Mr. Gonzales, a longtime political ally and personal friend of the president’s.

On Friday, Rep. Adam H. Putnam of Florida became the first top House Republican to call for Mr. Gonzales to resign. “I think that they would be well served by fresh leadership,” Mr. Putnam told CNN.

At least six other House Republicans have called for Mr. Gonzales’ ouster.

Four Senate Republicans have called on Mr. Gonzales to resign: Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Gordon H. Smith of Oregon and John E. Sununu of New Hampshire.

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