Having sat through and liveblogged Alberto Gonzales' confirmation hearings, watching a man at that time who made it a point to appear soft-spoken and congenial in order to impress those who would ultimately be responsible for giving him the job of US attorney general, I have to note that the Gonzales' persona I'm witnessing today in front of the senate judiciary committee is one of a desperate but still egotistical man - crossed arms, raised voice, quick talking, combative, defensive, sticking to his belief that all of the US attorneys who have been fired should have been regardless of what anyone else thinks.
He has only one thing going for him: the fact that Bush will most likely keep him on until the end of his term, no matter what. He's The Decider™, after all. It seems that unless Gonzales can be nailed for perjury, he has a get out of the hearings free card, despite the fact that numerous Republicans as well have already expressed the desire to throw him overboard - where he obviously belongs.
What's come out of the hearing thus far is the very strong opinion that even if there isn't any evidence of political motives for the attorneys' firings on Gonzales' part (and few believe there isn't), Gonzales' performance - the very thing he claims the attorneys were fired for - has been so incompetent and has so damaged the image of the justice department that he should resign for those reasons alone. Americans of every stripe have a very staunch belief in tradition and honour and both Democrats and Republicans on the committee have stated that Gonzales' behaviour has tarnished the office.
Gonzales' very questionable ethics and practices have been on view internationally since it was revealed that, as Bush's White House counsel, he found legal loopholes to justify torture. He should never have been confirmed as US Attorney General in the first place, but the Republicans and the president got their way. Those who voted for his confirmation share responsibility for what is happening today. As with so many decisions made when the Republicans controlled congress, necessitating major damage control and new investigations by the Democrats who now hold power, Gonzales' situation is endemic of the corruption inherent in narrow-minded partisan politics.
He's no scapegoat - he's a symbol of blind fealty to skewed political principles and is a reflection of the hubris and arrogance so in evidence since Bush became president: the trashing of the constitution, the refusal to comply with international treaties and courts, the sanctioning of secret kidnappings, prisons and torture practices, the belief that this administration is above the law - any law which doesn't suit its political purposes.
Bush knew exactly what he was doing when he nominated Gonzales - a man whose legal mind he has known since the days of his tenure as governor in Texas. Bush knew Gonzales would be his yes man - a person who would find ways to skirt laws to further Bush's agenda. He's not going to let go of him now. Unfortunately, today's hearings will serve as nothing but political theatre in the end. That's symbolic of the entire Bush presidency: the theatre of the absurd where the court jesters are the stars.
CSPAN has video archives and live coverage of the hearings.
Specter vs. Gonzales -- Round 1 (Video at Crooks and Liars.)
Gonzales Defends Actions on U.S. Attorney Firings
Gonzales: Criticism Damages DoJ Employees (Video of Dick Durbin's questioning of Gonzales.)
Video of Patrick Leahy's opening statement.
Gonzales' opening statement. (.pdf file)
More updates as they come in... by the way, I heard a reporter on CSPAN after the morning's testimony say that Gonzales said "I don't recall" 55 times. By the end of the day, I'm sure he'll have set a new world record.