A Real Hoot-a-Toot-Toot from Snark-Snappy Arlen Specter
McNickle, Colin, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Apparently what's good for the Specter is not so good for the Gonzales. As in Sen. Arlen Specter and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, that is.
Mr. Specter, full of interruptions and accusations, could hardly wipe the smirk off of his snarlin' Arlen face Thursday as he finally got to take his face-to-face public potshots at Mr. Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee. And the mission of the five-term Pennsylvanian, the committee's ranking Republican member, was clear from the outset:
= To either get the attorney general to contradict past statements about his level of participation in perfectly legal firings of eight U.S. attorneys and further damage his credibility already eroded by the admittedly sloppy execution and public explanation of those firings;
= Or to force him to admit he was an out-of-touch supervisor (versus a delegator who trusted his lieutenants) who had poor control of his department and its charges, somebody who might have even "fallen victim" to the supposedly overzealous actions of one or two or three rogue underlings doing the "political bidding" of, if not the White House, that horrible, horrible man named Karl Rove.
Of course, Specter got things off to a snark-snappy start by stating a false premise:
"The purpose of this Senate oversight hearing is to determine this committee's judgment as to whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should continue in that capacity," Specter said in opening remarks. "This is a reconfirmation hearing."
Never mind that's not the way the confirmation of Cabinet members works; once you're confirmed, as Gonzales was two years ago, you're in, babe, until the president says you're out.
That said, the Judiciary Committee could vote to recommend a full Senate impeachment trial against the attorney general -- if the House of Representatives had voted any articles of impeachment and transmitted them to the upper chamber.
Don't recall that happening, do you? And on what grounds, pray tell, would an impeachment be based? Exercising a clear and legal presidential prerogative in a perhaps muddy but still legal matter?
Just to reiterate that salient fact here -- federal prosecutors serve at the sole pleasure of the president. You can be dismissed for anything from not being with the administration's program to having a sloppy knot in your tie or a runner in your stockings.
And, oh, yes, so much for Specter's fealty to the separation of powers doctrine: He wants to run the Justice Department, serve as its inspector general, then sit as grand jury, prosecutor and judge and trial jury. Whew! …