Memo to Fox Fanatics and All Other Defenders of Alberto Gonzales: Your Partisanship is Showing.
Fox News and its talk radio echoes, led by Rush Limbaugh, are among the staunchest defenders of the scandal-plagued Attorney General.
But that defense is not based on conservative values or ideas. Rather, it is a “my-president-right-or-wrong” rallying around an embattled Bush administration. This is old-school, maximum-leader politics, of a sort that places loyalty to a man over loyalty to the truth or to the Republic.
According to Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, “(The) U.S. attorney thing is absurd, a fabricated event designed to hurt the president and make it easier for the Democrats to consolidate their power and elect a president in 2008.”
Fox’s Sean Hannity says the whole scandal is a production of “the mainstream liberal media.”
Apart from the trouble O’Reilly and Hannity have determining whether Gonzales’ problems are a Democratic scheme or a media production, they are at least on point when it comes to repeating the official line from the White House. That line holds that someone other than Alberto Gonzales is to blame for Alberto Gonzales’ problems.
But that’s not what genuine conservatives are saying.
The Fox personalities and their buddies on the AM dial may be reading talking points. But they are not reading conservative talking points. Some of the most right-wing members of the House and Senate — led by New Hampshire Senator John Sununu (Lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 93.2)– have called on the attorney general to step down.
In recent days, key rank-and-file Republicans in the House have begun calling for Gonzales to leave. These members form the political backbone of the conservative movement.
They feel betrayed by Gonzales — and, though they will not always say so publicly, by a Bush administration that has treats Congress will so little respect that it would dismiss the Attorney General’s lies as matters demanding nothing more than “clarification.”
Consider the comments of Nebraska Republican Lee Terry.
Terry had been a Gonzales defender. But after the attorney general tried to claim on Friday that he had been aware his staff was drawing up plans for the firings — even though top Justice Department aides are testifying that Gonzales was actively engaged in the process — Terry said, “I trusted him before, but I can’t now.”
Before Gonzales began mounting a “defense” that actually make him appear to be more guilty of abusing his authority and lying to Congress, Terry explains, “My views were that this was Democrat posturing and a witch hunt.”
Now, Terry says, “My trust in him in that position has taken a hit because of these contradictory statements by him.”
The bottom line from the Republican congressman on Gonzales: “Frankly, until these statements came out that contradicted his first statement, I was backing him, saying that he shouldn’t resign. Now I think that he should.”