Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sampson Outs Gonzales

The question before this House is rather simple. It's not about sex ... The matter before the House is lying under oath. This is called perjury. ... (Perjury) cannot be reconciled with the office of the president of the United States ... The people's trust has been betrayed.

- Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) quoted in a Dec. 19, 1998 CNN article on why he voted for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton

If you saw smoke rising in the air today, it might have come directly from a gun in the U.S. Capitol. In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kyle Sampson, the former chief of staff to (soon to be ex-?) Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, according to an AP/Yahoo! article, said, "I don't think the attorney general's statement that he was not involved in any discussions of U.S. attorney removals was accurate."

Clearly, all the Senate Republicans will immediately demand Gonzales's resignation. And, if he refuses, the House Republicans will bring impeachment charges against him with immediate effect. Yes, I wrote "Republicans." After all, as the quote at the top of this piece illustrates, it was less than nine years ago that the GOP demanded Clinton's resignation for lying under oath about his sexual activities. Clearly, if lying about sex in a deposition relating to a sexual harassment case is grounds for dismissal or impeachment, falsely telling a Senate committee that you had nothing to do with firing eight U.S. attorneys when, in fact, you were one of the two people who actually made the decision is the basis for dismissal and, what? A public flogging? A prison cell in Gitmo? Forced viewing of an "According to Jim" marathon?

Of course, I do not expect the Republicans to treat Gonzales the way they treated Clinton, but if Sampson's statement is true, I don't see how Gonzales can avoid being asked for his resignation.

According to the AP/Yahoo! article, Sampson said, "The decision makers in this case were the attorney general and the counsel to the president." The Republicans have been playing down the Gonzales scandal, saying it is much ado about nothing, with no evidence of wrongdoing. Well, maybe (and I do mean maybe) there was no illegal activity in the actual removal of the U.S. attorneys. But, on the post-firings machinations, as to how Gonzales handled questions from Congress, Sampson, much to the chagrin of those saying the Democrats in the Senate were overreacting, provided the smoking gun. If Sampson is telling the truth, the attorney general lied when he said he was not involved.

As I wrote yesterday, Bush has spent six years with no Congressional oversight, allowing him to do whatever he wanted with no checks on his actions. Part and parcel of that attitude of entitlement is the feeling that members of the administration can give any explanation they want to get out of a sticky situation. Only, with the Democrats now in control of Congress, the old ways of lying and evading to divert attention from other lies and misdoings no longer work. Even the Scooter Libby trial taught the administration nothing, since Libby was their fall guy. His conviction (and future pardon, of course) was the plan to make sure the vice president and Karl Rove would not be held responsible for the deplorable outing of Valerie Plame.

No, Sampson's testimony today, if true, will be a watershed moment in the Bush presidency: The day the administration was finally busted for thinking it could do and say what it wanted with no repercussions. Unless the administration can come up with a plausible case that Sampson is lying, Gonzales's support among Republicans will become as weak as Bush's Iraq plan.

If true, Sampson's testimony will be the first true dent in the Bush administration's armor of invincibility. If they don't change their ways, there will be many more to come. After all, Bush has another 663 days in office. Unless Henry Hyde comes after him when he's caught lying.