Assuming that Attorney General Gonzalez testimony today was true and not misquoted, misconstrued and misunderstood by every news outlet reporting on it, George Bush may have crossed the line from ballsy to foolhardy.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, a Republican from Pennsylvania, pressed Attorney General Gonzales about why lawyers from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility were blocked from looking into the program.
Specter: “Highly classified, very important, but many other lawyers in the department [of Justice] had clearance [to know about it]. Why not OPR [Office of Professional Responsibility]?”
Gonzales: “And the President of the United States makes decisions about who is ultimately given access.”
Specter: “Did the president make the decision not to clear OPR?”
Gonzales: “As with all decisions that are non-operational in terms of who has access to the program, the President of the United States makes the decision.”
Ordering a program that comes close enough to illegal that even an idiot should have expected widespread bipartisan opposition is ballsy. Ordering a coverup by personally denying security clearances for members of the Justice Department he controls is borderline insane. It also seems to indicate that the President may have believed there was something to fear even from an investigation run by the Attorney General in his pocket, perhaps even that he believed the program was illegal. Mr. Bush may finally have backed his supporters into a corner where we can no longer say that he’s on the right side of the law and he may have done it in a way that will damage the Republican Party as badly as Watergate if we insist on backing this play. The only way out at this point may well be a much more open and independent investigation, which will likely be much more damaging to the operational effectiveness of the program.