Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Specter and Gonzales Butt Heads during the Finale...

As someone who watched the entire Judiciary Committee hearings yesterday on C-SPAN, I was struck by the contemptuous tone of Attorney General Gonzales, but never as much as right at the end.

During the hearing, Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter assigned himself the final spot of the of the day of questioning -- bringing him front and center with his last statement as the final word in the argument.

And to support his reasoning that Bush has no authority to spy on Americans, Specter spoke about the significance that in drafting the initial resolution authorizing the president to fight the war on terror, Congress had specifically deleted the words, "in the United States" when referring to the “appropriate force” to be allowed.
"Isn't that a clear indication of congressional intent not to give the president the authority for interceptions in the United States,” asked the senator?
To which Gonzales replied, “Sir, I don't know where that record is to reflect that that actually happened. "
“I think the CRS, Congressional Research Service, said that in the legislative history -- and I may be wrong; it's late -- but I believe that they said there's no record to indicate that that ever occurred, quite frankly."
In other words, Mr. Chairman, you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. You guys may have meant to rein in the president, but you can't prove it from the language in the bill.

A deep, pregnant pause took at least five long seconds before Specter responded, with a disciplined, self-restrained but sharp rebuke. “I don't think you can use the principle of avoiding a tough constitutional conflict by disagreeing with the plain words of the statute.”

I'm reminded of an old professor who told his students to be on the on the look out for people who use the word "frankly" when arguing. To buttress his hobbling, unpersuasive hogwash, Gonzales peppered his testimony throughout the day with good ole "frank."

First-class drama; too bad the transcript didn't do the riveting melodrama justice!

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