Identity Theft? Gonzales Might Know Something About That

By Dana Milbank
Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It was altogether fitting and proper that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gave a news conference about "combating identity theft" yesterday. His identity as a respectable public servant has been stolen by Republican senators and late-night comics, and -- to the dismay of the former and the delight of the latter -- "Fredo" is fighting to rebuild his good name.

"Mr. Attorney General," began the inevitable first question yesterday, from CNN's Kevin Bohn. "We haven't heard from you since your testimony on Thursday."

"Wasn't that enough?" Gonzales interjected with a smile.

Uh, not quite, General.

True, President Bush announced yesterday that Gonzales's shaky congressional testimony last week about the U.S. attorneys scandal had only "increased my confidence" in him. But Bush has previously bestowed his "full confidence" on Bernard Kerik, Jerry Bremer, John Ashcroft and George Tenet -- none of whom is now on the job.

What Gonzales may not realize is that his boss's confidence, even if it keeps him in office, won't do much to restore his lost identity. That has been taken from him by the likes of Arlen Specter, top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who said on "Fox News Sunday" that Gonzales's testimony was "very, very damaging to his own credibility." He blamed Gonzales for a "very substantial decrease in morale" at the Justice Department.

His good name has also been stolen by anonymous Republican officials and tacticians, such as the one who told CNN that watching his testimony was like watching the "clubbing of a baby seal." And it has been stolen by the "Gonzo-Meter" on and by Jay Leno, who remarked that when Gonzales swore to tell the truth, "everybody had a good laugh and went back to business."

This new status for the nation's top law enforcement official means he can expect the kind of gang tackle he got yesterday at the identity theft convention at the Federal Trade Commission. Seven television cameras were on hand for the otherwise unremarkable event, as were correspondents from four networks and various newspapers and wire services.

"It's nice to see such a good turnout," a spokeswoman from the FTC announced. "I think this'll be a good event." Gonzales and FTC chief Deborah Platt Majoras emerged four minutes later, spoke for 10 minutes and took questions for eight.

Gonzales smiled broadly as he approached the lectern. So determined was his show of good cheer that he continued smiling even as he proclaimed that identity theft is "a serious problem."

Majoras gave her own lengthy statement, but the cameras continued to click at Gonzales, who blinked rapidly and swallowed frequently. With lenses pointed at him from all directions, he fixed his stare on a distant corner of the room.

Bohn asked about Specter's view that Gonzales's testimony was "very, very damaging."

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