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Monica's Own Monica Problem

Monica Goodling, under fire.
Monica Goodling, under fire. (By Mark Wilson -- Getty Images)

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By Dana Milbank
Thursday, May 24, 2007

In Alberto Gonzales's Justice Department, Democrats and liberals who were denied civil service jobs were said to have a "Monica Problem."

After yesterday's House Judiciary Committee hearing, the Justice Department has a Monica Problem of its own.

The source of the metastasizing Monica Problem (not to be confused with the previous president's Monica Problem) is Monica Goodling, a graduate of Pat Robertson's law school who was the Justice Department's enforcer of partisan purity until she resigned and investigations began. In a full day of testimony, she accused the No. 2 Justice official of giving false testimony to Congress, implied that Gonzales himself had improperly tried to influence her testimony, and generally described Gonzales's Justice Department as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican National Committee.

"I may have gone too far in asking political questions of applicants for career positions," the trembling young witness told the committee after securing immunity from prosecution for her testimony. "I may have taken inappropriate political considerations into account on some occasions."

"Was that legal?" demanded Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.). Under the witness table, Goodling wrung her hands and rubbed her bracelet. She drew a deep breath. "I know I crossed the line," she admitted.

So, apparently, did Paul McNulty, who has already announced his resignation as deputy attorney general. Goodling said he was "not fully candid" in his testimony to Congress about the White House's role in the replacement of U.S. attorneys.

And speaking of line crossers, there was that "uncomfortable" meeting when Gonzales seemed to be trying to coach Goodling's testimony. Days before she resigned, the attorney general presented his version of the firings ("Let me tell you what I remember") and asked for her reaction. "I didn't know that it was maybe appropriate," Goodling said.

Republicans must have known they had a problem on their hands, for they moved with dispatch to create diversions. Rep. Chris Cannon (Utah) opted to read into the record a lengthy editorial comparing Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Pa.) to Tony Soprano. Rep. Dan Lundgren (Calif.) delivered a 250-word speech praising his own glorious service as his state's attorney general.

The only break Republicans got all day came from a neophyte Democrat on the committee, Steve Cohen (Tenn.), who decided to poke fun at the educational pedigree of Goodling, Regent University law school Class of '99 ("top 10.5 percent of class," reported her résumé).

"The mission of the law school you attended, Regent, is to bring to bear upon legal education and the legal profession the will of almighty God," he said. "What is the will of almighty God, our creator, on the legal profession?"

"I'm not sure that I could define that question for you," Goodling answered.

Cohen continued: "Are you aware of the fact that in your graduating class, 50 to 60 percent of the students failed the bar the first time?"


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