"Mistakes were made", he says, in reference to the US Attorney firing scandal.
Weasel words, if I ever heard them.
Of course, in the same press conference, Gonzales says he stands by the firings. But he also fired the guy who did the firings, his chief of staff.
So, all in all, it’s a little hard to parse. If I had to guess, Gonzales is saying that the way they were fired was a "mistake", but the fact that they were fired (for partisan political reasons) is okay. Unfortunately, nobody is really complaining about the firing process, but the apparenbt political motivations of the firings themselves. The most illuminating example was the firing of Carol Lam, the U.S. Attorney in northern California, who received excellent evaluations, but who had successfully prosecuted Republican congressman Randy Cunningham. Process be damned — why was she fired?
Further troublesome for Gonzales is that when he testified before Congress in January, he was adamant that the Administration had no intention of invoking the provision of the Patriot Act allowing them to replace U.S. Attorneys absent congressional input:
And so let me publicly sort of preempt perhaps a question you’re going to ask me, and that is: I am fully committed, as the administration’s fully committed, to ensure that, with respect to every United States attorney position in this country, we will have a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed United States attorney.
To mix metaphors, Gonzales’ press conference was an attempt to thread a needle — something that is impossible to do when you’re walking on thin ice.
I seriously think his days are numbered.
UPDATE: According to this morning’s Times, The White House is turning on him:
With Democrats, including the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, insisting that Mr. Gonzales step down, his appearance underscored what two Republicans close to the Bush administration described as a growing rift between the White House and the attorney general. Mr. Gonzales has long been a confidant of the president but has aroused the ire of lawmakers of both parties on several issues, including the administration’s domestic eavesdropping program.
The two Republicans, who spoke anonymously so they could share private conversations with senior White House officials, said top aides to Mr. Bush, including Fred F. Fielding, the new White House counsel, were concerned that the controversy had so damaged Mr. Gonzales’s credibility that he would be unable to advance the White House agenda on sensitive national security matters, including terrorism prosecutions.
I really think there’s a serious estrangement between the White House and Alberto now," one of the Republicans said.
UPDATE: Yup, I was right:
Bush says the problem wasn’t with the sackings, but with the unclear way Justice and Alberto explained them to Congress. The fact that he used the Patriot Act for political rather than national security reasons to get around Congress doesn’t seem to trouble him.
To Bush, they simply didn’t spin it well enough.