BUSH DIGGING IN HIS HEELS ON TESTIMONY BY TOP AIDES
Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel 03/23/2007 WASHINGTON
"Ever since Republicans lost control of Congress, President Bush has known a fight like this could come.
The battle over the congressional inquiry into the firing of federal prosecutors is not one of Bush's choosing. But now that it has been thrust upon him, Bush is defiantly refusing to allow Karl Rove and other top aides to testify publicly in an inquiry into the firing of federal prosecutors, and standing by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
In doing so, the president is sending a message to Democrats on Capitol Hill. He may be a lame duck and his poll numbers may be down, but he will protect those closest to him, defend his presidential powers and run his White House the way he sees fit in his remaining 22 months in office.
"George W. Bush will rue the day if he lets Al Gonzales go," said Ari Fleischer, Bush's former press secretary, "because that will be the first scalp that the Democrats on the Hill will gather and collect, and then the door will then be opened to show that if you can put enough pressure on President Bush, anybody can go. This is a crucial first test."
Bush is also waging what he views as an even bigger war over presidential prerogatives. He has moved aggressively to expand presidential powers -- asserting authority to eavesdrop on Americans without court warrants and try suspected terrorists before military tribunals. To avoid divulging the membership of Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force, the administration even went to the Supreme Court. One Republican friend of Bush's said the president is trying to "take back control," adding, "he's pretty angry."
That was evident Tuesday evening in a news conference. It was held in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, but there was little diplomacy about it. A defiant Bush made clear that he was not going to allow Democrats on Capitol Hill to spend the rest of his term "dragging White House members up there to score political points, or put the klieg lights on."
Bush has offered to let Rove and three other officials, including Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, be interviewed by lawmakers, but only in private, without transcripts, and not under oath -- conditions that are not acceptable to Democrats. A Senate committee on Thursday approved three subpoenas to top administration officials, including Rove.
Bush says he's willing to go to court. Fleischer said Bush is convinced that presidential powers have eroded since Watergate, and that it is his duty to restore them for his successors.
"This is the White House that, under his leadership, didn't give up the energy records and took a beating for it," he said. "He's willing to lose the politics of these things, because he does have a longer view of the powers of the presidency and what it takes to protect them."
The president is all the more passionate about this particular fight because of the men at the center of it: Rove and Gonzales. Both have been part of the president's inner circle since his days as the governor of Texas. When Bush recently had a rare dinner out, he went to Rove's house, where the man who has been dubbed "Bush's Brain" served game from a recent hunting trip. "