CBS Gives Full Air Time to Attorney Firing Critics

CBS continues to pound away the US attorney firings story. On the March 16th edition of "The Early Show," reporter Bill Plante lead his story stating "the hole just keeps getting deeper." Plante then played a sound bite from Democratic hyper partisan Senators Chuck Schumer at Patrick Leahy. After playing a few clips of White House staffers Karl Rove and Tony Snow, they hyped Republicans calling for their resignation, touting Senator Gordon Smith and playing a sound bite of Representative Dana Rohrabacher implying Gonzales should go.

Anchor Harry Smith sought some expert opinion from Republican strategist Ed Rollins and Democratic strategist Mike Feldman. Fair and balanced debate? Not from what Mr. Rollins said from the start.

HARRY SMITH: Ed, let me start with you. Alberto Gonzales, two questions, should he stay or should he go?

ED ROLLINS: It certainly isn't the president's prerogative, but I would argue that he should go. Think at this point in time they're losing support among Republican Senators by the day. And the president desperately needs their support.

The transcript from the story is below.

HARRY SMITH: There are growing signs that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales could lose his job for his handling of the firing of those eight US attorneys. CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante is live at the White House with the latest. Good morning, Bill.

BILL PLANTE: Good morning, Harry. The hole just keeps getting deeper. New e-mails released last night by the Justice Department showed that while Gonzales was still the White House counsel in late '04 and early '05, he was involved in a discussion about getting rid of 15 to 20 percent of the US attorneys. And White House counselor Karl Rove was also involved in that discussion.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Well, it shows he certainly had the idea, firing US attorneys. It shows that the White House statements that he wasn't involved are false.

PLANTE: The e-mail quotes Rove as asking a White House lawyer in January 2005 "how we planned to proceed regarding US attorneys, whether we were going to allow all to stay, request resignations from all, or selectively replace them." Rove defended the firings and dismissed the outrage as partisanship.

KARL ROVE: This, to my mind is a lot of politics. And I understand that's what Congress has a right to play around with, and they're going to do it.

PLANTE: The Senate Judiciary Committee authorized subpoenas for five Justice Department officials, even though Attorney General Gonzales has said they will testify. But action on subpoenas for former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and for Rove has been postponed until next week as negotiations continue between the White House and Congress.

SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): We now have strong reason to believe that despite the earlier protestations to the contrary, Karl Rove and political operatives at the White House and for the Republican party played a role.

PLANTE: The attorney general says he will testify and the president is still publicly supportive.

TONY SNOW: The president has confidence in the attorney general. He's made that clear both privately to the attorney general. He made it clear yesterday in the press conference.

PLANTE: But a second Republican Senator, Oregon's Gordon Smith, has now urged Gonzales to step down, as did GOP House member Dana Rohrabacher.

REP DANA ROHRABACHER (R-CA): Maybe the president should have an attorney general who is less a personal friend and more professional in his approach.

PLANTE: The public may be-- I mean the president may be publicly supportive, but influential Republicans around the White House are less so. They say he's finished, he's a problem, he has to go. Harry.

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