Week in Review: GOP Woes

A difficult week for Republicans began with the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and continued with Sen. John Warner's announcement that he will retire when his term is up in early 2009. Now the resignation of Sen. Larry Craig is expected.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

And it has been vexing week for the Republicans starting with the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Monday and ended with Friday's announcement by Virginia Senator John Warner that he will retire when his term is up. And, of course, there's been the controversy surrounding Senator Craig's arrest in Minneapolis.

NPR's senior analyst Dan Schorr is here.

Hello, Dan.

DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: And let's begin with the attorney general announcing his resignation on Monday.

SCHORR: Of course.

SIMON: Mr. Gonzales, of course, had been the subject of a number of congressional investigations and of the firing of U.S. attorneys and the warrantless wiretapping program. How will his resignation affect the resolution of any of these issues?

SCHORR: He is the center of these investigations. So now, the inspector general is conducting a series of investigations, mainly in two areas. One has to do with the nine U.S. attorneys who were fired and whether there was wrongful political influence involved in that.

And the other was the NSA and its surveillance program and wiretapping. And whether and or not he told untruths in connection when explaining all these to the Senate.

SIMON: How does it affect his position in terms of being compelled to give testimony if he's out of office? Or how does it affect the public perception of this closeness to the administration?

SCHORR: Oh, I think that a subpoena is a subpoena. He'll be in office until the middle of September, and I don't know how much they can do. But if the inspector general says they have to report to the Senate, they can ask him or they can subpoena him. I mean, you don't have to be in office in order to be subject to a subpoena.

Let me just mention, by the way, I find it so interesting that Gonzales have announced his departure on Monday. It was with his lie in office because it had been decided between him and President Bush on Friday that he would resign, it would be announced on Monday. But over the weekend, rumors began to spread, and in one case the New York Times called and asked for confirmation, and was told, on the authority of the attorney general, that he was not resigning.

What a way to go. And that was the way he went.

SIMON: Of course, there's been the publicity this week surrounding the arrest of Senator Larry Craig of Idaho at the Minneapolis airport. We're going to set aside all the jokes about toe tapping that I think we've all heard what everybody else has heard this week.

The Republicans in the Congress were particularly quick, a number of them were outspoken in calling for his resignation. This can't be a good issue with which to begin the campaign season.

SCHORR: No, it isn't at all. You know, when it comes to the Republicans and Larry Craig, the real question is not whether or not they're going to lose a seat in the Senate. We don't - won't know that for a long, long time. But we -you have to remember the Republicans have always called themselves a party of values, family values. And if the party of values has an attorney general who's forced out of office simply because he has not respected those values himself, and if Larry Craig then follows him in his tracks because his suggestions are from a sexual behavior in the men's room, that's about as far as I'm going to go. However his life turns out, however that seat in the Senate turns out, what's very hard for the Republicans is how they go around now saying, we are the party of values?

SIMON: You think that family values is somehow raised by the Gonzales resignation or Mr. Gonzales' conduct in office?

SCHORR: Not to the extent of Larry Craig. Well, yes, this is a question of the attorney general occupying this hallowed position and then finds out that he's accused of lying, accused of plenty of untruths. Well, my notion of values would say that's a problem.

SIMON: Senator John Warner of Virginia announced Friday he's resigning at the end of his term, a very respected man within the Senate and would have been considered a safe bet for reelection. How does his departure affect any chances the Republican Party has to win back the Senate in 2008?

SCHORR: Well, I don't want to make a prediction of what happens in the election, but let me say what happens with regard to Senator Warner now. He's been 30 years as senator. He is terribly well respected within the party. He has been the chief spokesman on matters of defense. When the president needs somebody to fight for some defense bill, appropriation, authorization and so on, there is John Warner. And it is his prestige that they are losing, which may be more important than whether they lose a seat.

SIMON: Let me ask, Senators Clinton and Obama have both had to return contributions from, at least, one Democrat fundraiser named Norman Hsu, who, in fact, turned himself in to authorities this week in California.

SCHORR: Yes. After 15 years.

SIMON: After 15 years. A couple of questions: He apparently has contributed a fairly impressive amount of money above and beyond the limitations of the campaign finance law but done it all legally.

SCHORR: That appears to be true. No, the illegality was not the giving the money that...

SIMON: But how do you that with campaign finance laws? How do you contribute thousands of dollars to some of the camps?

SCHORR: At some front-door organization or one sort of another, nonprofits, there are many ways to give money, more than ways to get money.

SIMON: In this case, there were allegations about a number of people living -have reportedly living at the same address?

SCHORR: The important thing is whether this affects the Hillary Clinton campaign. Up to now, she's been able to say, and apparently without contradiction, that she knew nothing about this and that the money that he gave is being turned back or given to charity. Whether that becomes a problem, I do not know.

I find it fascinating, however, that this guy would be giving money to a Clinton when who knows, someday he may be able to get a pardon.

SIMON: Thanks very much, Dan Schorr.

SCHORR: Sure thing.

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