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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Inside the Beltway, official Washington was absorbed today by the unfolding scandal over the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors. After weeks of dueling news conferences, there was testimony under oath today from Kyle Sampson, the former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee want to know what the attorney general knew, when he knew it and which if any of his statements about it are accurate. Plus they want to know about the involvement of the White House, in particular about the role of the president and his chief political adviser, Karl Rove.

We'll listen to a bit of the testimony and ask what kind of impact it might have. David Savage of the Los Angeles Times joins us in just a moment. And a little later we'll go outside the Beltway and talk to some radio/TV show talk show hosts around the country about whether their callers care about this story.

We'll get to that after our first break. So is this a big deal where you live and why? Our number 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK; e-mail talk@npr.org. You can also comment on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation.

Plus later in the show, how to transform a hit Internet video into career success, and if today's hits on YouTube are any indication, you might want to take some dance lessons from Karl Rove. But first, the storm over Gonzales.

Kyle Sampson who resigned as chief of staff to the attorney general earlier this month appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In his opening statement, Sampson said that the eight U.S. attorneys were not asked to resign because any was too eager to investigate Republicans or not eager enough to prosecute Democrats, but because they were not seen as supportive of the priorities of the president and the attorney general.

Mr. KYLE SAMPSON (Former Justice Department Official): The distinction between political and performance-related reasons for removing a U.S. attorney is, in my view, largely artificial. A U.S. attorney who is unsuccessful from a political perspective, either because he or she has alienated the leadership of the department in Washington or cannot work constructively with law enforcement or other governmental constituencies in the district, is unsuccessful.

CONAN: David Savage, legal affairs correspondent of the Los Angeles Times, joins us here in Studio 3A. Always nice to have you on the program, David.

Mr. DAVID SAVAGE (Los Angeles Times): Hi, Neal.

CONAN: Democrats jumped on that statement. Yes, federal prosecutors serve at the pleasure of the president, they said, but they also need prosecutorial independence.

Mr. SAVAGE: Yes. Power to prosecute is one of the really awesome powers in the government. A prosecutor can ruin lives or ruin careers. And we have a system where prosecutors are politically chosen - they are picked by the president, confirmed by the Senate.

But we want to be confident that once in office they're not political. They do not pick who they're going to prosecute. They're not influenced by political considerations. And this whole scandal, such as it is, is sort of getting to that question, is - is were these people fired for political reasons, sort of in the partisan sense of that term?

I thought it was surprising that Kyle Sampson would start out saying that's a largely artificial distinction. I think he means, yes, we wanted prosecutors to follow the president's priorities; for example, bring immigration cases. But he didn't really put to rest the concern that it could have been political in the big P sense of that term, partisan.

CONAN: Yeah. That the, for example, the federal prosecutor in San Diego who was apparently following up on the Duke Cunningham investigation - he is now in prison, of course - that she may have been prosecuted for - or she may have been dismissed for basically pursuing Republicans.

Mr. SAVAGE: Yes. Absolutely. And you know, the prosecutor from New Mexico, David Iglesias, says that Pete Domenici, the Republican senator, and Heather Wilson called him on the phone and said in effect why aren't you moving on bringing charges against Democrats right before the election? That sure sounds political.

CONAN: Heather Wilson, of course, the congresswoman from New Mexico who may hope to succeed Mr. Domenici to the United States Senate. Anyway, later in his statement, the attorney general's former chief of staff seemed to be falling on his sword. Mr. Gonzales said mistakes were made and he told the committee I made them.

This was in terms of his - he is admitting to the mishandling of how the dismissals were announced and what people were told and then misinformation that may have been told to Congress.

Mr. SAVAGE: Yes. I thought you're going to run a tape of him, a clip of that. But yes, his point was that we did a poor job of communicating it. Yes, it wasn't that we made a poor decision; we - he didn't exactly explain, in the end, how they picked the attorneys to be - the prosecutors to be fired. He said I had sort of a list, and some senators said, well, can we see the list? And he said it wasn't really a list, I had some notes.

But anyway, he says we made this decision. It was a good decision. Trust me. But we did a very poor job of communicating.

CONAN: Then we did get to questions and this testimony was all disrupted by the vote on the floor of the Senate on the Iraq War Funding Bill. But when they did get the questions, the ranking member - Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania asked him about an e-mail that he wrote, Mr. Sampson wrote, that describes a meeting to discuss the dismissals that was attended by the attorney general, an e-mail that contradicts what the attorney general said in public.

Mr. SAMPSON: I don't think the attorney general's statement that he was not involved in any discussions about U.S. attorney removals is accurate.

Senator ARLEN SPECTER (Republican, Pennsylvania): Is what? Is accurate?

Mr. SAMPSON: I don't it's accurate. I think he has recently clarified it. But I remember discussing with him this process of asking certain U.S. attorneys to resign. And I believe that he was present at the meeting on November 27th.

Sen. SPECTER: So he was involved in discussions, contrary to the statement he made in his news conference on March 13th?

Mr. SAMPSON: I believe - yes, sir.

CONAN: And this of course catches the attorney general on the horns of his own press conferences.

Mr. SAVAGE: Yes. That remains one of the very perplexing aspects of this whole thing, that he would come out and say to the cameras I was not involved in any meetings, any discussions. And he was involved in meetings and presumably said something at the meetings. I take it his view is that I wasn't involved in actually picking who was to be fired, I just signed off on it, and therefore I wasn't involved in the discussion.

CONAN: Tactical discussion. Yeah. There's another point at which Sampson contradicted his former boss. Mr. Gonzales said at that news conference that inaccurate testimony before Congress happened because his chief of staff, Mr. Sampson, did not properly brief the officials who were going to testify. And this is a question that came from Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York. And here is Sampson's reply.

Mr. SAMPSON: Senator, I shared information with anyone who wanted it. I was very open and collaborative in the process, in the preparation for Mr. McNulty and Mr. Moschella's testimony.

Senator CHUCK SCHUMER (Democrat, New York): So I want to ask. Did you share information with Mr. McNulty and Mr. Moschella?

Mr. SAMPSON: I did.

Sen. SCHUMER: So the attorney general's statement is wrong? It's false. How can it not be? If you shared information with Mr. McNulty and Mr. Moschella and the attorney general is saying it wasn't shared with individuals in the department who are providing testimony - to wit, Moschella and McNulty - his statement is false. Correct?

Mr. SAMPSON: Senator, as I look back on that process, the problem was that we were focused on other questions.

CONAN: And after some more back and forth, Sampson agreed the attorney general's statement was not accurate. Now, in terms of Mr. Gonzales, does any of this approximate a smoking gun?

Mr. SAVAGE: No. So far what we know about Al Gonzales is that he was there and seems - he seems to be saying I actually had very little to do with this. I didn't really pick the people who were to be fired. I didn't really consult with the White House in any great depth on this. I don't even remember some of the reasons they were fired.

So it's very hard to figure out what role Gonzales played in this other than that he's tried to distance himself for some reason from this set of decisions. So I assume it means that the committee is definitely going to have to hear from him, and he will have to try to answer those questions.

CONAN: And that, you know, of course this is not over for Alberto Gonzales. Another Justice Department - senior Justice Department official has said she won't testify. She'll take the Fifth.

Mr. SAVAGE: Yeah, that's quite unusual. Monica Goodling, a young lawyer in the department was involved in this decision, sort of a staff person, and it's quite unusual to say I'm taking a Fifth, because everybody thinks, well, wait a minute, what's the possible criminal involved? What could she have done that could be considered criminal?

CONAN: The senators today - it should be pointed out, this was not just Democrats going after Mr. Sampson, and by extension after the attorney general.

Mr. SAVAGE: Yes, I think - well, you know, there is a political divide, if you listen to talk radio and people. There's a number of things to say about U.S. attorneys. One is that they are - they serve at the pleasure of the president. We've heard that a thousand times. They're chosen by the president. New presidents come into office and bring in a new slate of attorneys - U.S. attorneys. Reagan did, Carter did, Clinton did, George Bush did. So these were all Republican appointees - Bush appointees.

But there's clearly a tradition that once they're in office, they are not removed en masse, they are not removed for political reasons. And that's - and so what we still don't know in the end is why were these eight people chosen. Was it performance, the way Carl Sampson says - like they didn't bring enough immigration charges - or was it that Karl Rove's office heard a lot about -from Republicans in their states who were not happy with these prosecutors and Rove in effect planted the seed for firing these people.

CONAN: And that raises the question: In Mr. Sampson's testimony today, was Karl Rove in any way implicated? Did he have any new information about Karl Rove?

Mr. SAVAGE: Very little. He knew that - from e-mails we know that Rove was interested in this and was sort of sounding off at times. But nobody has said Karl Rove said get rid of this person or get rid of that person. That's another aspect of this that in the end we don't really know the answer yet as to what - how much of a role Rove played in these firings.

CONAN: Mm hmm. There was one of the attorneys who was dismissed to make room for one of Rove's pals. So that much we do know.

Mr. SAVAGE: Yes, certainly. The one in Arkansas - Tim Griffin.

CONAN: The other principal White House figure caught up in this is Harriet Myers, the former White House counsel. Was she implicated in any direct way?

Mr. SAVAGE: Well, she's a little bit like Al Gonzales. She seems to have been at a lot of meetings and exchanged some e-mails, was interested in the topic, but we know very little in the end about what she thinks and whether she was particularly interested in firing any people. She seemed to have taken the view early on that they ought to fire all of them and let the president pick a whole new slate of U.S. attorneys. And fortunately a lot of people realize that's not a very good idea. So that idea died pretty quickly. But we don't really know much more about Harriet Myers' role.

CONAN: And has the situation been resolved? Are White House officials going to be subpoenaed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the House Judiciary Committee, and asked to testify?

-Mr. SAVAGE: Certainly looks that way, that both committees have approved subpoenas and they've said we're going to try to work out something, and the White House is sort of balking and saying, no, we don't want these people to testify, we don't want to have a transcript of their meetings. It seems like the Democrats would have every reason to sort of push ahead and try to hear from these people, at least on the record.

CONAN: It seems win-win politically for them. Either they have Karl Rove saying - holding his hand up saying, I swear, or they have the issue of Karl Rove refusing to testify.

Mr. SAVAGE: That's right. You can't - you would not think the Democrats would say, okay, we give up, we'll abandon this investigation.

CONAN: And as you mentioned, the attorney general who does have to appear before Congress sooner or later - I think he's scheduled April 17th is the date I remember.

Mr. SAVAGE: Yes, that's right.

CONAN: David Savage, thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. SAVAGE: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: We'll continue to follow this story as it develops. David Savage, legal affairs correspondent for the Los Angeles Times.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We're talking about the ongoing scandal at the Justice Department over the firing of eight federal prosecutors. We just heard some testimony by the attorney general's former chief of staff earlier today. We want to change direction a little bit and find out if this is a big story outside the Beltway, where you live. Are you talking about the scandal? Why or why not? 800-989-8255. E-mail, talk@npr.org.

You can also read what other listeners have to say at our blog: npr.org/blogofthenation. One of the fired U.S. attorneys worked in San Francisco. Kevin Ryan led the probe into the Bay Area laboratory BALCO, which was at the center of the doping scandal. You may remember the name Barry Bonds is involved in that. Ryan is a Republican, according to news reports the only U.S. attorney who received a negative performance review. Michael Krasny is host of Forum on our member station in San Francisco, KQED. He joins us from there now. Michael, thanks for staying a little bit late to talk with us today.

MICHAEL KRASNY: Glad to be with you Neal.

CONAN: We heard testimony today from Kyle Sampson, the former assistant to the former chief of staff to Alberto Gonzales, the attorney general. So how is that story playing out in San Francisco?

KRASNY: Well, the way I think you can measure it in San Francisco may be by a poll that was done with SF Gate, which is the online service for the San Francisco Chronicle. They asked four questions about the firings and they talked to about 1,000 people and they asked first, should Bush replace Attorney General Gonzales for the firings? No, those attorneys were fired for poor performance. Two percent said that. Yes, the president needs to restore confidence in the Justice Deposition. Three percent said that. No, U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president. We got up to 14 percent. And this was the key, I think. Yes, and the Patriot Act should be revised to require Senate confirmation, 81 percent.

That tends to reflect - I mean notwithstanding all the jokes about the left coast and San Francisco being lefter than thou and everything, there's a lot of anti-Bush sentiment, this is a Democratic bastion in terms of Democratic Party. And this just, in many people's minds, particularly throughout the Bay Area, although one finds different and divergent views, certainly in these nine Bay Area counties, there's a lot of sentiment that this is just anther scandal that this administration - kind of a crème de la crème of this administration.

CONAN: And I guess we should point out that both the House and Senate have now passed legislation that would revise that part of the Patriot Act. And so it looks like that will get overwhelmingly passed, by the way, so it will end up on the president's desk. Does it seem to matter to listeners in your area, though, that Kevin Ryan got a poor review, that he was apparently the one of the eight who was, you know, not - at least according to the evaluations of the Justice Department - not performing very well.

KRASNY: There's some puzzling going on about Kevin Ryan in this because, as I said, I think a lot of Bay Area residents - at least from what I've heard in talkback on the program and so forth - aren't separating what the attorney general has done before in terms of breaching civil liberties, as they see it, with this ongoing scandal. In other words, lying and, as they see it, being out of - the way an attorney general's supposed to behave.

But what I was struck by in the Kevin Ryan case was the fact that he's pretty much a Bush camp follower, and everybody in San Francisco and the Bay Area seems to know that. I mean in the marijuana case he's pretty much towed the line. And there was an e-mail that was sent which said that he would kind of take the bullet in this. E-mails have played a very formidable role in this whole scandal.

CONAN: Sure have.

KRASNY: As one commentator said, reminding us that it's sort of like nuclear waste. But Ryan is perceived as being on the Bush team, and very ardently on the Bush team. And there's speculation, was it in this case really performance and not partisan politics?

CONAN: So it sounds like, in terms of the attorney general, people are more exorcized about the national security letters and the FBI's techniques rather than the firing of the U.S. attorneys specifically.

KRASNY: I think that's right, and I think, as I said, this just is right on the top of all of that. It comes on the top of all that. There's been a good deal of skepticism and anger where the Bush administration is concerned, certainly in this area. This is, after all, Pelosi country.

CONAN: And a lot of charges there that she's too conservative. But is this consistent throughout the Bay Area? As you mentioned, there are some parts of that community that are more conservative than others?

KRASNY: There are, indeed. In fact, people tend to think of the Bay Area as being much to the left because all the representatives in Congress are Democrats and so forth. But one finds a big strong Republican bastion in some ways in Silicon Valley, and there's a good deal of libertarianism down there as well. One of our conservative columnists who's syndicated, Debra Saunders, has looked at this from the standpoint of many of those on the right. Dana Rohrabacher, for example, is a state legislature who is angry at Attorney General Gonzales for very different reasons, for not being tough enough on immigration and that sort of thing.

And one certainly feels that in the air here. And I was looking through some local newspapers - Contra Costa Times, for example, had a letter, a very strident but it seemed to me well-phrased letter that said what's going on here is no different than what went on in the Clinton or Bush Senior administrations. We're just seeing people being let go, and that's what happens when attorney generals want to let go of people.

CONAN: Michael Krasny, thanks very much.

KRASNY: Thank you.

CONAN: Michael Krasny, the host of "Forum" on our member station in San Francisco, KQED. Let's get a caller on the line. And this is Rich. Rich with us from Placerville, California.

RICH (Caller): It's Placerville.

CONAN: Placerville, excuse me. I'm not a native. Go ahead.

RICH: I'm calling because the connection for us is not our local U.S. attorney, but the San Diego one. We have a congressman who has taken a lot of campaign contributions from the guy who is accused now of bribing Cunningham.

CONAN: Duke Cunningham, the disgraced former…

RICH: Randy Duke Cunningham. And he, you know - he's plead guilty to having been bribed, but the guy who's supposedly bribing him has said no, I didn't do it. And our congressman should have been swept up in all of that and instead they got rid of Carol Lamb just at the time that they might have gone after our own John Doolittle.

CONAN: So is it being covered big-time in the media there in Sacramento?

RICH: Especially by the Sacramento Bee. They've done a very good job of it. David Whitney, their correspondent from Washington, you know, I think has made that connection over and over again, and we're pleased to see that that's happened because, you know, this guy should have been indicted a long time ago from our standpoint. And he's also connected to Abramoff and the Mariana Islands scandal.

CONAN: All right, Rich…

RICH: As an aside from what Michael was saying, I talked to a friend of a friend who works in the U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco, and I said what's the story? And she said, oh, everybody here agreed that, you know, Ryan was incompetent. So our concern is mostly around Lamb in San Diego and the fact that they may have stopped the investigation of our own congressman here.

CONAN: All right. Thanks very much, Rich.

RICH: You're welcome.

CONAN: So long. Here's an e-mail from Dianne in Intervale(ph), New Hampshire. I can only speak for people I know in New Hampshire, but it was the topic of conversation last evening when several of us got together. People outside the Beltway are indeed paying attention. Another city with a connection to a U.S. attorney scandal is St. Louis. Bud Cummins, an ousted prosecutor from Arkansas, investigated and cleared the administration of Missouri's Republican governor. Questions remain about why he was fired and why an attorney with ties to Karl Rove took his place.

Charlie Brennan is the host of "The Charlie Brennan Show" in St. Louis. He joins us today from the studios at KMOX. Nice to have you on the program today.

Mr. CHARLIE BRENNAN (Host, "The Charlie Brennan Show"): Hey, thanks Neal.

CONAN: And is the attorney general affair leading the news coverage there in St. Louis?

Mr. BRENNAN: You know, because it's a story that has hit the newspapers and it's been talked about nationally, of course people are discussing it here, but I wouldn't try and fool you to say it's as popular a topic as the St. Louis Cardinals, for example. But I think that people are kind of following up on some of the earlier comments. They do believe it's the president's prerogative. They don't believe that a good prosecutor should be replaced by a political hack.

But I have to also say, Neal, we've had some experience in this area where it looks as though some U.S. attorneys have been replaced for political reasons. In the early 1990s Tom Ditmier(ph) was replaced - a perfectly good prosecutor by all accounts. A lot of people said it was because he prosecuted one of the local Fortune 500 companies, which didn't sit well with the powers that be. More recently, our U.S. attorney was Jim Martin, and Jim Martin was first in his class at Michigan Law and he had prosecuted Chrysler Motors and Blue Cross Blue Shield, Charter Communications, Edward Jones, and even (unintelligible) Senator Danforth to investigate the FBI's raid on the Branch Davidian complex in Waco. He was replaced by Catherine Hanaway, who was the Republican speaker of the house in Jefferson City, our capital, who had lost her race for secretary of state.

She had very little experience. A fine woman, but very little experience prosecuting, and she replaced this, by all accounts, very, very able prosecutor. So I think people out here are kind of used to the politics, if you know what I mean.

CONAN: So this is nothing new to people there in St. Louis. And it sounds like people are a little cynical about it at this point.

Mr. BRENNAN: I think that's fair to say. I think a lot of people believe that politics always plays a role in a lot of these prosecutions.

CONAN: And is this water cooler talk or is this sort of below-the-fold front page news?

Mr. BRENNAN: I think it's kind of in between. It doesn't rise to the level of some of the major issues like property tax assessments in St. Louis County or the retirement of Marshall Faulk from the Rams, but it's still an issue that people have definite opinions on, Neal.

CONAN: All right. Well thanks very much for that. Appreciate your time today.

Mr. BRENNAN: Thank you.

CONAN: Charlie Brennan, the host of the Charlie Brennan show on KMOX in St. Louis. And we thank him for joining us today. And let's see if we can go to - this is Lee. And Lee's on the phone with us from North Carolina.

LEE (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi Lee.

LEE: Hi, I was just curious. You know, it seems like the bombardment over the airwaves with this story doesn't really match the public response to it. And I just wonder if I'm the only one feeling like this is a lot of smoke and mirrors to divert public attention from the fact that this Congress hasn't been able to muster the moxie or the wherewithal to do anything about the war issue. It just seems like a huge diversion that's taking up a lot of airspace from the real issues at hand here in this country.

CONAN: So where you live - and where is that in North Carolina?

LEE: Carrboro, North Carolina.

CONAN: And so people aren't really talking about this, or if they are, you're suggesting they're saying what's going on? We should be focusing on more important things.

LEE: Well, it just seems like a lot of the Congress' time and a lot of the airwaves, a lot of the press is being filled up with this. It seems like a huge diversion over last two weeks from, you know, our troops and being over at war.

CONAN: All right, Lee, thanks very much for the call. I appreciate it.

LEE: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's go next to - this is Boyd - Boyd with us from Milwaukee.

BOYD (Caller): Hi, Neal.

CONAN: Hi.

BOYD: Thanks for having me again.

CONAN: Sure.

BOYD: Looking at the local paper and the local press for this week, I don't think really it's made a lot of headway. It certainly hasn't really been front page news. I think, though - and this is just some food for thought - in regards to Attorney General Gonzales, hearing Amy Goodman yesterday on Kathleen Dunn's Show on Wisconsin Public Radio, she had thought, well, if Attorney General Gonzales is maybe going to be subpoenaed for anything, it maybe should be maybe his authorization, I guess, for the use of torture and things like that. And that might resonate with more people than this scandal that seems to have come to the surface.

CONAN: Yeah, he is scheduled to testify before the Judiciary Committee on, I think, again, the day we mentioned with David Savage just a couple of minutes ago was April 17th, which is still a few weeks away. So it looks like this story's is going to percolate along and resonate for at least that amount of time.

BOYD: Okay.

CONAN: All right. Thanks very much for the call, Boyd.

BOYD: You bet. Thanks, Neal.

CONAN: Bye-bye. And let's see if we can check in with Mark. And Mark is still with us from Raleigh, North Carolina. And…

(Soundbite of clanking noise)

CONAN: …we heard earlier from another caller from another caller North Carolina that it's not getting a lot of play where he is. What about you there in Raleigh?

MARK (Caller): Well, can you hear me okay?

CONAN: Yeah, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

MARK: Obviously, it's whipped up inside the beltline, but down here in Raleigh, we're paying more attention to property tax rates going up and the school calendar. But, as far as this goes, I think people are seeing it for what it is, you know. The Valerie Plame scandal has moved along, and so this is the next thing on a Democratic agenda.

CONAN: So it's perceived as Big "P" Politics on both sides there in Raleigh.

MARK: Yeah, it's just one more thing feeding the polarization. But, I mean, nobody's talking about it. And people are more focused on what's happening in Baghdad than what's happening inside the Judicial Committee today.

CONAN: All right, Mark. Thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.

MARK: Have a great day.

CONAN: We're discussing the story about the eight dismissed U.S. attorneys. And earlier today, we had a testimony from the attorney general's former chief of staff who contradicted his former boss on a couple of points. The committee still awaits testimony from the attorney general and from some key figures in the White House: from Karl Rove, from Harriet Miers - the former White House counsel, of course, the former, briefly, nominee to the United States Supreme Court.

And you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Bud Cummins, the fired prosecutor from Arkansas we mentioned earlier, received a written review describing him as very competent and highly regarded. Again, Cummins appears to have been removed from his post as U.S. attorney in order to provide a job for a former aide to presidential adviser Karl Rove.

Pat Lynch has hosted "The Pat Lynch Show." It airs every weekday morning in Little Rock, Arkansas. He joins us now by phone from his - from his home in Little Rock. Thanks very much for being with us today.

Mr. PAT LYNCH (Host, "The Pat Lynch Show"): Well, actually, it's my home office there, Neal. It's a new trend.

CONAN: I see you're a telecommuter, as they will.

Mr. LYNCH: Well, of sorts. You know, heck, you can even do audio editing at home. It's amazing.

CONAN: Well, we'll have to try to see if we can get into that. But, Pat, what are on the - what's on the mind of your listeners there in Arkansas? Is it the fired prosecutors?

Mr. LYNCH: Well, I'll just tell you that compared to turmoil with the Arkansas Razorbacks and the firing of Stan Heath and everything that's going on with our football coach Houston Dale Nutt, this Tim Griffin story is not even a bleep on the radar.

CONAN: And Mr. Heath, of course, the former - now, former coach of the Razorbacks basketball team, which got into the tournament this year but didn't get very far.

Mr. LYNCH: Yeah, but, you know, it's, you know, one appearance and out two years in a row. You know, he's been there six years. And, of course, the real controversy is around the football coach and everything that goes on in football bleeds over on basketball. And I'll tell you what, this is what people have been talking about.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. So when you get calls, if you open your lines, it's not exactly calling for either Attorney General Gonzales to resign or for the Democrats to layoff the attorney general.

Mr. LYNCH: Well, it used to be, when the story first started, the Democrat-Gazette was kind of late to the dance on the whole Bud Cummins story. And for a long time, I think people believed that Bill Clinton did the same thing. Of course, it isn't true. Because the point of Tim Griffin in Little Rock is that he is a Karl Rove political operative, and he's here for the purpose of making trouble for the Clintons and doing it without Senate confirmation. And it's so transparent that what more can say once you look at it under the light?

CONAN: Making trouble for the Clintons - he's going to go back into Whitewater?

Mr. LYNCH: I understand there are new books coming out on it. And, heck, Hillary is running - it's only for a diversion. I mean, nobody cares about facts anyway. It's all about a diversion.

CONAN: Pat Lynch, thanks very much for your time.

Mr. LYNCH: Enjoyed it.

CONAN: Pat Lynch, the host of "The Pat Lynch Show," and he joined us from his home office in Little Rock, Arkansas. Robert is on the line. Robert's calling us from Germany.

(Soundbite of a dial tone)

CONAN: No Robert, isn't. We apologize for that. Let's go instead to Bob. Bob's with us from Charlestown, Maryland.

BOB (Caller): Yes, hello.

CONAN: Hi. Go ahead, please.

BOB: Yeah, it's on front pages here. It's like compared to Travelgate. It seems kind of funny.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Well, Travelgate another Clinton-era scandal, which, of course, I don't think ever played out into any indictments of anybody.

BOB: No, I mean, that was a joke, and this seems much more serious than anything that had to do with Travelgate.

CONAN: All right. Bob, thanks very much for the call.

BOB: Sure.

CONAN: Let's get one last caller in. This is from Miami. Mario is on the line with us from Miami.

MARIO (Caller): Yeah, hi. Thank you for taking the call.

CONAN: Sure.

MARIO: You know it's funny - if you read the local papers, there's hardly any coverage of it all. I mean, hardly any. But yes, it is fodder for the, what is it, the water cooler crew. I know that within my office, within my sister's office and some other friends, there were places it is discussed, it is looked at as something - what we all believe that what this really boils down to is it continues to be more of the same Bush policies of an individual who came into office with the promise and with the intent of changing the moral structure of the office, of being in office for the people. But yet what he continues to do is keep anything and everything having to do with his decision-making close to his chest.

So I think what it really boils down to it's not so much that these individuals were fired, but just the idea that these individuals were fired for what's turning out to be very mysterious circumstances. And then he - and then to continually try to keep the real reasons away from the general public. And I think that that is really what the problem is. I think that that is really what it boils down to, is an administration that is trying as hard as they can to not be as open with the public as it should be.

CONAN: Mario, thanks very much for the call. We appreciate it. When we come back from a short break, MC Rove rocks the White House Correspondents' Dinner last night - actually, the Radio TV Correspondents Dinner last night - and how to succeed on YouTube. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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