Friday, March 30, 2007

The Amnesia Defence

This is a popular one these days in politics. Here is Kyle Sampson, the former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, testifying on the firing of the eight federal prosecutors:

"I can't pretend to know or remember every fact that may be of relevance," he warned at the start -- and he wasn't kidding. He used the phrase "I don't remember" a memorable 122 times.

It may have been a tactical effort to limit his risk of perjury, but Sampson displayed the recall of a man who recently fell off a ladder.

"Since the 2004 election, did you speak with the president about replacing U.S. attorneys?" Leahy asked.

"I don't ever remember speaking to the president after the 2004 election," he said. (He later remembered that he had.) "Did you have further communications with the White House regarding the plan to regard and replace several U.S. attorneys?"

"I don't remember specifically."

"I wish you did remember," Leahy finally said. "I would hope that you would search your memory as we go along."

Sampson searched. He came up empty.

After Schumer elicited three consecutive I-don't-remembers, John Cornyn (R-Tex.) objected to the questioning style.

Leahy overruled him. "We're trying to find what in heaven's name he does remember," the chairman said.

Schumer persisted, eventually asking the witness a question about Rove's role. "I don't remember," Sampson said. "I don't remember anything like that. I don't think so. I don't remember. I don't remember."

Of course if we took this quite seriously we should be concerned about the number of amnesiacs working in this administration. Scary!