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Holy war on Regent's legal credentials

A mild holy war has broken out in 2141 Rayburn, as House Republicans are furious at Democrats on the Judiciary Committee for questioning the legal credentials of Monica Goodling as a law school graduate from Pat Robertson's Regent University in Virginia Beach.

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), in the last set of questions before the lunch break, questioned why she attended a Christian-themed law school, at one point questioning its credentials because of the low rates of its graduates passing the bar. After going to public elementary and high school, she received her undergraduate degree from small Messiah College in Grantham, Pa. Then, after a year of law school at American University, she left for Regent. "I enjoyed being surrounded by people who had the same faith system," she told Cohen.

Cohen cited reports about a large number of Regent graduates holding positions in the Bush administration, prompting a sharp retort from Goodling: "I think we have a lot more people from Harvard and Yale."

"That's refreshing," Cohen said. This comment prompted loud murmuring of disapproval from the Republican side of the dais, and then brought a sharp rebuke from Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) after the lunch break, noting that Regent beat Harvard at a recent law school debate forum.

"It's not a good day," Forbes said of the attack on Regent.

Rep. Steven King (R-Iowa) then revealed his research on the universities of Harvard and Yale. "The founder was John Harvard, who was a young minister," he said, noting Yale's founding apparently was part of backlash because of Harvard's departure from its "Calvinistic heritage" in the early 18th Century.

King, speaking for conservatives, vowed to "stand up for all our principles."

This has been a mild distraction, but it's part of the overall Republican defense effort to shore up Goodling -- and, more importantly, to shore up Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the Justice Department.

Unlike Senate Republicans, who have continually criticized Gonzales, including six calls for his resignation, House Republicans continue to defend Justice.

Here's a sampling of Judiciary Republican comments today regarding Goodling -- who has already admitted she "crossed the line" and might have violated federal laws in hiring career prosecutors by considering political affiliation -- and the entire scandal:

• Tom Feeney (Fla.): "You've conducted yourself with a lot of class."
• Forbes: "There not only is no evidence of wrongdoing, there is no allegation."
• King: "This is a circus without a cause."
• Mike Pence (R-Ind.): "I am troubled by the fact that we have seem to be ever further moving down the road to the criminalization of politics."

By Paul Kane  |  May 23, 2007; 3:00 PM ET
 
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