WASHINGTON -- The head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee insisted he's capable of walking the fine line of calling for the resignation of President Barack Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder, while also trying to win back the Senate for the GOP.
But Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) took a very different stance when the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was in a similar spot during the George W. Bush administration.
Asked Tuesday about his dual roles of seeking to oust Holder because of what Cornyn calls egregious failings while also wearing a political hat, Cornyn was at first dismissive, joking: "There's politics occurring in Washington, D.C.?"
Pressed on how the public should separate his political agenda from trying to remove the nation's top law enforcer, Cornyn insisted such things are just part of the job.
"Well, we're elected officials, and that goes with the territory," Cornyn said. "Here, when you have national security leaks like this, and the investigation is being handled in such a cavalier and political way, then I think it's our job to call it what it is."
Cornyn was referring the the recent furor over leaks to The New York Times. He also said Holder has been unforthcoming in the congressional probe of the federal "Fast and Furious" gun-running investigation in which agents allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.
The senator's view of such conflicts was different when Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) headed the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2007 and demanding answers from the Bush White House about conduct of then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. Cornyn argued then that Schumer's involvement proved there was a political "witch hunt."
"When the leader of the effort on the Judiciary Committee is the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Chuck Schumer, I think it undermines the apparent legitimacy of what is a legitimate inquiry," Cornyn said in a taping of the ABC News program "This Week."
In the Gonzalez case, Democrats wanted to learn whether the firings of U.S. attorneys had been politically motivated. (An inspector general's report later concluded the firings were political.)
At the time, Cornyn pointed to one thing different between then and the current situation: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had embraced the debate and pushed the controversy.
"Sen. Schumer has a conflict of interest," Cornyn said, repeating the charge of then-GOP Republican Sen. Arlen Specter. "They're raising money on the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee website over this issue. I think that undermines the legitimacy of what I agree is a valid inquiry of the facts."
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has not embraced the campaign against Holder. However, its website does rerun Cornyn's Twitter feed, which includes a number of tweets promoting his push against the attorney general.
"Talking to Laura Ingraham at 8:35am ct to discuss the case for AG Holder's resignation. Listen live here," Cornyn wrote in one of several similar messages on the GOP committee's feed.
Democrats like Schumer who were determined to see heads roll in the Bush White House have largely been arguing that the Obama administration should be given space to investigate the leaks and "Fast and Furious." They say Obama White House resistance to Congress' demands has not reached the level of the Bush administration.Michael McAuliff covers politics and Congress for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.