Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee on Monday called Attorney General Alberto Gonzales a "major distraction" for President Bush and the GOP.
The former Arkansas governor deferred to Bush on Gonzales' fate even as he suggested that the country's top law enforcement official should voluntarily step aside given the furor created over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys.
"Sometimes the best position would be for the appointee to make the decision and not force the president to do so. You best serve the person you work for when you can decide that if you are a distraction that you no longer will create that level of problem for your boss," Huckabee told Associated Press reporters and editors in an interview.
"The attorney general is clearly creating a major distraction for the president and for the administration and for the Republican Party," Huckabee said.
He spoke shortly after Bush gave Gonzales a strong vote of confidence despite what the White House acknowledges was his poor handling of the firing of eight federal prosecutors. At a contentious Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, Gonzales claimed dozens of times that he couldn't recall key details about the firings or about a key meeting that records show he attended.
As the man who oversaw a state, Huckabee said there comes a point, as a chief executive, when "you need to start asking is this becoming a large distraction that's keeping us from doing the important things that we need to be getting done."
"It seems that a growing number of Republicans in Congress say, yes, it is a distraction," he said. "For reasons I don't fully understand, the president hasn't quite seen it that way yet."