July 22, 2007

Where's Rodney King When You Need Him?

The Washington Post's editorial board asks essentially the same question as did Rodney King fifteen years ago in regards to the standoff between Congress and the White House on testimony and subpoenas. Crying a pox upon both houses, the Post asks for a modicum of reasonableness from both sides:

For months the White House has resisted Congress's attempts to compel administration officials to testify about the controversial U.S. attorney firings in 2006. Congress's propensity to let subpoenas fly has been matched only by the administration's hair-trigger reaction of trying to block them by invoking executive privilege. The two sides have thus far failed to strike a compromise; as a result, Bush administration officials, most notably former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers and current chief of staff Joshua B. Bolten, find themselves threatened with criminal contempt for following the president's orders to snub congressional demands. If Congress were to make good on the threat, it would probably try to direct the U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia to lodge the contempt charges in federal court here.

Last week the White House said it would never let that happen. As legal justification, it dusted off a 1984 Justice Department memorandum that concludes that allowing Congress to order around a federal prosecutor would violate the separation of powers, permitting Congress to usurp a role the Constitution clearly assigned to the president. The Clinton administration relied on similar logic in a 1995 legal opinion. We believe that argument has enough merit to discourage lawmakers from taking this route. ...

The White House, as it has promised, should make officials available for questioning, but it should drop its insistence that the questioning be done off the record and without a transcript. If lawmakers are truly serious about getting information -- rather than milking the situation for all its political worth -- they should drop their more questionable tactics. If all else fails, Congress could consider other, less constitutionally troubling options, such as filing a civil suit in federal court so that a judge could decide whether the administration was properly invoking executive privilege.

The problem with this entire issue is that Congress has no real basis for continuing its probe, especially considering the loud but substanceless allegations of criminality that have surrounded it. They have found nothing illegal despite holding hearings for the last four months. They want to conduct fishing expeditions with White House advisors, and the White House refuses to play along.

That's not to say that the White House has acted in its best interest or in the best interest of the nation in this probe. It became apparent from Alberto Gonzales' first appearance in Congress that the termination of the eight prosecutors revealed a level of incompetence at the DoJ and specifically with Gonzales that should have resulted in his resignation. The fumbles and contradictory statements showed that Gonzales had little control over his own department and even less ability to determine what happened after the fact. It's been an ongoing embarrassment for the White House, and a self-inflicted one at that.

However, we knew all of that three months ago, and the Democratic Javerts have come up with no reason to continue pursuing the case. This realization has apparently caused a great deal of desperation within their caucus, as no administration would ever willingly agree to submit to the subpoenas of the kind issued by Congress to presidential advisors. They're going for a high-stakes bluff without having any kind of hand at all, hoping to scare Bush into acquiescence -- or just to make him look bad.

Perhaps the best answer to this would be for Congress to get back to its legislative duties rather than issue blizzards of subpoenas for an issue that has already given them all the political capital they will get from it.


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Comments (4)

Posted by richard mcenroe | July 22, 2007 12:10 PM

Congreess will not get back to its duties anytime soon, thank God.

Rahm Emmanuel came right out and said it: The Democrats are committed to given the impression of Democrat virtue and Republican vice. So they will hold hour after hour of pointless speeches, propose motion after motion that will never get passed, and give fiery speech after fiery speech they will never act on. The one thing they won't do is take one concrete action that they might be held accountable for.

Posted by Carol Herman | July 22, 2007 12:26 PM

It's a political ploy.

Start with this. The Bonkeys have absolutely NO IDEA what to do next!

They're stuck out there; with hillary the "jewel" they're gonna place up on the ticket; claiming she's better than John Kerry. Both as a senator (true), and as a presidential candidate. Probably true, too.

The Ma & Pa Kettle Show has clowns. But Kuchinic is too short. And, Ron Paul is the counter-weight on the other side.

IF you were faced with this. What with an election coming in 2008. And, you had NO ISSUES AT ALL to speak of. Except that you cater to the "hate Bush crowds," what would you do?

The President is NOT GOING TO GIVE IN!

The congressional critters once got Nixon. Yada. Yada. Yada. And, a "secret source," the #2 guy in J. Edgar Hoover's faggot chain of command; actually did treasonous behaviors to make Robert Woodward rich. And, the WaPo famous.

All it took then? The reporters didn't tell the truth!

In other words? It was possible to "get" a sitting president, by using the press. But it burned bridges; and used up "privileges." This time, what's Woodward got? A tape of foul-mouthed Armitage trying to get Woodward to run with the story. Woodward refused.

The president knows what he's up against.

He knows, for instance, that Colin Powell was not at all interested in getting involved in Iraq. And, he tried as best he could to thwart the president's will.

We're still in Irak.

And, nancy pelosi is still squawking about her clean rag. Spotless, actually. While the "little bump" last November gave the marginally "ahead" majority CHAIRMANSHIPS within congress. That's how they're doing this mischief.

Every two years the power can shift.

It's not as if the Bonkeys had a great grip on power, ya know?

You think James Webb is better than George Allen? How so?

You don't think that there's been slippage in their customer bases, at the MSM? What would it take to convince you of this truth?

Bush has actually stabilized.

And, the courts are slow, enough, even with the worst judges in the world sitting on our judicial benches; you could guess that ahead ... Let's see? Ruth Bader Ginsberg falls off? And, Steven ages even more.

And, for the next 18 months this is what the Bonkeys think they need to do to "win."

What's their model? Nixon.

Someday, this might all get explained as George Soros' taste in furniture and wealth trappings.

Posted by Chris G | July 22, 2007 1:39 PM

Executive privledge, absent a criminal implication, is unconditional. So the President is rightly blowing off Congress' subpoenas.

The Democrats already understand that little to no legislating will occur over the next 12 months. So the goal is to conduct a dog and pony show to prop up the Dem. presidential candidiates.

However, this will fail miserably. Democrats will overplay their hand with the endless investigations and turn off the moderate voters. This will not cost them the Congress, but will cost the Dem presidential candiate, because that person will use Congress' actions against Bush to bolster their own redibility.

The Dems will remain in power, but will lose a couple of seats in the House, and maybe on seat in the Senate.

As to imcompetent Attorney Generals, while Gonzales was definitely unprepared, he is no Reno. Bush would avoid lot of problems by coming out and stating the obvious, ,i.e. "I can fire 8 prosecutors, I can fire 93 prosecutors, or I can fire all of them. Next question."

Posted by sf | July 22, 2007 11:59 PM

I think it's a bit naive to think the Dems will let this go, because the issue wins big for them, provided their friends in the MSM bray to the public that "Bush is *defying a legal subpoena*, just like Nixon did!" I suspect quite a few not-too-bright folks wouldn't see any difference.

The tipoff, I think, is right in the Post's article:

The White House, as it has promised, should make officials available for questioning, but it should drop its insistence that the questioning be done off the record and without a transcript.
This is a reasonable compromise? If it's "on the record" with a transcript, the WH has complied with the subpoena completely. But the way the Post has phrased it, the Administration's reluctance is completely unreasonable.

Yeah, the Dems will run this one as long as the MSM gives the story any air time. And then they'll use any headlines in political ads in '08.