Wow, it's good to see the White House is really reading the tea-leaves here and dealing with this prosecutor firing crisis in a cooperative and non-confrontational way (as usual). According to the WaPo
: "President Bush sought yesterday to defuse the controversy over the firings of U.S. attorneys."
Mission not accomplished!NYT
reports: "A House Judiciary subcommittee today authorized subpoenas for Karl Rove, President Bush’s political adviser, and other senior White House officials in the investigation into the firing of eight United States attorneys."
Yesterday, Fred Fielding, the president's new counsel, offered Congress a deal they couldn't refuse. Apparently, though, this new Congress isn't going to roll over and play dead. W.'s offer to allow Karl Rove and Harriet Miers to have a nice visit with a few selected members of the several congressional committees looking into this mess isn't flying. The fact that they wouldn't be under oath and there wouldn't be any transcript of what was said has left the Judiciary Committee cold. The real kicker is that on top of all that, Congress wouldn't be able to subpoena either of them afterwards. Such a deal!
That notorious pain in the ass Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said 'no dice.' [Imagine that, the nerve of that man!] What a difference an election makes; a few days ago when people started calling for Al Gonzales to be fired, Arlen Specter, the former chairman, said resignation was "A question for the president and the attorney general, but I don't think there have been a lot of problems. Before we come to any conclusions, I think we need to know more facts." See, that's the way it should be done.
Let's get some facts first, let's not be hasty. [He'd make a great Ent, wouldn't he?] Because that strategy worked so well during Specter's tenure: He sure got the facts on Abu Ghraib, torture memos, warrantless wire tapping, Gitmo, abuses of the Patriot Act etc. What's supposed to happen here is that the chairman gets all huffy for the cameras, thus giving the appearance of a co-equal branch of government exercising its oversight prerogative, and then Cheney swoops in and tells him to shut up. End of investigation.
This time, not so much. Leahy says the White House offer is "Not constructive, and it is not helpful to be telling the Senate how to do out investigation or to prejudge its outcome." But that's exactly what it's supposed to do! Doesn't he get it? I guess not, he's got his subpoena pen out and he's getting writer's cramp.
Here comes that scary "constitutional crisis," watch out. W. said yesterday
that he'll take this to court if Congress doesn't back down. He says he's concerned about setting "precedents that would make it difficult for somebody to walk into the Oval Office and say, 'Mr. President, here's what's on my mind.'" As if anyone has ever had the courage to do that before. [Give me a break!]
The right wing "legal experts" on the talking head shows are having a tough time with this one, the White is so plainly f'd, so they're trying to frighten everyone about the impending showdown between the White House and Congress. We wouldn't want that -- heavens to Betsy no -- because the White House would lose.
The problem with an 'executive privilege' argument, is that Rove and Miers weren't talking to W. about firing these less than Bushie approved U.S. attorneys, they were talking to Gonzales' chief of staff and various other administration political hacks. There were no privileged discussions going on between them and W. about this. Or were there? If they want to say that W. was in on this, that's another matter, but do they want to go there?
Besides, hauling White House staff members up to Congress to testify under oath is nothing new. As a panel of legal minds on the NewsHour
last night agreed, the Republican lynch mob during Clinton's presidency had pretty much every employee of Bubba's staff up to the Hill, including the kitchen sink. As former Clinton administration Soliciter General Walter Dellinger pointed out:
"A total of 47 times, Clinton senior White House officials testified in public, under oath, with a transcript, so it will be very hard for Congress to accept any less in these circumstances where we don't know what the facts are. . ."
And what about Condi, didn't she tell 60 Minutes
few years back that she couldn't testify at the 9/11 Commisson because she was defending an "important principle" about not allowing a national security adviser testify in Congress -- and then she went ahead and testified under pressure? That's not a precedent, though, because they say it isn't.
So, the bad PR defense is about the best they can do. 'Sure they did a bad job rolling this thing out, but there's no evidence of any criminality here.' Not yet, there isn't, that's why this investigation crap has got to stop.
Micheal Carvin, a former Reagan official and Bush lawyer during the 2000 election mess, on the NewsHour parreted the party line:
"I really think this is much ado about very little. I'm not saying that they haven't mishandled this from a public relations perspective. They clearly have. But the notion that firing eight U.S. attorneys with White House personnel involved is somehow shocking is like saying you're shocked to discover there's gambling in Casablanca."
Play it again, Sam. And they will, again and again.
By the way, has anyone counted how many times W. said "partisan" yesterday in his comments on the matter? He says he's not going to allow any "show trials" involving his top aids, no siree Bob! That's only for those bad guys at Gitmo. W. stormed, "We [the royal we?] will not go along with a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants." That sounds kind of funny coming from a guy who said the high point of his presidency was catching a fish. [Newshounds
] But, never mind about that, Republicans are not into fishing expeditions, unless they're the ones standing in the boat. This whole thing is all about partisan politics -- well, not the whole thing, just the Democrat thing. The firings themselves were totally justified and had absolutely nothing to do with politics. Those eight prosecutors weren't getting the job done.AP
reports: "Six of the eight U.S. attorneys fired by the Justice Department ranked in the top third among their peers for the number of prosecutions filed last year, according to an analysis of federal records," but that's not the point -- oh right, that is the point.
Al "waterboard" Gonzales told Congress under oath that it was, anyway. Performance, performance, performance. But, then again, how would he know? He said it was all Kyle Sampson's fault. "I was not involved in any discussions about what was going on. That's basically what I knew as attorney general." [TIME
] So he wasn't in on any political hatchetry, he's just incompetent. I have full confidence in him, don't you? I know this is the guy I want hunting down terrorists poised to attack the U.S. again. You bet.