Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: Nineties Nostalgia

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Nineties Nostalgia

Remember back in the days when we batted around fun phrases such as "rule of law"? When it was frequently stated that the United States is a "nation of laws, not men"? Those were good times.

If only Bill Clinton had realized it was so easy. He didn't need to have so many problems with investigations and impeachment. He could've just told his aides to stay at home rather than go to testify before Congress. Who knows, it might even have worked for Special Prosecutor Ken Starr. As George W. Bush seems to be proving, all that presidential aides need to avoid going before Congress for oversight hearings is, apparently, a "get out of Congress free" card. A while back, White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolton and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers declined to honor congressional subpoenas during the House's investigation of the U.S. attorney scandals. It would've been one thing if they'd showed up and refused to answer questions because of executive privilege--I'm not sure I'd accept the claim, but I'd recognize that there could be an argument about it. But they didn't even bother to appear at all.

Although it took the House a while to get around to it, they finally issued contempt citations against the two, but this week, Attorney General Michael Mukasey refused to refer those citations to a grand jury, stating that Miers and Bolton's refusal to honor the subpoenas "did not constitute a crime." Assuming that this would be the response, the House leadership followed up with a civil suit. What will come of that is still anybody's guess. The AP had a disappointing take on the situation yesterday:

The reasons for the Democrats' two-pronged approach were about much more than the balance of power. They were unmistakably political, a point the White House highlighted in its response.

Democrats did not even spend much energy denying it.

Democratic aides involved in the progression of the contempt citation acknowledged its political benefits, notably cheering up a base demoralized by Pelosi's inability to get the caucus to force Bush to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq.

While the political aspects are undeniable, balance of power is a vital key to the equation, as well. By making this into nothing more than a political fight, Congress undermines its own authority. Too bad Bill Clinton didn't catch on to this ten years ago.


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