Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Attorney Purge Controversy Gets Interesting

After watching President Bush's press conference earlier today, I couldn't help but feel like we're seeing the beginning of a constitutional showdown here between Congress and the Bush Administration.

Now, the firings of the US attorneys are somewhat shady by themselves. All of them had satisfactory job reviews and no reason for being fired, unlike all but two of the ten attorneys asked to retire in the previous 25 years. Clearly, there's an overt political reason here since they didn't pursue Republican goals enough. But that's not surprising or the real problem since US Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President, and he can fire them at any time.

The real problem is that Bush is refusing to allow members of his staff to testify before Congress under oath. The "reasonable offer" Bush kept referring to in the recent press conference is anything but. He will allow a bipartisan panel from Congress to interview Rove and Miers as long as it is not under oath, behind closed doors, and there will be no transcript of the meeting. Clearly, he has something to hide because this offer basically says, "My staff should be allowed to lie to protect the administration." What's the matter Bush? Afriad Rove will have to disclose too much about the corrupt workings of your administration?

The Administration has tried to defend itself by saying that there is no precedent for White House staffers testifying before Congress. There's only one problem: that's not true at all. 31 of Clinton's advisors testified before Congress on 47 different occasions. Hmm. Slight bit of misinformation (read: lie) there.

Bush also said that he, as the head of a separate branch of government, does not have to send his staffers before Congress because they have to be able to say what they want without fear of being held accountable for what they say. That way, Bush says, he can get honest advice to be more effective. I say bullshit. Why should Bush's staffers not be accountable for what they say unless you want to cover something up? Claiming this kind of executive privilege stinks of Nixon to me, and we know how that turned out.

Next, Bush accused Democrats of fishing for political points. While I don't doubt that whatsoever, it's a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Of all those times Clinton's advisors testified before the Republican-controlled Congress, does Bush seriously think it was never for the Republicans to score political points? Saying politicians are doing something for political reasons..well, no shit Sherlock.

The next step Congress can take is to issue subpoenas. If Rove and Miers refuse to appear, as Bush promised they will, then Congress can vote to find them in contempt of Congress, which means it will go to the courts. In short, this could get interesting very fast.

It's obvious that Bush is trying to hide something. If his administration is innocent of wrongdoing, then he should have no reason to fear his advisors testifying under oath. I really hope this is where Bush finally learns that the game is up. He needs to realize that he is not actually the Emperor of America, but just one part of a three branch government that serves the will of the people. Now, I just hope the Democrats see this through to the end and don't chicken out.

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