Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What They Said, and What They Should Say

Well, surprise, surprise, President Bush has again defied Congress and again invoked a tenuous claim of executive privilege to do so:

President Bush directed former aides to defy congressional subpoenas, claiming executive privilege and prodding lawmakers closer to their first contempt citations against administration officials since Ronald Reagan was president.

It was the second time in as many weeks that Bush had cited executive privilege in resisting Congress' investigation into the firings of U.S. attorneys.

White House Counsel Fred Fielding insisted that Bush was acting in good faith in withholding documents and directing the two aides -- Fielding's predecessor, Harriet Miers, and Bush's former political director, Sara Taylor -- to defy subpoenas ordering them to explain their roles in the firings over the winter.

In the standoff between branches of government, Fielding renewed the White House offer to let Miers, Taylor and other administration officials meet with congressional investigators off the record and with no transcript. He declined to explain anew the legal underpinnings of the privilege claim as the chairmen of the House and Senate judiciary committees had directed.

Both House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy have issued responses. Conyers was stern but polite:

We are extremely disappointed with the White House letter. While we remain willing to negotiate with the White House, they adhere to their unacceptable all-or-nothing position, and now will not even seek to properly justify their privilege claims. Contrary to what the White House may believe, it is the Congress and the Courts that will decide whether an invocation of Executive Privilege is valid, not the White House unilaterally.

While Leahy exhibited a bit more piss and vinegar:

I have to wonder if the White House’s refusal to provide a detailed basis for this executive privilege claim has more to do with its inability to craft an effective one.

But I have to wonder if Democrats are not missing the best and easiest argument to make in this and the other privilege cases. It seems to me that what needs to be said is something like this:

President Bush has again demonstrated his belief that he, and anyone else he designates, is above the law, but worse, he has asserted that his administration owes nothing to the American people. In this case, the president’s continued insistence that his aids will only meet with Congressional investigators in secret and without a transcript confirms such disrespect. Why is it OK for administration officials to talk to a select few in private, but not OK for them to talk in the open, in front of the people that elect the president and pay the salaries of his entire staff?

We think the American people deserve to hear what these Bush aids have to say. We believe that Americans are capable of understanding the facts of this case, and, more importantly, understanding right from wrong. Judging from the position taken by President Bush, either he believes that the people are incapable of understanding, or he is deeply afraid that they will understand all too well.

(cross-posted from guy2k)

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Anonymous Jeff Ewing said...

Testify, Brother! Sadly, the Democrats are playing this as an entirely inside-the-beltway procedural.

10:20 AM  

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