Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Update on purgegate

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As expected, President Bush has turned to executive privilege in denying the request of Democrats that key Bush aides, including Rove and Miers, testify under oath with respect to the firing of the U.S. attorneys. For more on this, see Glenn Greenwald.

Bush will not allow his aides to testify before Congress, but he will allow this: "I'll allow relevant committee members on a bipartisan basis to interview key members of my staff to ascertain relevant facts." This is entirely unsatisfactory.

Greenwald: "Why... would Congress possibly trust Bush officials to provide more explanations in an off-the-record, no-transcript setting where there are no legal consequences from failing to tell the truth? Once a party demonstrates a propensity to issue false explanations and refuses to tell the truth voluntarily, no rational person would trust that party to make voluntary disclosures."

Bush admitted that the "announcement" and "subsequent explanation" of the firings were "confusing" and "incomplete," but what he offers now is not truth in public but spin in private. His "willingness to work with the Congress" only goes so far, and not nearly far enough. I am sympathetic to the notion of executive privilege -- and I say this both as a political theorist and as a policy advisor with the government -- but what we are talking about here is not private counsel but the overt partisanization of the justice system by the executive branch.

Greenwald quotes U.S. v. Nixon (1974): "The President's need for complete candor and objectivity from advisers calls for great deference from the court. However, when the privilege depends solely on the broad, undifferentiated claim of public interest in the confidentiality of such conversations, a confrontation with other values arises." There are no "military, diplomatic, or sensitive national security secrets" to protect here. There is only the public interest to serve.

And the public interest in not served by the overt partisanization of the justice system.

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Creature makes a good point: "Isn't it interesting that when the Right rallies around provisions that take away liberties, warrantless wiretapping for example, they scream: if you are doing nothing wrong, then you have nothing to worry about. Well, Mr. President, if you and your aides have done nothing wrong, then you have nothing to worry about. People with nothing to hide should have nothing to fear."

This is not an argument for warrantless wiretapping -- if you're not guilty, don't worry, so let's do it -- but yet another indication of the hypocrisy of the right. Except that Bush is refusing to allow his aides to testify before Congress -- even if subpoenaed, it would seem. That is entirely different than spying on Americans without probable cause.

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For more, see the many links at Memeorandum -- including The Carpetbagger Report, Balkinization, NewsHog, Liberal Oasis, My Left Wing, MyDD, Pam's House Blend, and Libby at The Impolitic.

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