Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Opinionator

July 25, 2007, 6:03 pm
Contempt Attempt
By Tobin Harshaw
Tags: , ,

So the other, or at least next, shoe has dropped in the Antonio Gonzales hearings, with the House Judiciary Committee voting “to seek contempt of Congress citations against … Joshua B. Bolten, the president’s chief of staff, and Harriet E. Miers, the former White House counsel.” A former committee chairman, James Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, threw cold water on the announcement, according the Associated Press, “saying that a civil lawsuit in federal court would be less perilous for the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches than a constitutional battle over contempt” — “I think that the White House is going to win an argument in court over the contempt matter,” Sensenbrenner told the panel.

That AP story notes that “the last time a full chamber of Congress voted on a contempt citation was 1983. The House voted 413-0 to cite former Environmental Protection Agency official Rita Lavelle for contempt of Congress for refusing to appear before a House committee. Lavelle was later acquitted in court of the contempt charge, but she was convicted of perjury in a separate trial.”

This leads Steve Benen of the Carpetbagger Report to make a historical comparison. “Lavelle was the chief of the EPA’s hazardous waste program in the Reagan administration,” writes Benen. “The White House withheld documents in the ‘Sewergate’ scandal about hazardous waste enforcement ­ Reagan’s EPA didn’t believe in it ­ and Lavelle resisted subpoenas. An outraged House approved a contempt citation unanimously. Today, not a single Republican on the House Judiciary Committee was willing to endorse a similar measure. Not one. In other words, every member of the House GOP in 1983 was willing to take a stand against an official in the administration of Ronald Reagan, the Patron Saint of the Party, but in 2007, the Republican caucus is inclined to stand with Bush.”


July 25, 2007, 12:49 pm
Gonzales: The Reviews
By Tobin Harshaw

Did Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lie during his Congressional testimony yesterday? Spencer Ackerman at TPM Muckraker thinks so, and counts the ways:

He tripped himself up repeatedly during his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee — quite possibly entering perjury territory. Gonzales’s big problem is that he told the Senate on February 6, 2006 that no one within the Justice Department dissented from President Bush’s warrantless surveillance program, a contention made dubious by James Comey’s testimony in May that, as acting attorney general in March 2004, Comey refused to reauthorize a program he considered illegal.
Some of the Senators seem to agree, reports Elana Schor at The Hill: “The Senate veered closer to a contempt finding against the White House on Tuesday after an acrimonious appearance by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, with the Judiciary Committee’s senior Republican offering options for taking the Bush administration to court.”

Steven Reynolds at All Spin Zone is at least able to find a rueful humor in the event: “The New York Times didn’t cover the story on the front page of its web site, and one has to search a bit to find the story in the Washington Post. Frankly, I’m thinking the performance of the Attorney General was so embarrassing that those papers didn’t want to appear to be piling on. They don’t want to appear to be making fun of someone who is handicapped, perhaps, virtually unable to distinguish between the truth and lies.”

So, who on the right is rushing to the attorney general’s defense? At National Review’s The Corner … um, nobody’s touching the subject. At American Spectator, ditto. OpinionJournal? Worldwide Standard? Nada. Finally, something by Ed Morrissey at Heading Right:

If the White House is shrinking from a confirmation hearing on a replacement for Gonzales, it should remember that the DoJ serves the nation, and the nation deserves a competent and capable chief for this critical point in history. If Bush clings to Gonzales out of a sense of loyalty, then he should consider the damage that personal loyalty has done to his own credibility and the credibility of federal law enforcement. Gonzales is a mistake he can rectify, and Bush should do so immediately.
As the cliché goes, if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. If Gonzales did take that advice, does anyone else suspect that even Fido’s faith might be questionable about now?


July 25, 2007, 10:31 am
Immigration Deferred
By Tobin Harshaw
Tags: ,

Remember immigration reform? Most of Congress seems to have conveniently forgotten the issue. And now, according to The Washington Times, Rep. Rahm Emanuel is actively putting it out of mind:

“Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, an architect of the Democratic campaign that regained control of the House last year, says his party will not attempt comprehensive immigration reform until at least the second term of a prospective Democratic president.”

While many think that anything in that newspaper, which is owned by Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, should be taken with a grain of salt, Nick Gillespie at Reason Hit & Run is simply taking the news well:

“For those of us who believe in open borders (or as close to open as you might get), I think this is good news. However rotten the immigration status quo is, the reform bills passing around seem worse, larded with all sorts of employer regulations and restrictions and a commitment to some sort of beefed-up, sure-to-be-useless wall and enforcement efforts. And Emanuel’s statement strikes me as politically savvy, too. Despite the clamor about the immigration issue, it really isn’t the electoral motivator observers claim it to be (that’s one of the great unlearned lessons from the 2006 midterms) but it certainly appeals to the worst in candidates and voters.”


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