With GonzalesGate never farther away than Dubya's latest 60-year-old frat boy petulant temper tantrum (and he has those OFTEN), posting on the White House Watch blog at the Washington Post, Dan Froomkin writes:
Why are President Bush's Democratic critics so focused on getting White House political guru Karl Rove's testimony regarding the firing of eight U.S. attorneys?Pair this up with Dan's blog on Thursday ("The Public's Right to Know"):
Because based on Rove's history, the whole thing may well have been his idea -- and may be even more complicated than it initially appeared.
Rovian theory suggests the following: The eight U.S. attorneys were fired not only to purge the Justice Department of some prosecutors who were insufficiently willing to use the power of their offices to attack Democrats and protect Republicans --- but also to install favored people who wouldn't have such scruples.
And, thanks to a provision snuck into law by a Bush administration henchman (who has since been granted a job as -- you guessed it -- a U.S. attorney) there would be none of those pesky safeguards to prevent those jobs going to unqualified hacks.
The most telling restriction built into the White House offer to make senior aides available for private interviews about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys is that no record of those aides' words would be allowed.Now add to this his post from Wednesday ("Indications of Obfuscation" - now there's a word Bush could never pronounce although he engages in it every minute of every day) for a fuller picture of the whole GonzalesGate WH wheeze of sleaze (if you please):
According to the offer, which has been soundly condemned by Democrats, members of Congress investigating the firings could come out of the closed-door, highly circumscribed interviews and say what they thought they heard. But there would be no transcript and no recordings.
White House officials say that the absence of a transcript is absolutely essential -- and is a reflection of their determination not to allow a friendly information-gathering session to take on the trapping of a court proceeding or political theater.
But more significantly, it would deny the public any reliable record of what was said. It would remove the pressure from senior aides, most notably White House political guru Karl Rove, to come clean on their involvement in the firings -- while denying the public an opportunity to assess their veracity.
And it would make Congress a party to keeping important information obscured from the kind of public scrutiny that comes when journalists and bloggers have a chance to untangle the skillful evasions so common to this White House.
Among the many lessons of the Scooter Libby trial is this one: That when the White House issues squirrelly statements under fire, the most cynical interpretations may well be the closest to the truth.Then Beth Nolan checks in with this on "Executive Overreach" (or, in my own parlance, "Bush's notion he's an Absolute Monarch with a mandate from God"):
So there's really no longer any excuse for letting President Bush get away with carefully parsed denials, hairsplitting and non-answers.
In that spririt, my takeaway from Bush's comments yesterday on the firing of eight U.S. attorneys is that the president may well be aware that his critics are correct -- and that at least some of the prosecutors were ousted because top White House officials felt they had not performed their duties with sufficient loyalty to the Republican Party. He certainly didn't deny it.
Here's the transcript of Bush's comments. Consider his carefully chosen -- and carefully repeated -- response to a question from Deb Riechmann of the Associated Press:
"Q Mr. President, are you still completely convinced that the administration did not exert any political pressure in the firing of these attorneys?
"THE PRESIDENT: Deb, there is no indication that anybody did anything improper. And I'm sure Congress has that question. That's why I've put forth a reasonable proposal for people to be comfortable with the decisions and how they were made. Al Gonzales and his team will be testifying. We have made available people on my staff to be interviewed. And we've made an unprecedented number of documents available.
The Framers of our Constitution envisioned that in the exercise of their authorities, the two political branches would assert their prerogatives against each other. A process of negotiation and accommodation between the branches is what one would expect. That process isn't elegant, but a push-pull between the branches doesn't necessarily mean that anything is wrong.
What is going wrong today, however, is the take-it-or-leave-it position of the White House. The struggle between Congress and the executive branch over the requested testimony of White House officials regarding the removal of eight U.S. attorneys is playing out in the political arena.
In fact, the political arena is where the contours of these prerogatives are largely shaped, rather than in our courts. While executive privilege is based in constitutional principles of the separation of powers and the authority of the president over the executive branch, and the privilege has been recognized by the Supreme Court, its scope has been largely determined outside the judicial process.