The first 6 years of the presidency of George W. Bush will likely be remembered as a time when the executive branch was handed a blank check to pursue an unbalanced agenda by a legislative branch too partisan or corrupt or enfeebled to consider the prudence of such permissiveness. However, now that the Democrats have assumed majority control of Congress, the tide has turned against the President, and he is none too happy about it. Indeed, having been spoiled for so long, Mr. Bush seems more than a little put out that there’s a new babysitter in town, one that won’t accept his blank checks and instead demands checks and balances. His stubborn refusal to allow his pals in the White House to testify publicly and under oath before Congress on the matter of the fired U.S. attorneys seems like little more than pouty politics. And he is being taken to task for such juvenile posturing, by both Congress and the media. Here is what the New York Times had to say today:
In nasty and bumbling comments made at the White House yesterday, President Bush declared that â€œpeople just need to hear the truthâ€? about the firing of eight United States attorneys. Thatâ€™s right. Unfortunately, the deal Mr. Bush offered Congress to make White House officials available for â€œinterviewsâ€? did not come close to meeting that standard.
Mr. Bushâ€™s proposal was a formula for hiding the truth, and for protecting the president and his staff from a legitimate inquiry by Congress. Mr. Bushâ€™s idea of openness involved sending White House officials to Congress to answer questions in private, without taking any oath, making a transcript or allowing any follow-up appearances. The people, in other words, would be kept in the dark.
The Democratic leaders were right to reject the offer, despite Mr. Bushâ€™s threat to turn this dispute into a full-blown constitutional confrontation.
Congress has the right and the duty to fully investigate the firings, which may have been illegal, and Justice Department officialsâ€™ statements to Congress, which may have been untrue. It needs to question Karl Rove, Mr. Bushâ€™s chief political adviser, Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, and other top officials.
It is hard to imagine what, besides evading responsibility, the White House had in mind. Why would anyone refuse to take an oath on a matter like this, unless he were not fully committed to telling the truth? And why would Congress accept that idea, especially in an investigation that has already been marked by repeated false and misleading statements from administration officials? [full text]