Friday, March 23, 2007

Why Should We Care About a Few Republican Prosecutors?

So now that we are a quarter year into the new and improved checks-and-balances of a mixed party government, what quality of bipartisanship are we seeing? More scandal from the Bush administration, and plenty of dithering on the part of the "opposition party". The latest flap concerns the politically-motivated firings of eight federal prosecutors. When they were originally relieved of their duties, they were sent on their way with comments that their dismissals were due to performance-related issues. At least that was the line the President was feeding the press. And that's what the Attorney General's Office told the Senate. But that was a lie.

It turns out that the sacked prosecutors were the victims of shady politics. Evidently some of them were not actively pursuing voter registration fraud charges that some far right Republicans were calling for against Democrats in the wake of the 2004 elections. Apparently these prosecutors failed to act on these charges because there was no evidence of registration fraud. But had these government employees followed the lead of their commander-in-chief and his justice department, they would have simply fabricated the necessary evidence. That's the way to go after your enemies, or so it seems in this post 9-11 world. Others among the former US attornies had made the mistake of initiating investigations against Republican lawmakers (like Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham). One in particular resisted a Republican lawmaker's pressure to rush forward a corruption trial of local Democrats in order to effect the November elections. Excuse me guys, but you are either WITH the president or AGAINST him. Get it right.

Bush and Co. have offered the Congress the "opportunity" to meet with key aides (Karl Rove, Harriet Miers) involved in the scandal. But any meetings must happen in closed sessions. And the White House refuses to allow the aides to testify under oath. And they refuse to have any transcript made during the "talks". And they refuse to let Congress examine relevant e-mail messages from the White House. Why might these conditions be considered a prerequisite to meeting with Congress? Do they intend to lie?

The executive department claims that it is protected by the separation of governmental powers. This is a strange tactic, coming from an executive branch that has constantly stepped over the line, impinging on the legislative branch's authority by issuing a record-setting amount of signing statement challenges. The Bush Administration has NEVER shown concern for a healthy balance of federal powers. The President himself has already said that he will refuse to honor any forthcoming subpoenas issued by Congress. To justify this breach of law, he cites "executive privilege". But he doesn't have any constitutional privilege to blow off the Congress. Just like his concept of the "unitary executive", he seems to be making this all up as he goes along.

The most disturbing aspect of this whole debacle is the Bush Administration's unstated (but easily inferred) position that they have no accountability to "the people". This is not a situation in which they can raise the (increasingly overused) spectre of "national security". The public has the right to know if these federal employees were fired for political motives. The executive department serves at the behest of the American people. As a body comprised of the elected representatives of the populace, the Congress has an obligation to hold the President to the truth. If they let Bush and his people dictate the terms of this investigation, then they have once again failed us all.

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