Patterico's Pontifications

7/24/2007

More on that L.A. Times Article on Executive Privilege: Where’s the Context??

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 12:03 am



This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post about the L.A. Times story on executive privilege. There are two levels to the issue: 1) has the President validly invoked executive privilege as to Harriet Miers, and 2) must a U.S. Attorney bring a contempt citation against Miers, despite the fact that the Justice Department’s articulated view is that she was privileged not to appear?

The article was primarily concerned with issue #2. Yesterday I discussed how the article painted a dramatic but utterly fraudulent picture of a brewing confrontation on this issue between the Bush administration and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. The article’s narrative portrayed the U.S. Attorney as “pitted against his bosses” on the issue of whether to pursue a contempt citation against Miers. Comically, there is no evidence that any such confrontation took place anywhere but in the editors’ minds. As I noted yesterday, for all we know, the U.S. Attorney in question agrees with the Department of Justice.

In today’s post, I want to highlight the lack of context that the story gives to the President’s actions. The article portrays the Bush administration’s actions as flying in the face of a law:

Despite a federal statute referring to the U.S. attorney’s duty to take contempt cases to the grand jury, they believe it would be impermissible under the law, and violate the doctrine of separation of powers under the Constitution.

An expert is later quoted saying that the statute is “unambiguous” in its requirement that contempt citations be referred to the grand jury. The article acknowledges that the Bush administration disagrees, but cites a Reagan-era memo as the only authority for the Bush administration’s position — as if two Republican administrations are the only ones to have held this view.

Not so. Namely, as Beldar says in this comment, the Bush Administration position is not a radical view of the law. Why, even Bill Clinton’s Justice Department agreed:

As to whether Congress can compel a U.S. Attorney to prosecute the Executive for defying a Congressional subpoena, this isn’t a Democrat vs. Republican issue. It’s an Executive vs. Congress issue, on which the Reagan, Clinton, and Bush-43 Administrations have all taken absolutely consistent positions. Saturday’s WaPo noted that:

But administration officials and other legal scholars, including some Democrats, noted that Justice Department lawyers in the Clinton administration made a similar argument during a controversy with Congress over the nomination of a federal judge.

Walter E. Dellinger III, who headed the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department then, wrote in a 1995 legal opinion that “the criminal contempt of Congress statute does not apply to the President or presidential subordinates who assert executive privilege.”

That conclusion echoed a broader legal opinion issued 11 years earlier by then-Assistant Attorney General Theodore B. Olson, who headed the OLC during the first term of the Reagan administration.

This was, of course, printed on a Saturday and buried on page 3, since it would interfere with the Dems’ PR campaign for the WaPo to run a story that ought to have been headlined: “Bush Administration, Just Like Every Other, Refuses to Prosecute Itself Over Its Refusal to Be Congress’ Simpering Bitch.”

Heh.

Beldar and the Washington Post make good points — but there’s even more evidence than that. The “broader legal opinion” cited by the Post also cited an example (at page 119) from the Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy administrations in which the Department of Justice refused to refer contempt of Congress citations to a grand jury. The memo also cites 1976 testimony from Assistant Attorney General Rex Lee, given during the Ford administration, to the effect that a valid invocation of executive privilege would justify a refusal to refer a citation to a grand jury.

In other words, this is not a new position, or a Republican (Reagan/Bush) position. It is the position advocated by at least six different administrations over the last 50 years — including JFK and Clinton.

Does the L.A. Times provide this context? Not on your life. Instead, we get seeming astonishment that the Bush administration would take this position, bolstered by the opinion of an expert.

About whom I will have more later this week. He and I have been discussing these issues, and I find his views quite startling in the breadth of the leeway he would give Congress to encroach on executive power. But that discussion will have to await a future post.

P.S. Beldar’s comment also provides a wealth of links addressing issue #1, presenting a strong case that the President’s invocation of privilege regarding Miers’s appearance is sound.

P.P.S. That longstanding position of at least six presidential administrations is described by our pal Glenn Greenwald as an “obviously radical position.” Well, there you have it, then.

28 Responses to “More on that L.A. Times Article on Executive Privilege: Where’s the Context??”

  1. But…but… aren’t the Greenwalds noted Constitutional Law authorities? Surely they would never engage in emotional rhetoric and hyperbole simply due to partisan ideology. I mean, they have written a New York Times bestselling book on executive authority, and been quoted by Russ Feingold on the Senate floor, so they must have standards.

    Right?

    Uncle Pinky (6546ec)

  2. Dear Patrick,

    I understand that the point of your post is a complaint about the LA Times narrative, not about its quoted expert with whom you’ve been corresponding — that is, me. But you don’t have to leave your readers guessing who is right about whether the statute is ambiguous. Just show ’em the statute. It’s below. If there is ambiguity in the words “every person” that either GOP or Democratic administrations have identified, I would be glad to see it.

    (Spoiler Alert: Patterico’s alarm at the incursion I would allow into executive power is really a disagreement about what counts, constitutionally speaking, as inviolate executive power. I’ll show you my sources if he shows you his; heck, I’ll show them in any case.)

    Anyway, here are the statutory provisions about which I opined. Now everyone can be an expert:

    Title 2, Sec. 192, U.S.C.:

    Every person who having been summoned as a witness by the authority of either House of Congress to give testimony or to produce papers upon any matter under inquiry before either House, or any joint committee established by a joint or concurrent resolution of the two Houses of Congress, or any committee of either House of Congress, willfully makes default, or who, having appeared, refuses to answer any question pertinent to the question under inquiry, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 nor less than $100 and imprisonment in a common jail for not less than one month nor more than twelve months.

    Title 2, Sec. 194, U.S.C.:

    Whenever a witness summoned as mentioned in section 192 of this title fails to appear to testify or fails to produce any books, papers, rec­ords, or documents, as required, or whenever any witness so summoned refuses to answer any question pertinent to the subject under inquiry before either House, or any joint committee established by a joint or concurrent resolution of the two Houses of Congress, or any committee or subcommittee of either House of Congress, and the fact of such failure or failures is reported to either House while Congress is in session or when Congress is not in session, a statement of fact constituting such failure is reported to and filed with the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House, it shall be the duty of the said President of the Senate or Speaker of the House, as the case may be, to certify, and he shall so certify, the statement of facts aforesaid under the seal of the Senate or House, as the case may be, to the appropriate United States attorney, whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action.

    All best, Peter Shane

    Peter M. Shane (da96d0)

  3. Thanks, Professor.

    I wanted to post today about our e-mail exchange — which as you know I appreciate your having taken the time to participate in — but it’s taking me more time to put it together than I’d thought. So I thought I’d just tease it in this post.

    Patterico (2a65a5)

  4. Fishing expedition, eh? Is that that what investigators engage in during the interrogation
    of a ‘suspect’?

    Patterico;

    You prosecute in a region rife with gangs, do you not? Difficult to penetrate a loyal cell of
    antisocials to get testimony? Hard to get citizens to testify against them?

    This wall of executive privilege was not meant to harbor wrongdoers, but just like guilty criminals who will use any statute to obtain early release or avoid detainment, anyone can exploit the system.

    Let’s wait and see the public opinion rise to a majority, seeking impeachment, and then the
    60 vote threshold in the Senate will be a done deal.

    Semanticleo (4741c2)

  5. I also enjoyed our e-mail conversation about executive privilege. I just wanted to make it clear that the appropriate test for whether unicorns exist is not whether both Democrats and Republicans who sell model unicorns for a living insist that they have seen one. (Ted Olson and Walter Dellinger are both friends, by the way, and superb lawyers of the utmost integrity. One disagrees with their legal opinions only with some trepidation. But, as Justice Jackson famously pointed out in Youngstown, what one says as an advocate cannot always be regarded as what one ought to say objectively about the merits of a legal dispute.)

    Peter

    Peter M. Shane (da96d0)

  6. Peter, You aren’t asserting a narrow wrongdoing exception here (like Semanticleo posits) but basically the non-existence of the privilege. it’s nice that you cite a statutory basis for wiping the privilege off the map, but since when does a statute overrule the constitution? Separation of powers and a handful of privileges arising thereunder (such as executive privilege) are constitutional doctrines. Congress has no more power to overrule the Constitution and the Supreme Court’s rulings on constitutional matters, than the President does to declare in a manner binding on the courts that a particular Congressional activity is unconstitutional. And if a legal privilege is asserted against an act of Congress, since when is it the province of the Grand Jury to answer the legal question, of whether the privilege applies?

    If your literalist (and non-contextual) interpretation of the statutes is correct – that they overrule the constitutional doctrines establishing and protecting executive privilege – then pre-decisional and deliberative documents and discussions, not to mention attorney-client communications, are all subject to Congressional subpoena, and Congress can compel not only appearances but testimony on internal executive branch deliberations. It seems to me that your version of the law, if implemented, would have pretty disastrous effects on governance.

    If I were you I’d be careful about building that petard for the Dems to detonate. That could hoist a lot of people other than Dubya.

    Al Maviva (89d0b6)

  7. Al, Literalist and non-contextual? You must have me confused with Justice Scalia (except when acontextual literalism doesn’t produce the desired result).

    No, the context within which to interpret these statutes is the framers’ design for checks and balances — a design in which Congress’s investigative powers are surely as constitutionally weighty as the executive’s authority to withhold information, and in which the President solemnly undertakes to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. What I have suggested — I think Patterico is going to post more on this — is that the statute be construed only to force the case to a grand jury, which acts as a neutral arbiter. If the grand jury votes to go forward, but the US Attorney wants to argue on behalf of the defendant, then the DoJ should appoint a special counsel for that case to bring the prosecution forward and file briefs for the defense. In that way, the merits of the privilege claim get to be decided by a court (not by the grand jury), and not unilaterally by either of the elected branches.

    Of course, Congress has unilateral options, not least of which is defunding the Executive Officce of the President, except for the President’s salary. But any unilateral option, by either Congress or the White House, is likely to be far more disruptive of governance than the kind of statutory implementation I have advocated. And, if governance is really a core concern, as it should be, I would also say that this dispute could be easily settled short of any of this if the White House would allow its witnesses to testify in executive session, but with a transcript. (The oath really does not matter because making a false statement to Congress in the course of a committee investigation is a crime, whether or not under oath. 18 USC 1001(c)) Then, the branches could agree to review the transcript to determine which portions Congress would wish to make public and whether, with regard to those portions, the White House still wants to claim privilege. Should there still be an impasse, any resulting litigation should be far better focused and more expeditious.

    Peter M. Shane (da96d0)

  8. In my last comment, I meant, of course, that the DOJ would be filing briefs for the defense, not its special counsel.

    Peter M. Shane (da96d0)

  9. A nitpick perhaps, but the Dellinger quote would not literally apply to Miers:

    [T]he criminal contempt of Congress statute does not apply to the President or presidential subordinates who assert executive privilege.

    Miers, of course, is a former presidential subordinate, not a presidential subordinate per se.

    Crust (399898)

  10. Peter Shane, I loved your analogy:

    [T]he appropriate test for whether unicorns exist is not whether both Democrats and Republicans who sell model unicorns for a living insist that they have seen one.

    (Whether it is applicable in this case or not I’ll leave for others to debate, but regardless it amused me.)

    Crust (399898)

  11. I liked the reference to Justice Jackson myself.

    AF (4a3fa6)

  12. Congress can bypass the Justice dept.

    Frank Askin
    “…Yet under historic and undisturbed law, Congress can enforce its own orders against recalcitrant witnesses without involving the executive branch and without leaving open the possibility of presidential pardon.
    And a Supreme Court majority would find it hard to object in the face of two entrenched legal principles.
    First is the inherent power of Congress to require testimony on matters within its legislative oversight jurisdiction.
    So long as Congress is investigating issues over which it has the power to legislate, it can compel witnesses to appear and respond to questions. That power has been affirmed over and over in prosecutions for contempt.
    In modern times, this congressional power has been enforced by referring contempt cases to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia for indictment and prosecution. That, of course, is the rub. It allows the president to exercise his plenary power under the Constitution to issue pardons “for offenses against the United States.”
    But no law says that indictment and prosecution by the Justice Department is the exclusive means to enforce congressional prerogative.
    Indeed, in an 1895 case ( United States v. Chapman), the defendant unsuccessfully argued that Congress could not have such cases of contempt prosecuted through the courts but must punish such defiance on its own, without judicial assistance. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held that judicial enforcement of Congress’s inherent power was optional.
    This power of Congress to punish contemptuous behavior itself was reinforced in 1934. In Jurney v. McCracken, the Supreme Court denied a writ of habeas corpus to a petitioner who had been taken into custody by the Senate sergeant- at-arms for allegedly destroying documents requested in a Senate subpoena.”

    AF (4a3fa6)

  13. Crust (No. 9): Executive privilege belongs to the Executive, not his subordinates; only he may waive it; and it persists notwithstanding the departure from government of the subordinates involved. Even when the Executive leaves office, he may still be able to assert the privilege, although the fact that he’s no longer in office may affect the balancing test applied in any later attempts to overcome the privilege. See Nixon v. Administrator of General Services, 433 U.S. 425 (1977). Miers having returned to private practice doesn’t end or even affect either the attorney-client or executive privilege that cloaks the advice she gave to Dubya as White House Counsel.

    Prof. Shane (#2, 5 & 7): You’re right that what Walter Dellinger said when he was advocating for a client — specifically, the then-POTUS — doesn’t necessarily reflect his own personal beliefs. But I take it you concede Patterico’s well-made point, which I’ve also argued, to the effect that the position currently being taken by the Bush-43 Administration is substantively identical to that made by other presidential administrations when the office was held by both Democrats and other Republicans. Correct?

    Will you not also agree that, if that is so, then the LAT story Patterico quotes is misleading by omission in failing to note that?

    Surely you’ll also concede that the criminal contempt of Congress statute was not designed solely, or primarily, in anticipation of refusals to testify by subordinates of the Executive, but rather, it was primarily intended to give Congress’ subpoena power teeth with respect to the remaining universe of potential witnesses who may appear before it? You’ll concede that this is a general-purpose statute, in other words, of which Congress is now trying to make a particular and unusual use by directing it specifically at a subordinate of the Executive — won’t you?

    You probably have followed, like the rest of us, the question currently being litigated in the Libby appeal of whether Patrick Fitzgerald’s appointment was appropriate. Will you further concede that there is no present statutory mechanism for an independent prosecutor, and that whether appointed under 28 C.F.R. part 600 from outside the Justice Department, or through a Fitzgerald-like appointment from within it, any Special Counsel would have to be subject, at a minimum, to being fired, either with or without cause, by the Attorney General or the POTUS in order to avoid the “principal/inferior officers” problem?

    That being the case, whether via a Special Counsel or not, wouldn’t any criminal contempt citation have to be presented to the grand jury by someone over whom the Executive has the power to fire? And then, if the grand jury indicts, wouldn’t the indictment also have to be presented by someone whom the Executive has the power to fire?

    If so, does that not bring you back to the original point, in which you’re suggesting that an Executive ought (through a subordinate over whom, at a minimum, he has firing power) to prosecute himself for asserting executive privilege? With due respect, I think your suggestion that these fundamental separation of powers problems can be glossed over through some sort of Special Counsel is an illusion.

    Beldar (c77a19)

  14. What’s people’s view on the distinction between Miers showing up and asserting privilege (executive and/or attorney client privilege) versus simply not showing up at all?

    Crust (399898)

  15. Crust (No. 14), the Democrats would prefer, for reasons of partisan circus ring-mastering, that Ms. Miers appear in person to defy them. They want maximum drama, under the old legal principle that when you can’t pound your opponent on the law, you pound your opponent on the facts, and when you can’t pound your opponent on the facts either, you pound the table.

    I am confident, however, that the Administration would stipulate that, if Ms. Miers were to appear in person, she would refuse to answer any substantive questions put to her about her job-related activities or communications on grounds of executive privilege. That stipulation, in turn, would be an entirely adequate basis for Congress to make demand on the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia per the statute, or to pursue such other remedy as Congress might choose.

    I suppose it’s possible that Congress might reject such a stipulation and put a burly deputy sergeant at arms on a plane to Dallas to try to fetch Ms. Miers through some sort of compulsion. That, however, might result in photos and video that would cast Ms. Miers in a flattering light. So they won’t. They’ll just grumble, and accept the stipulation. That’s my guess, anyway.

    Beldar (c77a19)

  16. Beldar,

    If you use past Supreme Court rulings to support executive privilege, which isn’t in the Constitutiion, does that mean you accept Roe v. Wade as the law of the land?

    alphie (015011)

  17. (I should have said, just above, “executive, attorney-client, and/or other privileges,” as I’m sure the Administration will be careful to assert as many different privileges as possible.)

    Beldar (c77a19)

  18. The question is who will pay the higher political price for refusing to back down. In the past there’s been compromise. If there isn’t this time then lets see who loses, the country as a whole included. What’s the percentage of the population favoring impeachment this week?
    And next?

    Judging from past experience Bush doesn’t have much concern about the country. He follows god’s commands or so he says.
    And lobbing insults at the democrats given the present situation, and the present near despair among the rank and file of the justice department, is silly.
    No more so of course than defending the choice of Harriet Miers for a seat on the Supreme Court.

    AF (4a3fa6)

  19. Beldar, thanks for the replies. Re No. 15: there’s no question there’s a certain amount of theatrics here, though the empty chair works for the Dems too. But I don’t see why, like Taylor, Miers couldn’t answer some questions and assert privilege on others.

    It may be that Miers could assert privilege on most interesting possible questions, but isn’t it presumptuous to assert that any conceivable question is out of bounds? E.g. to make up a hypothetical, what if she was asked about communications she received from the DoJ that were not in response to any request from the White House? How would that be privileged? (Or make up your own, better, hypothetical.)

    Crust (399898)

  20. Prof. Shane, while I am not convinced by your argument, I wish to salute you for bringing a higher level of discussion to the issue.

    Robin Roberts (6c18fd)

  21. Crust (No. 19): The Dems could argue that there are substantive questions they’d like to ask that would not intrude upon privileged communications or actions, but I doubt it. Miers is only a half-step below the apex in this context, and elbow-to-elbow with her principal, the Executive. I genuinely can’t conceive of any questions beyond her name, dates of service, and job title that wouldn’t trigger a privilege objection. A personal appearance to ask specific preliminary questions — part of “testing the privilege,” or more specifically, gathering surrounding information that might help a court in the relevant balancing of interests, might make sense with someone lower down the chain, but not with the White House Counsel.

    Alphie (No. 16): What a profoundly silly question! I’ll incorporate by reference SCOTUS nominees Roberts’ and Alito’s answers to that question.

    Beldar (c77a19)

  22. Re: #21. The issue isn’t whether there are questions that could be asked that would not trigger a privilege objection. The issue is whether there are questions, the answers to which are so necessary for the investigation of executive branch wrongdoing that Congress’s constitutional entitlement to the information overbalances the President’s qualified (not absolute) privilege of confidentiality. The way to find that out is for questions to be asked and answered in executive session and have both sides review the transcript with the constitutionally necessary balancing in mind. If nothing is disclosed that bears on any abuse of office by members of the executive branch, the claim of executive privilege will be much weightier. If the testimony is relevant to a showing of abuse of office by particular individuals, it has long been the view of Attorneys General (and White House counsel Fielding) that Congress is entitled to make that information public.

    Re: 10, 11 and 20. Thanks for the kind words. I had not been aware of this blog prior to Patrick’s inquiries regarding executive privilege, and am pleased to be included on this thread.

    Peter M. Shane (da96d0)

  23. Beldar,

    What were Roberts’ and Alito’s answers to that question?

    The only precedents I believe in are the ones that match my political beliefs?

    alphie (015011)

  24. Prof. Shane, you wrote,

    The issue is whether there are questions, the answers to which are so necessary for the investigation of executive branch wrongdoing that Congress’s constitutional entitlement to the information overbalances the President’s qualified (not absolute) privilege of confidentiality.

    We mostly agree on this, if by “investigation of executive branch wrongdoing” you’re referring to Congress’ legitimate information-gathering and oversight responsibility. You continue:

    The way to find that out is for questions to be asked and answered in executive session and have both sides review the transcript with the constitutionally necessary balancing in mind.

    That, sir, is a complete non sequitur, and I think it’s without precedent in this context (i.e., a constitutional privilege based on separation of powers doctrine). Can you cite one? (Or are you just reasoning by analogy from other contexts, e.g., the testing of assertions of attorney-client or attorney work product privilege in civil litigation, which are frequently resolved through questions, objections, privilege logs, and in camera inspections and/or examinations?)

    Contrary to your assumption, one can indeed almost always tell from the question — without regard to the answer — everything one needs to know for purposes of any balancing test. That’s what the courts did in the Nixon tapes case, for example. Can you give us an example of a specific question that you think would need to be answered before an executive privilege balancing test could be completed?

    Making the Executive answer — and then letting the third branch of government, the Judiciary, decide, based in part on the answer, whether the Congress gets to hear it would set the Judiciary up not as a co-equal branch, but a supervisory branch to whom the Executive (and his top staff) would be forever subordinate, forever obliged to share their most confidential materials and communications, quite literally at the whim of Congress.

    I appreciate your time and care in responding to my comment No. 21 above, but you avoiding answering any of the questions I asked in comment No. 13. Would you care to take another look at those?

    Beldar (c77a19)

  25. The difference between then and now, between Nixon and Bush, is the amount of pressure from the public, or perhaps the amount of pressure that is acknowledged in the press.

    “Neither the doctrine of separation of powers, nor the need for confidentiality of high-level communications, without more, can sustain an absolute, unqualified Presidential privilege of immunity from judicial process under all circumstances. The President’s need for complete candor and objectivity from advisors calls for great deference from the courts. 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.”

    You’re making an argument concerning necessary sensitivity to certain issues, into one of necessary principle. Executive privilege does not meet that standard.

    AF (4a3fa6)

  26. Beldar:

    I genuinely can’t conceive of any questions beyond her name, dates of service, and job title that wouldn’t trigger a [legitimate] privilege objection.

    What about the hypothetical I gave? If she were asked e.g. did she receive any unsolicited emails from the DoJ with regards to the Attorney matter, how would that be privileged?

    Crust (399898)

  27. Why the Mainstream News Media is Declining

    In the not-so-old days, the news media was defined by the three TV news networks, ABC, NBC and CBS, as well as the major metropolitan newspapers- plus the radio stations. People got their news by reading the daily paper and watching the evening TV news on one of the above TV networks. Radio stations sufficed to give listeners their news as they were driving to and from work. Today, we have other choices due to the advances of technology. During the past generation, there has been a revolution in how people get their news, partly due to technology but also due to other factors as well. People today have other choices, and it is a cause for concern for the traditional mainstream news industry.

    First of all, the 24 hour news channel has played a revolutionary role. CNN, pioneered by Ted Turner, gave the news audience the opportunity to get their news 24 hours a day. Other 24 hour channels have followed suit. No longer do TV viewers have to wait for their 6-7 pm, 30 minute presentation of the national and international news. Now, by the time, 6 pm rolls around, most people are up-to-date on what is happening around the world.

    Another revolutionary development is the Internet. People can simply go to their computer to find out the breaking news events. They can also tune into news sources around the world in other languages if they are so inclined.

    Talk radio has also played a very significant role, especially for conservative listeners. Until Rush Limbaugh came on the scene a couple of decades ago, conservatives were pretty much tied to the mainstream media (which tended to slant to the left on most issues). Conservative listeners had very little opportunity to hear their views articulated on radio. Limbaugh changed all that. Today, he is still the most-listened to radio talk show host in the country with a listenership of about 20 million people. More importantly, he has paved the way for other conservatives to start their own radio talk shows, Sean Hannity, Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt, Larry Elder, to name a few. Liberal talk radio is still trying to catch up, but so far, without much success.

    The most recent phenomena is the advent of the blogs via the Internet. Now, virtually anyone can speak out and voice his/her opinion on the issues of the day and get his/her words disseminated across the Internet. Successful bloggers are even having an influence on public opinion, both on the left and the right. Two of the most successful left-wing blogs are Move On.Org and Daily Kos since they hold considerable influence over the Democratic Party. Many prominant Democrats, such as Al Gore, have spoken before Move-On and later this month, several Democratic candidates for president will attend the annual convention of Daily Kos.
    It goes without saying that both parties are paying close attention to blogs on the left and the right. To be sure, blogs are opiniated, contentious-and sometimes vile and out of control. Some blogs monitor and control the dialogue and comments that readers send in. Some do not. Blogs are like everything else on the Internet; they range from intellectual to vile, good to terrible. The reader must be able to separate fact from opinion and decide what to accept or not to accept. For better or worse, however, it is democracy in action.

    But it is not only technology that has threatened the mainstream news media. It is (and this is my personal opinion) the decreasing lack of credibility that the public perceives on the part of our major networks and newspapers. Wherever you stand on the political spectrum, you have to be a fool to really believe that the mainstream media is fair and objective. First, look at the three major TV networks: ABC, NBC and CBS. They are beyond question liberal in their orientation-thus, they favor the Democratic Party. As for the cable networks, the same holds true for MSNBC and CNN. Only the Fox News Network slants conservative, and they are the highest rated cable network by far. As for the major metropolitan newspapers, they are overwhelmingly liberal. The biggest-the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, USA Today, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, Atlanta Journal and Constitution-I could go on forever-overwhelmingly favor the Democratic Party. It is not surprising that they are rapidly losing subscriptions. The public now recognizes that they are getting biased news, and they are turning to alternate sources. Even more to the point, traditional, conservative audiences are coming to the conclusion that there is something offensive in the mainstream media, detecting a tone that is against traditional values, such as religion, what we try to teach our children, our military, our war against terrorism and against our nation itself. Thus, millions of Americans are turning elsewhere for our daily information.

    Is this a positive development? I have heard many in the news media decry this trend on the grounds that people are now getting their news and opinions from non-professional sources. I disagree. Of course, every person should ideally have the sophistication to properly evalulate what they getting as news. However, if the mainstream news media chooses to slant its news reporting in a particular direction and decide which news is worthy of reporting-or not reporting-based on their philosophy, then they don’t deserve to keep their audience. They have created a massive void, which, due to technology and their own lack of credibility, is rapidly being filled

    gary fouse
    fousesquawk

    fouse, gary c (629ad9)

  28. You Want to Impeach Bush? For What?

    Rush Limbaugh, on his radio show yesterday, pulled one of his usual tongue-in-cheek news alerts when he announced that there was a new shortage in Washington-a shortage of subpoena forms. Seems the Democrats in Congress have used them all up during the course of their various investigations and hearings into government wrongdoing in the Bush Administration. Seriously though, the Democrats seem to be determined to dog Bush to the end of his presidency if not find enough dirt to start impeachment proceedings against him and most certainly, Dick Cheney. That they are doing this in a time of war strikes me as disgraceful. Yet, I must concede that a war would not suffice to protect a truly criminal president from removal. However, let’s look at the so-called scandals that the Dems are investigating.

    As for the charge that Bush lied us into a war on Iraq based on false claims of WMD, I say this: If Bush lied about WMD, then a lot of other people lied as well. That long list would include Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Madelyn Albright, Sandy Berger, William Cohen, John Kerry, the inteligence agencies of the Brits, French, Israelis, as well as the CIA. Were they all lying? No, actually. For starters, Saddam used chemical weapons against Iran in his war against that nation. He also used them against his own people after the first Gulf War, killing thousands of innocent men, women and children in one village alone. Bush, in the wake of 9-11, simply was not prepared to wait until Saddam started passing off WMD to terrorists to use against the US and Israel. You can disagree with his reasoning and decision, but there was nothing devious and criminal about it.

    Another “scandal” is the NSA wiretapping program that Bush authorized after 9-11 to monitor conversations between Al-Quaida suspects overseas and their contacts in the US. I can’t believe the opposition that the Democrats have to this program in the first place. If Bush hadn’t done it, he should have been impeached for gross negligence. Do you have any doubt that during World War II, wiretaps were going on all over the country? Besides, what was the reason? So Bush could spy on his political enemies like Nixon did in Watergate? No. It was done to prevent attacks-to save lives.

    Now there is the big deal over the firings of eight US Attorneys. So what? It was done for political purposes you say? Of course. So what? US Attorneys are political appointees. They are usually appointed by incoming presidents as political plums. A US Attorney serves at the pleasure of the President. Bill Clinton, when he came into office, replaced 93 US Attorneys with his own people, including the US Attorney in Chicago, who was nearing an indictment of Democrat member of Congress, Dan Rostenkowski for corruption, as well the US Attorney in Little Rock who was investigating Whitewater, replacing him with a former law school student of his. No one said a peep when Clinton canned these 93 people and put his own people in. Now, the Democrats want explanations. The first scalp they are going for is that if Attorney General, Alberto Gonzalez, who has been raked over the coals and all but called a perjuror by the likes of Schumer. Advice to Gonzalez-tell the truth about the firings. You fired them-tough! Don’t become the next Scooter Libby.

    The Democrats also want to subpoena Bush’s top advisors to testify as to what they ever told Bush about anything at anytime. Bush is claiming “Executive Privilege”, and the Democrats (principally Chucky Schumer, John Conyers and Henry Waxman) are waxing indignant over the issue that seems to arise in every administration. Now, Russ Feingold wants to start Censure proceedings against Bush.

    My only advice for the Administration is to tell the Democrats to go pound sand. But if anyone does have to testify, just tell the damn truth. If the Democrats really want to push these issues, in the end, they will alienate the public. Bush’s approval ratings may be low, but they are head and shoulders above those for Congress. What most people really want to see Congress do is get to work on something constructive, like shutting down the border and supporting our troops who are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    gary fouse
    fousesquawk

    fouse, gary c (629ad9)


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