The devil can cite scripture for his purpose — and the L.A. Times can cite experts for their purpose.
A couple of weeks ago, it helped Democrats to argue that Congress could force a prosecution of executive branch officials (such as Harriet Miers) for contempt of Congress — even when they cite executive privilege to refuse to answer questions. The L.A. Times ran an article about competing Democrat and Republican views — and suggested that the Democrat view was correct. The article cited only expert opinion supporting the Democrat position:
Some legal experts questioned interpreting the law [providing for contempt of Congress prosecutions] to mean that persons who cite executive privilege for failing to cooperate are exempt from prosecution.
The contempt statute refers such matters to “the appropriate U.S. attorney, whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action.”
It is “unambiguous,” said Peter Shane, an Ohio State law professor who is an expert in executive privilege.
(As an aside, we had Peter Shane on here defending his views — and while he was a very smart, well-spoken, and engaging man, I found his views completely and utterly unpersuasive. Judging from the comments to the post, most of the readership here agreed with me.)
The L.A. Times now has an article titled Democrats happy to let Gonzales dangle. (No giggling, you schoolchildren.) Apparently the Democrats now realize that they are going nowhere with their challenges to executive privilege, and have decided to rationalize their failure by gloating about how Gonzales is a political liability for Republicans (which he is).
If the article is correct, Democrats have decided that it is not critical to win the argument that Congress can force a prosecution for contempt of Congress in the face of a claim of executive privilege. Democrats have apparently decided that the politics are better without forcing the issue. Indeed, it may even help justify the Democrats’ cynical political position to argue that no prosecution is possible.
I guess it’s okay for the paper to tell the truth now:
[E]ven left-leaning scholars say the Democrats are unlikely to succeed on the legal front.
For instance, the Justice Department already has put Congress on notice that it won’t bring charges if the full House asks the department to prosecute Miers and Bolten for contempt. Legal experts say the federal law making contempt of Congress a crime is unenforceable against executive branch officials who, at the behest of the president, invoke executive privilege in refusing to testify.
Where were these experts two weeks ago, when an article detailed the battle between the Democrats and Republicans on this very issue? I don’t know — but they sure weren’t quoted in the Los Angeles Times. It fell to people like me to make the argument that “[e]ven left-leaning scholars” now agree with — now that the Democrats have decided that the argument’s weakness is not a problem any more.
The article betrays absolutely no hint of embarrassment at the fact that the paper was telling us the exact opposite thing just a couple of weeks ago. That was then and this is now. You’d be shocked to learn how executive privilege law can change in two weeks. It’s a very fast-paced area of the law.
Yes, the devil can cite scripture for his purpose. Let’s continue with the quote:
An evil soul, producing holy witness,
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!
You guys enjoying that new L.A. Times layout?
OK, I guess falsehood can have a crappy outside too . . .