Patterico's Pontifications


This is the Dawning of the Age of Inquirious

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:11 pm

President Bush is invoking executive privilege to keep White House staff from testifying on the U.S. Attorney firings. Allah has commentary, as well as video from the presser.

Politically, there are no good options. Acquiesce to hearings, where any substantive defense will be left on the cutting room floor, to leave room for the soundbites of Chuck Schumer grandstanding. Or, invoke executive privilege and watch the press do nothing for days but chew on the issue of what Bush has to hide.

Either way, Alberto Gonzales will get tossed overboard as a sacrifice to the sharks below.

But it will just be more blood in the water.

And so the Age of Investigation begins.

50 Responses to “This is the Dawning of the Age of Inquirious”

  1. I don’t think Gonzalez is going anywhere. This morning it looked like Gonzalez might be angling to offer up McNulty as a sacrafice.

    But, I think the Pres. coming out in a press conference and telling Schumer etal., to go pound sand, signifies a shift in WH thinking. They are going to stand their ground here and fight on the principle that they are not going to let the Congress drag WH officials up to the Hill for the next 18 months and question them under oath for no purpose other than to generate video for the cable news talk shows.

    That stuff is like mana from heaven for MSNBC and CNN’s production staffs — its all you will see on these shows until the 2008 election.

    I get the feeling the WH has said “Enough, if you want a fight, we don’t see how we have much to lose anymore.”

    And at the same time he provides some cover for the GOP Senators to step back and not have to take the fight to the Dems themselves, since it was beginning to look like they might not be willing without an investment on the part of the WH to defend their own.

    wls (077d0d)

  2. First, I agree Bush won’t toss AG unless AG has said or done something that Bush views as disloyal. If that happens, AG is toast.

    Second, Bush may not be happy about this but I’m sure he realizes it could be a lot worse. Instead of harping for AG’s resignation, the Democrats could be talking impeachment. Impeachment is Bush’s worst case scenario. This is business as usual given how Bush abandoned ship after the midterms.

    DRJ (53e939)

  3. 2

    So when Bush fires someone it is for disloyalty not for incompetence.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  4. In my opinion, yes.

    DRJ (53e939)

  5. Which is the complaint so many of us have.

    Patterico (04465c)

  6. Of course, being grossly incompetent would be disloyal from a chief executive’s viewpoint so I guess it’s a blurred line at some point.

    DRJ (53e939)

  7. But why can’t they investigate something useful, like the RIAA or the poison pet food makers?

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  8. Well, if the poison pet food maker is a friend of Karl Rove, maybe they will.

    DubiousD (dd7d6d)


    Tony Snow – Op-Ed – St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 1998 :
    (HEADLINE: “Executive Privilege is a Dodge”)
    Evidently, Mr. Clinton wants to shield virtually any communications that take place within the White House compound on the theory that all such talk contributes in some way, shape or form to the continuing success and harmony of an administration. Taken to its logical extreme, that position would make it impossible for citizens to hold a chief executive accountable for anything. He would have a constitutional right to cover up.
    Chances are that the courts will hurl such a claim out, but it will take time.
    One gets the impression that Team Clinton values its survival more than most people want justice and thus will delay without qualm. But as the clock ticks, the public’s faith in Mr. Clinton will ebb away for a simple reason: Most of us want no part of a president who is cynical enough to use the majesty of his office to evade the one thing he is sworn to uphold — the rule of law.

    Tony Snow, Fox News, March 18, 1998:
    In our latest Fox News Opinion Dynamics poll, we asked a series of questions about executive privilege. Most believe it’s an attempt to stonewall Ken Starr’s investigation. There’s an even split on whether the White House has something to hide. And a majority thinks conversations with the first lady should not be covered.
    Did the president invoke executive privilege to preserve the presidency or hold Ken Starr at bay?

    Paul Gigot, Fox News, March 8, 1998:
    GIGOT: Senator Torricelli, the president has from the very beginning pledged to cooperate with the investigation, said he wants to get the truth out sooner rather than later.
    Would you define claims of executive privilege as cooperation? . . . But aren’t claims of executive privilege usually reserved for national security matters — in particular, matters of state secrets and foreign affairs?

    Kate O’Beirne – Capital Gang – May 2, 1998:
    O’BEIRNE: Let me say, Mark, I think Newt Gingrich delivered a really good speech. He gave voice to that which millions of people know to be true. I don’t think it’s good news for the Democrats. The Republicans have had trouble finding their voice on this and they’re scared off by being told it just has to do with the president’s personal, private behavior. And Newt Gingrich, I think, has given voice to them in a way that’s not helpful to Democrats.
    He says there are two principles involved, the public’s right to know, because secrecy has so benefited Bill Clinton, and second, no one is above the law. Now, if the public increasingly sees this scandal about their right to know, so much for executive privilege and Secret Service privilege, and no one is above the law, Bill Clinton’s in a lot of trouble.

    Tony Snow’s Show – Fox News – May 10, 1998
    SNOW: Mr. Burton, back to your committee — if you cannot immunize those witnesses, that’s the kiss of death. You’re not going to have any more hearings. . . . .
    BRIT HUME: And have you been assured, sir, that you will remain as chairman of that committee through the coming months.
    GOP COMMITTE CHAIR REP. DAN BURTON: Yes. I have no problem with that, and I don’t think the speaker does either.
    We’re going to continue on it until we get the truth for the American people, or at least do our dead-level best to get the truth for them.
    You know, the president could solve a lot of this problem if he wouldn’t hide behind executive privilege, if he’d just come out and tell the American people the truth.

    AF (f0c94f)

  10. As far as Bush’s popularity with his base is concerned, this is the right move for him–they want him to fight. As to the long term, well, we’ll see, it might turn out to be profoundly stupid, but then there often turns out to be a price to pay further down the road.

    Biff (c3722c)

  11. “As far as Bush’s popularity with his base is concerned,”

    his popularity is somewhere around 30%

    AF (f0c94f)

  12. Biff,

    Speaking as a member of the base, I want Bush to hold firm on Iraq. I don’t give one flip about AG AG, Harriet Miers, or Karl Rove, and I could care less about what happens to these USAs. Bush used them as evidence of his bipartisanship for 4+ years and it didn’t do him one bit of good. Bush should have fired them when he first took office and never looked back, so this is just another example of “too little, too late” in my book.

    DRJ (53e939)

  13. AF- those quotes are an excellent illustration of why any candidate for 2008 POTUS should be coming out against these hearings.

    MayBee (eb1824)

  14. 12

    Um, DRJ the US attorneys Bush just fired were his own appointments.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  15. 4 5

    It is why I am disinclined to believe the US attorneys were fired for incompetence rather than for disloyalty.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  16. James B.,

    I thought most or all were holdovers from prior administrations that he reappointed. Can you bring me up to date?

    DRJ (53e939)

  17. AF,

    These examples are from the perpetually slippery Mr. Greenwald, who fails to note a critical distinction: the Clinton investigation was a criminal investigation. (As was the Nixon invstigation.) I’m sure you fellas have high hopes for this one, but as we stand, it ain’t a criminal investigation — and so the privilege claim is legally stronger.

    Patterico (04465c)

  18. Here’s what has my brain hanging upside down constitutionally — if Bush is drawing a line in the sand on the principle that his advisers should not be hauled before Congress to be questioned by Congress because then his advisers would give him advice that wasn’t candid and confidential, why is he offering up Rove and Miers to Congress anyway?

    I can kind of see his point about executive privilege, that his advisers should be able to tell him all sorts of crazy stuff without the chilling effect of it ever getting to Congress. I can see the possibility of executive privilege trumping congressional investigation, let’s say, in some cases if maybe not this one.

    But that is exactly what Bush waived in his “compromise.” He IS allowing Rove and Miers to talk to Congress. He IS waiving the privilege of confidentiality. He IS letting Congress see his hypothetically protected underwear drawer.

    Where Bush is drawing the line is that he wants those conversations to be sealed from the public, unsworn testimony, and no transcription kept. As to the last one especially, WTF, no written record, even for Congress to use?

    His conditions are completely backwards from his stated concern. If he truly believes in executive privilege, he would have Rove and Miers show up, get sworn, make sure the cameras were on and the transcriber ready, and have the witnesses claim a privilege and decline to answer. Like any other public hearing where the proceedings are open to all, recorded, and the witnesses sworn, but the witnesses claim a privilege.

    Here, it looks like Bush is OK waiving his central concern in letting Congress get into White House matters (confidentiality of adviser statements) but imposing a bunch of limitations that make no sense to his central concern. Why should witnesses be able to testify to Congress without the usual swearing in, why not a transcript to keep a record, why can’t the public hear what happened in these clearly non-secret matters?

    The only plausible answer is, he wants to make sure if they lie, there are no legal repercussions.

    aplomb (4c3235)

  19. aplomb,

    You need to think of Bush as a CEO. Despite his rhetoric, Bush’s first focus is his people, not the principles or the policy. His main concern is that he doesn’t want someone else to end up like Libby. I suspect he views the Libby conviction as primarily due to politics, not perjury, and that his job as a CEO is to protect his people from similar political games in the future. One way to do that is to never let them testify under oath.

    The political rationale for this is to tell the public he’s cooperating (i.e., being bipartisan) by making his staff available for questioning. It makes sense to his CEO mind. It bothers the heck out of attorneys.

    DRJ (53e939)

  20. 18 — Aplomb

    What he is offering to Congress is the opportunity to have their questions answered. If all they want is information in order to form a judgment about the episode, he’s willing to have his advisors sit down and give the Congress the information they claim they need.

    What he’s denying them is the opportunity to conduct “gotcha politics” showtrials where the purpose is to generate headlines, soundbites, and videotape for partisan political purposes.

    So, what are the Dems interested in? The information or the spectacle?

    wls (077d0d)

  21. AF, note that Bush’s popularity with Republicans has ranged from 99% to 68% or so; it’s near its low now, which is still more than two-thirds.


    Yeah, Clinton’s USA’s are long-fired–but note that no one made a stink about *that* at the time (because that wasn’t a big deal). But I’ve seen a lot of sentiment in general that Bush–as a strong leader–should fight his battles, especially against Democrats. Of course that won’t cover *every* member of the base, but I’d wager that it’s a majority.

    Biff (c3722c)

  22. DRJ – If Bush is focusing on his people, and not principles or policy, well . . . Congress is going to go ballistic.

    I hate to invoke the “I” word. But check out the third article of impeachment that passed the judiciary committee before Nixon resigned if you want to see what pisses Congress off. At least in the early ’70s, refusal to cooperate in Congressional investigations were enough to invoke it.

    I’m not saying the “I” word is in anyway implicated here, I affirmatively think it is not implicated. I’m just saying this whole thing confuses me as to White House strategy. What are they thinking? Why say we will present the witnesses to tell you everything you want to know even though we strongly think we don’t have to, and then condition it by saying they won’t be sworn to tell the truth, the public can’t know, and no record can be kept? It’s just self defeating and caries an implication that the witnesses will be slinging bullcrap.

    aplomb (4c3235)

  23. Bush warns the Dems…finally…

    It seems like President Bush has already had enough of the ‘most ethical Congress in history’. Today, he finally let the Dems have it.Bush, in a late-afternoon statement at the White House, said he would fight any subpoena effort in…

    Cop The Truth (72c8fd)

  24. wls said: “What he’s denying them is the opportunity to conduct “gotcha politics” showtrials where the purpose is to generate headlines, soundbites, and videotape for partisan political purposes.
    So, what are the Dems interested in? The information or the spectacle?”

    That’s the thing. The Dems are interested in getting the information, but are concerned that the administration won’t put up sworn witnesses or allow the proceedings to be recorded. Why not, in this case? If the administration is willing to put up witnesses, why isn’t it willing to comply in this particular case with the usual and obvious tradition that testimony be sworn, public and recorded?

    I’m trying by best to avoid partisan politics and just point out how the administration has everything ass backwards here.

    If this is a total non-issue, if it should just die away, if we should just move along, Bush should let whoever Congress wants to testify to do so like any other witness, with a statement that even though he has a privilege, he is waiving it in this case.

    If this is really an issue of Congress meddling into the inner workings of Bush and his advisers where Congress has no business getting into, Bush should refuse to present any witnesses.

    If as wls said “he’s denying them is the opportunity to conduct “gotcha politics” showtrials where the purpose is to generate headlines, soundbites, and videotape for partisan political purposes” then this is the worst possible strategy. Instead of just getting over it, Bush now has a full blown constitutional crisis on his hands. Subpoenas will issue, the administration will try to dodge them, pundits will discuss constitutionality, and all will be on page one of the papers for weeks.

    And this will play out with Bush in the worst possible position. His argument will be even though I waived my right to keep these people from talking to Congress, I will stick by my right to prevent them from swearing an oath, for a record to be kept, or from any of you in the public from finding out, for no clearly articulable reason.

    aplomb (4c3235)

  25. Does anyone have ANY clue why he acted so hamhandedly? It’s hard to imagine Alberto having such a Janet Reno moment…

    Clark Baker (337440)

  26. “And so the Age of Investigation Begins”

    Whaddaya mean, ‘begins’?

    I think you mean ‘continues’, or ‘builds ever higher’….

    Dave (391b76)

  27. Lawyers specialize in being slippery, you represent your clients that’s all. Academics can be a little more removed
    So here’s Jack Balkin on the executive privilege the “loyal Bushies” haven’t yet claimed.

    [Balkin is smart. I took Con Law from him. But don’t pretend he’s not a partisan. — P]

    AF (f0c94f)

  28. I just slays me how the liberatti completely ignore that Clinton fired over 90 AGs. Bush purges 8 and they act like someone put women’s panties on their heads. Leave to the demicritter hamsterados to create controversy out of nothing.

    Schratboy (9d6e65)

  29. At this point, with all the media focus on the President’s unpopularity, what does he have to lose if he stands up to the democrats? I think it will make him look stronger – I know I’d love to see it. Maybe turn the tables and show how the democrats love to spend our tax dollars on these useless investigations and show-trials. It’s starting to resemble the old Soviet Union politburo days with all these accusations and “legal” threats. Probably nostalgic for the democrats.

    Al (182e86)

  30. Spin it anyway you want to, but some in the Congress are taking a look at the Lam firing to see if she was fired for investigating some very powerful Republicans. There may not be a smoking gun of obstruction of justice yet, but that depends on who starts talking. Kyle Sampson, perhaps?

    jb (0cb424)

  31. Considering what happened with Libby , why would any chief exec want to expose his employees to the risks of such an investigation. one moment of poor recall and you’re the subject of a special prosecutor… and relying on the mercy of a DC jury. If your loyal to your employees you protect them from such risks.

    dm (7781ec)

  32. Poor, poor Scooter. He must have been a terrible lawyer! Perhaps he was having an exceptional memory week when he was able to get a pardon for Marc Rich as his lawyer. All sarcasm aside, I’m pretty sure Mr. Libby was aware that he was committing perjury and obstructing justice, he is taking one for the team and is waiting for his pardon. Don’t some of you care about the Constitution, or the independence of our judicial system? Or is it all about the power, screw what is right. I consider myself to be a moderate Republican, and I am horrified by what I see.

    jb (0cb424)

  33. Schratboy: A new president will ALWAYS replace all 93 US attorneys, since they are political appointments. Bush did it too at the beginning of his term, naming 93 new USAs, including those recently fired. What is unusual is firing USAs in the middle of their terms.

    AG (f39787)

  34. [Balkin is smart. I took Con Law from him. But don’t pretend he’s not a partisan. — P]

    If you noticed I used italics. Balkin is opinionated. He’s not nearly as “partisan” as you are. Or Greenwald for that matter.
    You don’t want to examine context: the change in the law inserted into the patriot act. Issa’s being a defender of Cunningham (and his attacks on Lam ramping up when Cunningham hit the news), the well documented cronyism of the administration. Haven’t you read any of the books written by former members? The Price of Loyalty?.
    And on the war, how about: Imperial Life in the Emerald City?.
    The administration is run on cronyism and politics, what way past time for republicans who aren’t hacks to admit it. The USA’s office has been politicized by this administration to an unprecedented degree. That is what this case is about. You can win a case on circumstancial evidence when there’s enough of it, and in this case there is more than enough.

    Did you know that Richard Mellon Scaife has changed his mind about Clinton?.
    And please don’t think I have: he was an asshole then and is one now. But he wasn’t the danger to the republic your boy is.

    AF (f0c94f)

  35. When G Gordon Liddy was put on trial, and when he was asked, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” he answered, “No.”

    The Democrats, emboldened by teh sacrifice of Lewis Libby, will be setting up perjury traps at every point. This is why one refuses to testify under oathy to Congress.

    Dana (3e4784)

  36. Libby committed perjury.

    AF (f0c94f)

  37. For what an non-crime? Something doesn’t smell right.

    Al (182e86)

  38. This is brilliant on Bush’s part, if it is intentional. While the Dems bray over these firings, and while they fawn over Algore, the surge in Baghdad is working. If Bush can stretch this thing out long enough, when they turn their attention back to losing the war, we will have already won it.

    RB (85ae72)

  39. Excellent analysis on this comment thread. I think we can look forward to more DemDonk grandstanding and an endless stream of subpoenas over the next two years. The lamestream media will carry the Dhimmiecrats water and continue spinning this in the most negative light possible hoping to isolate President Bush even from his own party. Never forget, we’re witnesses to this despicable Dhimmiecrat “patriotism” on full display during a time of war.

    This latest outrage is something I’ll never forget in my lifetime and if there is ever an historical confluence of such a nature which requires the true American patriot to deal with such seditious treachery just to save the union from such hate-Bush/blame-America kookery, I will be on that frontline giving it my all.

    This kind of partisan political posturing, during these very perilous times, is completely indefensible and is, in fact, fratricidal insanity given how this kind of partisan hackery can only energize Islamofascists here and abroad.

    Darthmeister (327d6f)

  40. If Matthews is not still tied up trying to get Cheney, he will put his astonishingly superficial investigative skills (via the Connecticut School of Investigation)to getting the truth! Just you wait….

    J J Everyman (cb80c1)

  41. Darthmeister nails it superbly! Well said!

    Harry (d1ce38)

  42. Let’s face it, at least three of the eight U.S. Attorney’s do appear incompetent or demonstrated an unwillingness to pursue what appeared to be very clear examples of Democratic election fraud (despite very clever denials by Democratic election officials), the question of felon voters illegally voting, particularly the triple recount fraud in Washinton State’s governor’s race which finally went the Democrat’s way in the final “recount”.

    I followed that one for months in 2004 thru the blog which, interestingly, can no longer be accessed online. Little question mystery ballots showing up mostly for the Democratic candidate, voter registrations which used the same street address not just a few times but hundreds of times, other votes disallowed which would have benefitted the Republican candidate, smacked of your typical Democrat dirty tricks. Also helped that most of the election officials in charge were Democrats in the “progressive” state of Washington

    Also, two out of the eight U.S. Attorneys terms were up and they simply weren’t renewed. Hardly a “firing” as portrayed by the lamestream media. As to the canard that “important cases” were being interupted by “political machinations” of Gonzales is only so much bloviating given it will always be the case that despite whomever is terminated as a U.S. Attorney there will always be any number of cases “interrupted”.

    Bill Clinton disposing of 93 U.S. Attorneys clearly interrupted a whole slew of cases including the investigations of Democrat Rostenkowski and the Hubble/Rose Law Firm. Sure the latter eventually went to trial, but the case was considerably weakend by after Clinton appointed ONE OF HIS FORMER LAW STUDENTS as the U.S. Attorney in that Arkansas district. Talk about cronyism. Strange justice under Bill Clinton. Read it all.

    Get used to it, people. There is always a political element in the President or the Attorney General giving a U.S. Attorney his/her marching orders. It’s happened all the time (though never on the scale practiced by Bill Clinton – anybody have proof to the contrary?) and the fact remains that under the Constitution the U.S. Attorney serves only at the President’s good pleasure, end of story. Well, it would be end of story except for the nattering liberal media which sees chum in the water and relatively ignorant American people who swill down the biased spin from the likes of ABC/NBC/CBS/NPR/CNN/WaPo/NYT ad nauseam.

    Darthmeister (327d6f)

  43. “I Just Saw A Glimpse Of The Next Two Years, And It’s Not Pretty”…

    Or as Patterico dubs it, “This is the Dawning of the Age of Inquirious”. Mary Katharine Ham writes, “Put your head between your knees, and kiss your next two years goodbye” as its Subpoeana Showdown time in Washington:Dean says Bush……

    Ed (47121e)

  44. The Dems are distracting the public away from the 10 BILLION in pork they are sliding into the War Bill. And the Gonzalez debacle is a good way to distract the public from the Amnesty trainwreck coming on immigration(which will be hailed as a great bi-partisan moment). Shumer needs this controversy so no one finds out about how Don Imus reamed his sorry ass over *never* visiting troops at Walter Reed Hospital. Monkeys one and all.

    Bear1909 (595b10)

  45. 16

    DRJ, the dates Bush appointed the 8 USAs he fired can be found here . Bush (as was customary when the Presidency changed party) replaced all (or nearly all) of Clinton’s USAs when he took office. This was not unusual, replacing your own USAs (absent gross misconduct) is.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  46. James B. Shearer — No. 45.

    Your just wrong. President’s replace US Attorneys all the time in the middle of the Pres. term. The US Attorney’s 4 year term doesn’t track the Pres. term because they always come into office weeks or months after the Pres.

    If you “fire” a US Attorney prior to the end of the US Attorney’s 4 year term, then that’s generally going to be for cause.

    But, after the end of the US Attorney’s 4 year term they are in what is called “holdover” status — meaning they are serving day-to-day at the sole discretion of the President, and they can be asked to step aside for no reason whatsoever, and its not unusual.

    The most classic example of this is what happened to Cummins in Arkansas. He said last night on Hardball that when he got the call from Mike Battle in Aug. 2006, he was told nothing more than the WH wanted to make room for someone else to have the position of US Attorney, so he would have to resign.

    He understood — its political — it was political when he got the job. Cummins was a failed GOP candidate for Congress in 1998. He then worked for the GOP in Arkansas during the 2000 election. He was awarded for his efforts with the US Attorney’s job. He had ZERO prosecutorial experience, state or federal.

    So, when the the Director of the Executive Office of US Attorneys called Cummins and said “we want someone else to have the job”, he was fine with it.

    I gaurantee you that Cummins was not the first Bush 43 US Attorney to get that call.

    And, I gaurantee you that many Clinton US Attorneys got similar calls following the Clinton re-election in 1996.

    The US Attorney jobs are stepping stones — either to lucrative jobs in big law firms, or to federal judicial nominations. So, most Presidents don’t leave the same 93 people holding onto the job for 8 years. And, when there is a particilar person in Colorado that the WH wants to install as US Attorney as a reward, someone is going to call the current US Attorney in Colorado and suggest that its time for them to move on to other pursuits.

    The fact that it happens so commonly, and never has drawn any attention in the past, it what I believe caused the poor reaction by DOJ and the WH to the flurry of press attention.

    And when Feinstein threw gasoline on the fire by suggesting a connection between Lam and the Cunningham case, she got just the reaction from the press that she hoped for.

    wls (077d0d)

  47. The thing is that Gonzales has been a SUPERB AG. Better than Ashcroft, Certainly the best since Meese and I would argue even better. His skill in getting the interrogation procedures in place has probably prevented one or more 911s.

    So we owe him a little loyalty. Let the Peloshiites wail and howl. Their screaming will only alienate moderate voters.

    They’ll pay the price in 2008.

    Doug (665e21)

  48. James B.,

    Thanks for the link. I still have the nagging feeling that Bush was trying to appear bipartisan by appointing at least some USAs that were satisfactory to Democrats and/or Democratic senators. However, I’m not sure where I got this impression and I may be wrong.

    Anyway, are you a TPM fan?

    DRJ (6984d0)

  49. [Balkin is smart. I took Con Law from him. But don’t pretend he’s not a partisan. — P]

    You’re depressing me. My Con Law professor died over 10 years ago.

    DRJ (6984d0)

  50. “The lamestream media…”


    Ha HA!! Good one!!

    “…the Dhimmiecrats…”


    Two in one sentence!

    “…the true American patriot…”


    Three in one post!

    You’re really on a roll with these creative polemical devices, Darthmeister. Take a break… we wouldn’t want your brain to overheat from thinking too hard.

    Leviticus (ed6d31)

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