Ready. Fire. Aim.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006 :::
There's a reason the GOP is often tarred with the label, "The Stupid Party." Via Redstate, we get the latest example of why, oh why, the label sometimes fits like a glove:
House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner said Tuesday he will summon Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller before his panel to explain their decision to raid a lawmaker's office for the first time in history.
"I want to have Attorney General Gonzales and FBI Director Mueller up here to tell us how they reached the conclusion they did," said Sensenbrenner, one of President Bush's most loyal House allies. Sensenbrenner's hearings, which began Tuesday, are examining whether the May 20 raid violated the Constitution.
Calling the decision to authorize the raid "profoundly disturbing," Sensenbrenner signaled that he would not be among the lawmakers backing off their criticism of the Bush administration. Any progress in talks between House and Justice Department lawyers in crafting guidelines for future criminal investigations of Congress would not deter Sensenbrenner from calling the administration to account for weekend search of Rep. William Jefferson's offices.
"Profoundly disturbing." Said without a hint of irony. But then again, irony requires a degree of self-awareness that seems beyond some in Congress.
That is not to say that there are not constitutional issues involved in this matter. Cato's John Samples wrote that Speaker Hastert's reaction to the FBI's search of Rep. Jefferson's office reflects the fundamental tension between the branches of government, as described in Federalist 51:
Hastert is acting in the spirit of Federalist 51. To be sure, there are other considerations in this case, but Hastert is doing what Madison expected congressional leaders to do: stand up for his branch of the government against an encroachment from an ambitious executive. Those who are criticizing Hastert are trying to make corruption a bipartisan stain or to raise public approval of Congress by a point or two. They are ignoring the constitutional dimension of all this.
This is exactly the tack taken by the Wall Street Journal on today's editorial page:
With the separation of powers, the Founders created a system with inevitable tension between Congress and the executive. Congress has been the biggest offender in stealing power from the executive in the modern era, but the May 20 FBI raid on the legislative office of William Jefferson (D., La.) seems a case in which the Justice Department has gone overboard, and even been insubordinate.
I can certainly appreciate the argument. It would be a chilling thing, indeed, if the executive branch, with the aid of the judiciary, decided to make a habit of investigating congressmen and searching their offices on charges both real and imagined.
But here, obviously, I doubt whether Congress or Rep. Sensenbrenner has Mr. Madison in mind when they charge the executive with constitutional over-reach. Rather, it has all the hallmarks of panic. And panic leads to irrational choices -- including Rep. Sensenbrenner's hearings (especially as the FBI's investigation is ongoing).
There may yet be some way for all sides to reach a face-saving agreement that allows the investigation to follow its course. But right now, it doesn't seem as though anyone is interested, at least publicly, in such a discussion. Instead, the congressional GOP continues to dig itself a political hole and folks like me are left to wonder if the District actually got around to replacing all those lead pipes in its water system. Maybe they did. But it does seem as though they missed a couple...and they both feed directly into Rayburn.
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 5/30/2006