Thursday, July 26, 2007

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A post in which I send my readers on a blog hunt

President George W. Bush and New York Governor Eliot Spitzer both seem way too fond of executive privilege.

Bush, of course, has gone so far as to order Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten ignore Congressional subpoenas. The AP story sums up the state of play:

Miers' testimony emerged as the battleground for a broader scuffle between the White House and Congress over the limits of executive privilege. Presidents since the nation's founding have sought to protect from the prying eyes of Congress the advice given them by advisers, while Congress has argued that it is charged by the U.S. Constitution with conducting oversight of the executive branch.

The dispute extended to Congress' request for information on other matters, including the FBI's abuses of civil liberties under the USA Patriot Act and Bush's secretive wiretapping program.

But it is a pair of congressional subpoenas for two women who once were Bush's top aides that has moved the disagreement to the brink of legal sanctions and perhaps a court battle.

Former White House political director Sara Taylor appeared Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee and in a tentative performance sought to answer some lawmakers' questions and remain mum on others, citing Bush's claim of privilege. Senators didn't seem eager to cite her with contempt, but Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, said he had not yet made that decision.

Miers, in contrast, chose to skip the House hearing Thursday, citing White House Counsel Fred Fielding's letter to her lawyer conveying Bush's order not to show up. In letters sent the night before to Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and Sanchez, Bush and Fielding cited several legal opinions that they said indicated that the president's immediate advisers had absolute immunity from congressional subpoenas.

Miers and Bolten now face possible contempt of Congress charges.

Now we turn to Eliot Spitzer. Danny Hakim summarizes the state of play in the New York Times:

Gov. Eliot Spitzer vowed on Wednesday to fight any State Senate inquiry into his administrationís internal operations, even as Republican senators were laying the groundwork for an investigation that could lead to subpoenas of top officials.

The administrationís stance sets the stage for a potential showdown with the Senate, and it came amid rising concerns even among Mr. Spitzerís fellow Democrats about whether the governor and his staff had been candid about their officeís effort to discredit a political rival.

A scathing report issued on Monday by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo concluded that the governorís staff had broken no laws but had misused the State Police to gather information about Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, in an effort to plant a negative story about him.

The governor has maintained that he was misled by his staff and knew nothing about the effort to discredit Mr. Bruno. But two of his closest aides refused to be interviewed by the attorney generalís investigators, intensifying suspicion, especially among the governorís critics, that Mr. Spitzer and his staff had not been forthright.

At a fiery press conference in Saratoga Springs, Mr. Bruno, the stateís top Republican, lashed out at the governor and signaled that the Senate fully intended to examine the matter further....

[W]ith the decision to fight a Senate inquiry, Mr. Spitzer appeared to be shifting from quiet contrition to a more confrontational stand. The move not only sets up a potential constitutional clash over executive privilege, but could also create a major distraction in the Capitol. Senator George H. Winner Jr., the chairman of the Senate Committee on Investigations and Government Operations, wrote to Mr. Cuomo on Wednesday, seeking copies of depositions, statements and e-mail traffic he had obtained. Mr. Bruno, asked if a Senate committee had the power to subpoena the governor, said ďI am told by counsel that we have subpoena powers and that we can subpoena the governor, anybody.Ē

But Christine Anderson, the governorís press secretary, said in a statement, ďThe State Senate lacks the constitutional authority to conduct investigatory hearings into the internal operations of the governorís office.Ē

Assignment to blog readers: is there anyone in the blogosphere partisan enough to defend one of these claims of executive privilege but attacked the other?

posted by Dan on 07.26.07 at 10:40 AM


One comment: The partisans will mostly complain about one and completely ignore the other. Why bother defending it when you can just "paint the mountain pink and put up an SEP field"

posted by: Nicholas Weaver on 07.26.07 at 10:40 AM [permalink]

The way it usually works, in my experience, is that the partisan blogger will:

(1) Attack an opposing politician for bad behavior

(2) Initially keep quiet about the bad behavior of a friendly politician

(3) Criticize hostile bloggers for hypocrisy when they do the same thing in reverse.

So these days, we get conservative bloggers accusing liberals of hypocrisy for condemning the perjury of Scooter Libby but not of Bill Clinton. And we get liberal bloggers accusing conservatives of hypocrisy for condemning Clinton but not Libby.

That way, the blogger gets to pretend to believe in even-handedness without actually criticizing his own guy.

posted by: Wilson on 07.26.07 at 10:40 AM [permalink]

It is also much easier to find people who express fondness for the New Deal and President Franklin Roosevelt, but criticize Bush's abuse of executive power (amongst other things).

While I am no fan of Bush, he never attempted to do anything like this:

Bush's firing of federal attorneys kind of pales in comparison to this blatant attempt to have Democratic control of all three branches of government...

posted by: Jake on 07.26.07 at 10:40 AM [permalink]

Does the NY state constitution have the same Article II structure and history as the US Constitution? For example, the Texas governor's role is much weaker constitutionally than the US president, and it wouldn't shock me at all to find out that the Texas governor had much weaker executive privilege claims. Maybe the NY governor has a stronger position than POTUS (the NYC mayor certainly has amazing powers). So it may be possible to distinguish the cases legally.

posted by: srp on 07.26.07 at 10:40 AM [permalink]

Well, I'll say Bush has never misused state resources to spy on a political opponent. That's Nixon territory.

Also, Spitzer's moves were entirely partisan and political - to undermine a political opponent. Which, incidentally, also explains much (though not all) of Congress' interest in the judicial goings on of the Bush administration. Both are political stunts, meant to serve a partisan purpose. The Bush administration is trying to protect its staff and former staff from exactly that.

So, sure - call me partisan. Disregard my criticism of the Bush administration on a whole host of issues, and my criticism of Republicans in Congress on many other issues. If being partisan means hating political stunts and political sideshows, then I'm ok with that.

posted by: Dan on 07.26.07 at 10:40 AM [permalink]

The passage "partisan enough to defend one of these claims of executive privilege but [attacked] the other" might be better constructed as "partisan enough to defend one of these claims of executive privilege but [to attack] the other".

Be that as it may. Hypocrisy of the sort you mention is nearly always a leftie phenomenon, since lefties dearly love the idea that they are right because they say they are right, and that they say they are right because they must be right, etc., which opens the door for the most absurd illogic.

Even if I were somehow in the mood to search for such hypocrisy, I'd be quickly discouraged by the endless obfuscation and sophistry that lefties use to cover up the indisputable fact that they are lying. They have an infinite ability to manufacture distortions of truth and reality, while I have a severely limited ability to meticulously dissect *one* of their sophistries, let alone an endless stream of such sophistries. It's a losing game, and I refuse to play it.

"Silence is the perfect expression of contempt."

This metacommentary has been brought to you by Rational Liberty.

posted by: Rational Objectivist on 07.26.07 at 10:40 AM [permalink]

Just the usual "if it sounds the same it must be the same" and "why does the Dem always get a free pass?" right wing whining crap. Don't you people ever get tired?

posted by: david on 07.26.07 at 10:40 AM [permalink]

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