Thursday, March 22, 2007

Been in this process too long

As the talks with North Korea are on the verge of breakdown, US chief negotiator Christopher Hill comments, “The day I’m able to explain to you North Korean thinking is probably the day I’ve been in this process too long.” That’s actual Bush administration policy, you know: on the actual day you finally master the skills necessary to do your job competently, they fire you.

Which brings us to the US attorneys, specifically a WaPo editorial telling everyone to just calm down, to let go of the “stubbornness and overheated rhetoric on both sides,” which “threaten an unnecessary constitutional crisis that would only bog down the inquiry in a distracting fight over process.” I really dislike these lazy editorials that come up during every scandal – or “supposed scandal,” as the editorial calls this one – accusing both sides of being equally unreasonable. It’s the editorial equivalent of a Joe Lieberman “oh everybody in Washington (except me) is just so unreasonable and partisan” speech. The authors could write them in their sleep, and most likely do.

You know there’s something seriously wrong with it when the piece characterizes Bush’s take-it-or-fuck-off offer as “Alberto R. Gonzales would set the record straight in new hearings...” Yeah, Gonzales... record... straight...

The Post suggests that Gonzales and other Justice Dept officials testify first and then, only “if questions remain” should Karl Rove and Harriet Miers be interviewed. Of course, any familiarity with the facts makes it clear that the decision to fire the attorneys was made in the White House rather than the Justice Dept, that Gonzales has never made a big decision by himself in his whole career, so it is clearly impossible for Gonzo and the Gonzettes not to leave questions remaining (which is why I’ve sadly had to forgo calling this scandal GonzoGate).

The WaPo thinks Rove and Miers should testify on the record but needn’t do so under oath because it’s already illegal to lie to Congress. If it really makes no difference either way, there’s no reason not to swear them in. Makes you wonder why anyone is ever sworn in. (I’m not sure what the legal difference is, possibly that the oath to tell the whole truth is a higher standard, that the statute against lying to Congress doesn’t cover lies by omission.)

The Post thinks Bush should accept its eminently reasonable recommendations: “If Mr. Bush is serious about wanting the truth to come out, he will relent on this issue.”

You know someone’s been in the editorial-writing business too long if they can write, without laughing uproariously for hours, the phrase “If Mr. Bush is serious about wanting the truth to come out...”

Elsewhere in the paper, the WaPo reports on political interference in the government lawsuit against the tobacco companies. But what you never hear much about is the policy, dating from Ashcroft, of Justice systematically ordering US attorneys to demand the death penalty in cases where they didn’t think it warranted, as part of a policy to spread the federal death penalty evenly over the country, imposing it on non-death-penalty states, in other words overriding the prosecutors because of policy rather than the facts of the individual cases. I know of no case in the last 6 years that went the other direction, with a US attorney who wanted to seek the death penalty ordered not to.

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