|Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee|
Well, well, well... what is going to become of all this?
Senator Patrick Leahy (VT-D), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee ruled today that certain high-ranking aides (and former aides) cannot claim executive privilege to avoid testifying before the Senate about the US attorney firings that occurred in late 2006. You remember? The big dust-up that exposed former US Attorney General Al Gonzales as the wormy, sycophantic incompetent that he is?
The way I see it, this was a brilliant move by Leahy. Up until now, Leahy and other Democratic Senators (Chuck Schumer from New York, for example) have been firing questions at the White House that were aimed at determining whether or not Junior Bush was involved in the attorney firings, or whether it was an underling, like former adviser Karl Rove, former legal counsel Harriet Myers, or perhaps Gonzales on his own. The Judiciary Committee has gone so far as to issue subpoenas to Rove, Myers, and White House Chief of Staff, Josh Bolten.
The White House has insisted that Bush himself was not involved and has refused the subpoenas, citing executive privilege. The administration has offered an inadequate compromise: Rove, Myers, Bolten and others would testify privately to the Senate, but not under oath, and without a recorded transcript. (Don't you find that insulting?)
In a truly Machiavellian maneuver, today, Leahy accepted the assertion that Bush was not involved and then ruled that, since Bush was not involved, the subpoenaed White House big wigs could not therefore claim executive priviledge.
The White House response was so lame that it seems they were caught flat-footed. White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino said she was "baffled" by the ruling. "If [Senator Leahy] is now saying that the president wasn't aware of it, as we have said from the beginning, then I don't understand why he continues to have this rope-a-dope that's not going to go anywhere," she said. Hmm....that sounds kinda shaky to me.
There are a couple possible outcomes to this development. Leahy has a number of options:
- It could go nowhere. Leahy may be pawing the ground and making a lot of noise in order to get the White House to come up with some acceptable compromise wherein everyone involved can save face. (Don't ask me what that might be, but they're all experts at that kind of thing.) There is certainly reason to believe that might be what he wants. The prognosticating beltway gurus, even the Republicans, are all expecting a Democratic landslide in the '08 elections, and that is incentive (from Leahy's perspective) not to rock the boat too much. (I offer as Exhibit A, Reid's and Pelosi's sickening lack of spine regarding war funding).
- Leahy could actually press the issue by referring the subpoenas to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where they would be considered and then be voted on for referral to the entire Senate. Since Democrats hold the majority, we can assume that such a referral would pass. This would be a Big DealTM. The entire Senate would then vote on whether or not to hold Rove, Bolten, Myers and others in contempt of congress, which is a felony. And, you know, I may be a star-eyed dreamer, but I think Leahy might just go ahead and do it.
Further, one has to imagine that Leahy and Specter, to say nothing of their fellow senators, have egos that are vast enough to stretch from purple mountain's majesty all the way across the fruited plain. It must gall them that a creature like Junior Bush, whom I'm convinced they must view as a cretin and a ne'er-do-well, does not afford them the respect they feel they are due.
Well, I'm popping up some virtual microwave popcorn before I watch this play out. Somebody is going to get embarrassed and exposed. Somebody who richly deserves it. It might be Junior, it might be Rove, or it might be Leahy. There's no way to know. But keep your fingers crossed. There's always a chance...there's always a chance.