Friday, May 25, 2007

Charles Schumer's Only Goal is Finishing-off Bush

In a discussion this last week with my office mate (he's a political geographer), we talked about immigration reform, and I mentioned that I was disgusted with New York Senator Charles Schumer's positions in the debate, which are mostly directed at preventing President Bush from achieving any type of legislative victory in his remaining years in office. (Side note: The opposition to the Senate immigration reform bill is growing, by the way, with a lots of outrage over its "amnesty" provisions and what not, though I might have been over-influenced in my opinion by Lou Dobbs' broadcast yesterday. Perhaps I'll have more on all of this later, but for now see here and here.)

It turns out, though, that Schumer's hurt-Bush-by-any-means-necessary agenda is also apparent in the controversy over the "scandal" involving Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the firings of the federal prosecutors. Kimberly Strassel, a member of the Wall Street Journal's editorial board, who now has a regular (and great!) Friday column,
has a nice piece up today at deconstructing Schumer's efforts to finish off the weakened Bush administration. Here's a nice quote to get you started:

Nothing exemplified the Schumer strategy better than last week's staged testimony of former Deputy Attorney General James Comey. Democrats entitled the hearing "Part IV" of their investigation into whether the Department of Justice was "Politicizing the Hiring and Firing of U.S. Attorneys." Curiously, Mr. Comey was the sole witness, and more curiously, Mr. Schumer appeared to be running the show in place of Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy. Yet all became clear when Mr. Schumer explained that his real concern wasn't so much this ole piddling attorneys thing as it was that "law and order take a back seat to the political needs of the president's party." He then invited Mr. Comey to spend the hearing talking not about prosecutors, but about "an incident from the time that Mr. Gonzales served as White House counsel."

That incident involved the visit of Mr. Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andy Card to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in the intensive care unit of the hospital. They wanted Mr. Ashcroft to sign off on the NSA's wiretapping authority, which Mr. Comey (as acting AG) had declined to do.

The Ashcroft-in-his-hospital-bed story is in fact prehistoric news, leaked all the way back in 2005. Mr. Comey's added value was to pad it with a few breathless details about siren-filled races through D.C. and orders to FBI agents that he not be allowed to be removed from Mr. Ashcroft's hospital room. Tom Clancy couldn't have spun a better yarn, and the Washington press corps (much to Mr. Schumer's satisfaction) slurped it up, dutifully writing stories suggesting Mr. Gonzales was some White House heavy, whose job it was to rough up hospital invalids and forcibly institute legally suspect programs. Alberto the Knife.

Strassel notes in the piece that Republicans have considered Gonzales' plight a hot potato -- with the exception of Senator Arlen Spector, the only GOP Senator to attend the Comey hearings. Schumer pretty much ran the show, but Spector got Comey to fess-up to some unsavory behavior, particularly that he had acted on his own initiative (and not president Bush's) in deciding to flip positions (toward the Democrats') on domestic wiretapping. (Comey's appointment as a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York was approved by none other than Charles Schumer.)

Strassel notes that Republicans better break out of their stupor before its too late:

Jumping into this mess won't be fun.

But if Republicans don't engage soon, Mr. Schumer will be free to expand this probe until it engulfs the presidency and the wider party--in the process stripping both of their ability to defend and continue key wartime programs. The GOP lost the recent congressional elections in part because Democrats painted them as incapable and ethically suspect. Mr. Schumer led that effort in the Senate, and knows it can work. Are they going to let him do it again?
I haven't really closely followed the whole affair over the U.S. Attorneys' firings. My opinion is that the president, as chief executive, has the authority to hire and fire political appointees (like the 8 terminated U.S. Attorneys at the center of this affair) at his pleasure. Of course, the administration's weak in public opinion, the Democrats are using their majority powers of oversight in Congress to harass the GOP, and frankly, Alberto Gonzales doesn't appear to be as competent an Attorney General as he could be. Still, Bush should have gotten more leeway, low in the polls or not. Democrats aren't talking so much about Janet Reno, President Clinton's Attorney General, who fired 93 U.S. Attorneys in 1993, early in the Clinton's first term. Democrats can't have it both ways -- Bush can't terminate Justice Department political appointees although it was okay to do so when Big Bill was in the Oval Office -- but perhaps Charles Schumer doesn't get it.

No comments: