Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Are Democrats being hypocritical on Gonzo?

Both Slate and the L.A. Times weigh in on the split-personality behavior of House and Senate Democrats pummeling Alberto Gonzales for his politicizing the Department of Justice and, in doing so, apparently perjuring himself, then turning around and giving him massive new powers to control National Security Agency spying.

Both articles suggest political considerations are at stake. To the degree that’s true, then Democrats stand guilty of letting our civil liberties, in the FISA expansion bill, be made hostage to politics.

First, Slate’s always-incisive Dahlia Lithwick:

Imagine that the Democrats had been hollering for the past six months that Gonzales was an out-of-control drunk. With their eavesdropping vote, they've handed him the keys to a school bus. Nobody was forcing these Democrats to impeach or censure the AG. But this warm pat on the back they have offered him is beyond incredible.

With this FISA vote, the Democrats have compromised the investigation into the U.S. attorney scandal. They've shown themselves either to be participating in an empty political witch hunt or curiously willing to surrender our civil liberties to someone who has shown — time and again — that he cannot be trusted to safeguard them. The image of Democrats hypocritically berating the attorney general with fingers crossed behind their backs is ultimately no less appalling than an attorney general swearing to uphold the Constitution with fingers crossed behind his own.

Then the Times:
Democrats are not winning the battle to force Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales from office, stymied by a legal system that gives the Bush administration wide discretion to block investigations of itself. And they are not getting the White House witnesses or records they have demanded in recent weeks.

But many Democrats are fine with that.

Although they may prove fruitless, the Democrats’ investigative efforts may help keep President Bush and his administration the center of attention in next year’s elections, even as the Republican Party chooses a new standard-bearer and tries to move on.

Now, a bone to pick with the Times. The legal system hasn’t “given” Bush any such power; instead, he has arbitrarily seized it, which makes Congress’ failure to do more even more inexcusable.

In any case, one Democratic strategist owns up to the idea.
“This becomes a piece of the race,” said David E. Bonior, a former Michigan congressman who is managing Democrat John Edwards’ presidential campaign. By highlighting Bush’s allegiance to Gonzales, Democrats hope to make a point about how a Democratic administration would be different, drawing “the contrast of what we have and what we could have,” Bonior said.

The Times article goes on to point out that Democrats have already cut “linkage” campaign ads against New Mexico GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson.

So, expect no escalation of attempts to get Gonzo out of office; the FISA expansion clearly indicates that, as Lithwick notes. And, expect no Democratic campaign contributions from people like Skippy and me.

Cross-posted at Socratic Gadfly.