Sunday, March 12, 2006

NYT: "Senate Panel's Partisanship Troubles Former Members" (Scott Shane)

The latest exchange of fire between the top Republican and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee happened to be about the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program. But the tone of recrimination and hurt feelings, sarcasm and distrust that suffused the statements of the two men, Senators Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, and John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, was familiar from many previous disputes.

The above is from Scott Shane's "Senate Panel's Partisanship Troubles Former Members" in this morning's New York Times. Does "S.S." stand for "Sob Stories" because this is how the feature (dubed "Washington Memo") reads. Shane's done some reporting for this article so we'll view it as more than a floating op-ed (think "White House Letter") and treat it like actual reporting. The sob story tells you a number of things. Among them, "partisanship" is killing the former good-time feel of this committee which Olympia Snowe joined because she'd heard it was non-partisan. She's found herself "perplexed and dismayed." Boo-hoo. The partisanship angle is played up by having a former Democrat and a former Republican speak. The Dem (David L. Boren, hardly distinguished in the Senate) longs for, what Carly Simon would term, "some finer day" ("Anticipation"). The Republican, Warren B. Rudman, is a bit more concrete:

Mr. Rudman, the former Republican senator, said he believed the Senate committee should investigate and hold hearings on several subjects it had skirted, including the practice of "rendition" of suspected terrorists to countries where torture is common, and the justification and value of the surveillance program.
But the supercharged political atmosphere has hamstrung oversight, he said.
"The Republicans are very sensitive to the idea that the Democrats are attempting to embarrass the White House, even when there's a legitimate issue to look into," Mr. Rudman said.

Yes, those investigations need to happen. Are Democrats stopping them? (If so, call them out publicly.) Doesn't sound like it, doesn't sound like even Rudman's attempting to make that argument. Touchy feelings seem to be the problem and it's coming from one side.

Boren, "chasing after some finer day," waxes on about the good old days . . . of the Iran-Contra hearings and how they were able to reach a "bipartisanship." Good old days? That was a white wash. From the start, from the end. Talk to the independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh (a Republican). Or read the final report from the Office of Independent Council. Here's just one passage:

Congressional action that precludes prosecution -- or, as in Iran/contra, that makes it impossible to sustain a successful prosecution -- imposes costs on society that far transcend the failure to convict a few lawbreakers. There is significant inequity when (again as in Iran/contra) the more peripheral players are convicted while the central figures in the criminal enterprise escape punishment. And perhaps more fundamentally, the failure to punish governmental lawbreakers feeds the perception that public officials are not wholly accountable for their actions. It also may lead the public to believe that no real wrongdoing took place. That is a danger in the Iran/contra affair, where Oliver North hailed the ultimate dismissal of the prosecution against him as a personal vindication. While it was, of course, nothing of the sort -- North was found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of serious criminal offenses, and the court of appeals' decision setting aside his conviction cast no doubt on his factual guilt -- the risk of public confusion on the point is substantial.
This background strongly suggests that Congress should compel public testimony from a Government official suspected of criminal misconduct only in the most extraordinary circumstances. Before doing so, it should determine whether there is substantial evidence that the prospective witness was involved in a criminal transaction, whether he or she ordinarily would be a logical subject for prosecutive consideration, and whether the prospective witness had a leading or substantial role in the criminal enterprise. If so, Congress also should determine whether a less culpable person could supply the evidence sought, and what the likelihood is that the witness to be immunized will supply honest, useful and necessary information. Only if no less culpable person is available -- and if the need for obtaining the information is compelling -- should the prospective witness be granted immunity.

Can any sentient person not grasp what is being said in the report? Or how about in the above excerpt? Congressional action that makes it impossible to sustain a successful conviction. Is that not clear?

Apparently it's not clear to everyone. (So go read Robert Parry's reporting on it. You can start here.)

I'm really sorry someone f-ed up Boren's cabbage patch and that the tea party Olympia Snowe was apparently expected turned into an acid session. In case they missed it, we're kidnapping now (extraordinary rendition), we're torturing and we're holding people without access to courts of law. That's a major shift in the way this nation is supposed to conduct itself. If enablers like Snowe and lapdogs like Roberts were doing their job, maybe we wouldn't be in the mess that we are? (Roberts is noted in the article saying he doesn't like being called a lap dog. I'm not sure if we've called him one here before, but we will now. And if he doesn't like it, quit acting like one. He's like a full grown great dane that still sees himself as a puppy as he attempts to climb into the Bully Boy's lap.)

You want to serve in Congress? Serve in Congress. When things get messy and rocky, grow up if you weren't mature when you took your oath of office. Whine in private because a public that can't give themselves raises, that isn't covered with an incredible health plan may see you as worse than a bunch of over-pampered do-nothings.

You sucked up to the Bully Boy and let him act as though he had a blank check and the Constitution didn't apply to him. That's one of the reasons we're in this mess. Now that it's clean up time, you want to beg off with one lame excuse after another.

And Boren, quit kidding yourself that you acted as a "trustee" during Iran-Contra.

Actually, this article is a good thing. And no, I'm not being sarcastic. It shows you how weak willed the Congress is and how the interests aren't about serving the people or finding out the truth, it's go-along-to-get-along. You're seeing the DC set in all their naked non-glory. Whining about their problems, their personal problems, when they should be rolling up their sleeves and getting to work. Olympia Snowe tosses around phrases like "last vestiges" -- truly she is the Miss Havisham of the Senate. What is the last vestige to which a scoundrel clings? For Snowe it's nonpartisanship. The woman will go to her grave proud that, though she did very little, she did it in a nonpartisan way.

The country's headed off the cliff but Snowe's just interested in appearing nonpartisan.

Nonpartisan meaning neutral. To quote the title of Howard Zinn's autobiography, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train. But Snowe, Roberts, Rockefeller and Ron Wyden are all fretting it.

I hadn't intended to go on about this article. I honestly would have flipped past it had I not seen the byline. I'll even repeat that Shane's done something good with this article, shown the weak willed Congress and their concern with being liked. There's a statement in there somewhere that begins "Clearly" and I strongly disagree with that statement. I don't remember its point right now, just that I disagree with it. I'll avoid going back to read over it because possibly this is a floating op-ed and Shane's entitled to whatever opinion. The larger thing, I think anyway, is that within the Times frequently laughable execution of "balance," Shane's found a way to portray members of Congress as they really are: overly concerned about how they appear and what their fellow members think of them, underly concerned about the issues effecting the country. That's sad and disgusting but it made into print.

I'm sure we're supposed to cluck and clutch the pearls along with those quoted. People with common sense won't waste the time. The issue isn't whether or not the story will end with Little Olympia Happy At Last. The issue is what is going on and the lack of investigations into these actions.

I read the article and hated it. I still think it's sob stories. But if that's what your interview subjects feed you, that's what you have to report on. I really think, intentionally or not (I hope the former), Shane's done a wonderful job reporting on the fey, recherche set in Congress. (Lap dog and other freedom fry lovers, if confused by the term, can ask Olympia to translate it for them at the next afternoon tea.)

Elisabeth Bumiller has a "political memo" but since it's co-written, David E. Sanger singing "Anything you can fluff, I can fluff better," it's hard to see it as a floating op-ed. In case it's seen that way, we'll just note this pull quote:

The White House says no staffing changes are expected.

Provided no one gets caught stealing at a department store, right? There's a poor Claude Allen piece, by the way. Felony charge that could bring fifteen years of prison. I'm waiting for G. Gordon Liddy to pen one of his diatribes on how he's see Allen's parents as non-conformists and how that and the sixties led up to this. (Or does he just scribble those columns when he has someone on the left to target?).

All nighter with The Third Estate Sunday Review. I'll provide links to the new content, but before I do, they don't have a language policy there as members know. So warning, there's a word in Ava and my TV review that might cause trouble in some work environments. (A slan term for penis. We're quoting from a movie and it's used in a sexual context.) You've been warned.

Editorial: Hey Bully Boy, what's that smell?
TV Review: Dick Wolf's Conviction
Book review: The Center for Constitutional Rights' Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush
A woman was sexually abused by a priest when she was underage -- must have been one of those "gay" priests, right?
Dear Eileen, we're concerned about your husband
Garbo Speaks? Nah, it's just the Bully Boy
Laura Flanders takes the America is Purple tour to Montana

Isaiah's latest goes up as soon as this stops posting. (Ruth's entry yesterday took over forty minutes to publish.) And check out Trina's latest recipe.

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