April 17, 2004
The real last refuge of a scoundrel

Samuel Johnson once said that patriotism was the last refuge of the scoundrel. Apparently, he lived in a time before partisan politics.

Partisan attacks on the Sept. 11 commission escalated Friday when House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, said a Democratic commissioner may have to resign because of a conflict of interest.

But the head of the commission, former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean, a Republican, dismissed charges by Republican lawmakers that the commission has become too partisan.

Kean said the Democratic commissioner, Jamie S. Gorelick, has complied with the panel's conflict of interest policy.

Gorelick's role is being questioned because of a memo she wrote in 1995 as deputy attorney general under President Clinton.

The current attorney general, John Ashcroft, told the commission investigating the 2001 terrorist attacks that the memo blocked information-sharing between intelligence and criminal cases. He said the memo was an example of a barrier to preventing the terrorist strikes.

The exchange between DeLay and Kean set the stage for Democrats and Republicans to battle over the integrity of the commission's work when Congress returns to Capitol Hill next week after a two-week recess. The mounting cross-fire threatens the panel's credibility, according to some observers.

"What you have is mounting criticism in Congress that will only get louder and more intense next week," said Stuart Roy, a spokesman for DeLay.

The ratcheting up of political tension over the commission, made up of five Democrats and five Republicans, also was "predictable and strategic," said Allan J. Lichtman, a history professor at American University.

"Normally, you don't have this kind of politics on a commission, but because it's filled with so much import for the presidential election, it's bound to have it," Lichtman said. From the Republicans' standpoint, charges of partisanship help "diffuse whatever criticism -- and there's going to be criticism -- that it has of the administration."

As with the attacks on Travis County DA Ronnie Earle for his investigation into TAB and TRM, this is just pounding on the table by DeLay and his cronies. They have no substantive criticism to offer, so they sling mud.

Kevin Drum says it best:

It's funny that conservatives only started complaining about partisanship when the 9/11 commission started producing testimony damaging to George Bush, isn't it? But where were they when he resisted setting up any kind of commission in the first place? Or when he then tried to make a joke out of it by appointing Henry Kissinger as its head? Or on the repeated occasions when he stonewalled the commission when it requested needed documentation and testimony?

Histrionics are not the only sign of partisanship. On the contrary: although preventing an investigation because it might damage you politically is more subtle, it's every bit as partisan. What's more, it's probably more dangerous in the long run, especially when it comes from a commander-in-chief whose party controls every branch of government.

So tell me again who's putting partisanship above patriotism. And his middle initial better be W.


UPDATE: Here's Commissioner Gorelick's response to the accusations levelled against her by Ashcroft, DeLay, et al.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 17, 2004 to National news | TrackBack

Whatever one's feelings about Tom DeLay, one would hope those feelings wouldn't cloud analysis. Quite a few people who are not partisan extremists have suggested that Gorelick might actually be a better subject for QUESTIONING before the commission in light of this memo, rather than a commissioner. It's not just a few nutty Freepers, and if we're serious about getting to the bottom of the massive problems in the intelligence/national security bureaucracy, then it seems at least a tenable position.

Yes, partisans will always make hay when there is political advantage to be gained. That doesn't mean, as you seem to suggest with your dismissive tone, that there aren't sometimes substantive points worth considering.

Posted by: Kevin Whited on April 18, 2004 11:55 AM

But what if DeLay's comments (and other comments from his side of the aisle) engender death threats to Gorelick, which was on ABC News last night and apparently on CNN as well. Shouldn't the partisans temper their language when they know full well the Limbaughs, Hannitys and Savages will foment (not directly, of COURSE) that sort of behavior?

Posted by: Linkmeister on April 18, 2004 1:20 PM

Well, perhaps I choose to take the word of Tom Kean and John Lehman over Tom DeLay. I think that's a pretty tenable position as well.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on April 18, 2004 2:00 PM

Well, perhaps I choose to take the word of Tom Kean and John Lehman over Tom DeLay.

And to a great number of Republicans that's the value of Tom DeLay. He sets a position that stretches the boundaries of the arguement that positions that normally would seem a bit extreme become more mainstream in relative terms. He's the ultimate "bad cop".

The Dems have them too. Ted Kennedy being the most obvious example.

Posted by: Patrick on April 19, 2004 10:18 AM

And I swear to God, I didn't read today's "Mallard Fillmore" before I posted my previous comment.

Posted by: Patrick on April 19, 2004 1:20 PM