Wednesday, March 21, 2007

After the better part of two weeks of doing nothing in the face of Democratic attacks over its replacement of a relative handful of US Attorneys, the Bush White House has decided to start fighting back and is refusing to let staffers be interviewed under oath...

While the kool-aid drinkers on the right will clap and applaud, drawing this line in the sand will actually eat away at what little credibility Bush has remaining among the public.

The public won't appreciate, nor will they care, about whatever high minded principles Bush claims that he is standing up for. The public could care less about the minutiae of inside Washington, the particulars of how the Executive and Legislative branches of government get along with one another. Concepts like 'executive privilege' just aren't that important to people. They don't care that the details of conversations between the President and his staff are kept within the White House.

And in fact, Bush isn't seeking to keep anything from Congress. He has offered to send his staffers up to the Hill to answer whatever questions may be asked of them.

So what exactly is Bush seeking to do? He wants to keep them from having to answer questions under oath and to have no record made of their statements. He's telling Congress that he doesn't object to them asking the questions, he just doesn't want his people under oath when they answer.

And why? To avoid being charged with perjury when their answers are later found to be false and/or misleading.

And this is something the public can understand... and won't respond favorably to. Bush's (and, by extension, his staff) credibility is pretty low... in large part because the public thinks Bush and his staff have lied on matters big and little over the past number of years. The public thinks he lied about Iraq having WMDs. And they know there were lies told during the whole Plame brouhaha.

So why would Bush take this approach, especially so soon after Libby was convicted of lying under oath? And so soon after Rove - one of the Democrat's targets in Attorney-gate - went before the Plame grand jury so many times trying to keep from being charged with lying under oath and/or obstructing justice?

Doesn't Bush know that he's handed the Democrats another ten pages of talking points? Doesn't he know that the likes of Democratic Senators Schumer and Leahy will race to the microphone to blast Bush and his refusal to have his aides speak on the record? How does Bush hope to respond to Leahy's statement that "testimony should be on the record and under oath. That's the formula for true accountability".

And Bush can't even count on the Republicans in Congress standing by him - against either the Democrat's attacks or to preserve the power of the Presidency. Remember how Hastert and others took the side of their Democratic colleague when the FBI raided Jefferson's Capitol Hill office? As we've seen, the Republicans in Congress are Congressmen and Senators first, Republicans second. And with Bush's credibility - and political capital - all but non-existent, he can't count on anybody in Congress rallying to his side.

As much as it's nice to see Bush finally wake up to the problems this whole kerfuffle has caused, it would be nice if he would respond in a way that actually helped him defuse the situation. But, no, he had to go and respond in a way that is guaranteed to keep the headline writers busy for weeks to come.... just another example of the ineptitude and incompetence that permeates the White House. They could have handled the US Attorneys better from day one... and they could have handled the fallout a whole lot better as well.

As a commenter at Patterico's said yesterday, echoing Casey Stengel, 'can't anyone here play this game?"...