Our Media Is Missing the Story of the Century
This morning, the White House is supposed to respond to the latest subpoenas from the House Judiciary Committee directing the White House to provide documents relating to Congress’ investigation into the mismanagement of the Department of Justice and White House interference in the political purging of US Attorneys. No doubt the White House’s Nixon-era impeachment attorney, Fred Fielding will eventually get around to telling the HJC that it will defy its subpoenas, just as the White House has already defied subpoenas for other documents and for the appearance and testimony of Harriet Miers and other White House officials. Yet there was virtually no mention of this on Sunday’s talking head shows.
More ominously, on Friday the WH told Congress it will order the Justice Department to disregard Congress if it tries to hold recalcitrant Administration officials in contempt, even though Congress has every right under the Constitution to expect the Department of Justice to enforce Congressional subpoenas. We need to be very clear about what this latest WH defiance means: the White House believes the Justice Department does not have an obligation to uphold the law on behalf of the Congress of the United States; instead, DoJ exists solely as a legal arm to shield the President and his staff from all efforts to hold them accountable under the law. Of course, the Attorney General, a man without honor or sense of his legal obligations to the American people, will do nothing to overturn the WH capture of America’s Justice Department.
As the New York Times lead editorial recognized Sunday, the Bush White House is now in complete and open defiance of all lawful Congressional efforts to hold the executive accountable for misconduct and possible crimes committed by members of the White House staff. Just as Bush claimed he had an inherent right to disregard Congressional statutes (e.g., FISA, the Geneva Conventions, signing statements) and the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments, or to cover up WH complicity in crimes (via commuting Scooter Libby’s prison term), the President is now claiming he can ignore any Congressional oversight of White House misconduct.
I’ve almost given up waiting for the media’s most public faces to express outrage over what is happening. The Administration has so systematically undermined the Constitution’s established checks and balances and means of accountability via Congressional and judicial oversight that there is virtually nothing left to check their lawless excesses except impeachment and removal from office. Fielding’s moves suggest that Bush and Cheney just want to “bring it on.”
The traditional media can’t seem to get their heads around how dangerously unAmerican this is and how serious a threat it poses to our constitutional framework. And there are too many in the media like the editorial writers at the Washington Post who pretend that the Administration might be more cooperative if only the Congress would be less insistent and simply offer the WH a face-saving compromise.
So I’m going to appeal to whatever remaining instincts the journalists in our media might still have as news people, and as Americans. There’s a story here, folks; a really big story. The details may be hard to follow, but the basics are simple: we are already deeply into a constitutional crisis deliberately provoked by a brazenly lawless Administration, a regime that is violating the laws with impunity because it regards itself as above the law, and a regime that is openly daring Congress to impeach it. Can any of you smell a story here?
Too many in the media seem either in denial or blissfully ignorant that we are headed for an unavoidable showdown to determine whether the constitutional principle of checks and balances will survive. That’s the principle that stands between democratic government that respects the limits of government power so as to safeguard individual liberties against government encroachment, and a very different concept of government that recognizes no limits on the executive’s ability to slide into potential tyranny. In this showdown America will decide whether the rule of law applies to the executive or whether we move inexorably towards an unaccountable executive — in essence, a monarchy in which there is no meaningful check on the President’s power and no meaningful oversight of his actions while he remains in office. And if that doesn’t interest you as political news people, you’re in the wrong profession.
Hello, Tim Russert and Katie Couric! Hello Wolf Blitzer and PBS NewsHour! The biggest political story in a century is unfolding right in front of you, and you’re not reporting it; you’re missing the forest and just barely covering a few trees. Wake up and do your jobs, because we need you and it’s your country too.
Update: Bob Geiger has more on Leahy’s questions for Gonzales later this week.