The old cat-and-mouse game is alive and well in Washington, where it crops up as a daily feature in the Congress. Whereas the cat usually depends on superior speed and size to waste the mouse, the Washington version depends on perjury – or the threat of perjury – as the weapon of choice used by either a congressional committee or committee chairman using a battery of lawyers, gofers, aides, researchers, informants, media types, and probably rest-room attendants and chauffeurs to furnish the muscle (information). The ultimate ammunition for the weapon of choice includes the subpoena and the "contempt of congress" missiles designed to either imprison bureaucrats or scare them into submission. The motive is always the same – REVENGE – and the instructive term is GOTCHA.
The most recent high-profile c&m exercise was the sham investigation conducted by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, who spent some multi-years ostensibly trying to hang the leaker of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity/name, all the while knowing who the leaker was – Deputy State Secretary Richard Armitage (by his own admission), who apparently was given immunity from the get-go so that Fitzgerald could hang a perjury charge – or any charge – on somebody in the administration, preferably Vice President Cheney, with presidential aide Karl Rove as a second choice. Rove appeared before Fitzgerald or his grand jury FIVE times in Fitzgerald's effort to hang a perjury charge on him, but Fitzgerald finally did the best he could – successfully engineered a perjury conviction on "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's right-hand man. The perjury – if indeed such was proven – had nothing to do with Valerie Plame, and President Bush rightly commuted Libby's sentence.
Senator "Leaky" Leahy, grand inquisitor of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Congressman John Conyers, his counterpart in the House, are hot on the heels of anybody connected to the White House. Leahy has awarded subpoenas so far to Harriet Myers and Sara Taylor, former administration officials, and Karl Rove and J. Scott Jennings, current White House aides. All kinds of documents have been subpoenaed, and President Bush has declared "executive privilege" with respect to everything. Taylor appeared before the LEAK's kangaroo court, claimed executive-privilege directives had been sent her by the White House, and generally gave the city's best-known congressional leaker the back of her hand.
Conyers is trying to get contempt charges passed by the House for Bush's chief of staff, Josh Bolten, along with Myers and RNC chairman Robert Duncan. Seen in this corner on C-Span the other day was a recital – in a committee meeting dedicated to fashioning contempt charges – by minority ranking member Lamar Smith of the claims of executive privilege, pardons, etc., by other presidents, especially Bill Clinton, that made contempt charges against anyone in the current administration ludicrous. Smith made it a point to mention that Clinton's executive privilege claims (or at least some of them) had to do with his and/or his wife's personal conduct (not to see the light of day), while Bush's have to do with governmental matters, as should be the case.
All of this has to do with the firing of eight or nine federal prosecutors, who serve at the pleasure of the president. A weird performance came from Senator Specter in the Taylor hearing. For reasons known only to himself, Specter mentioned that president Clinton fired all U.S. attorneys on one day, and that he could do so legally without giving any reason whatsoever. He then said that the question at hand had to do with the firing of U.S. attorneys for an "improper reason." How crazy can it get? If a president can fire a U.S. attorney for no reason, why does any reason matter – proper or improper? The reason for the hearings in this case is simple REVENGE. Neither the LEAK nor his partners in mischief give a fig about the prosecutors, who are probably earning much more now than when they were U.S. property. It's all about getting even.
Meanwhile, the LEAK and his gang had Attorney General Gonzales in for a bit of torture the other day, this time in yet another attempt at getting Gonzales to have a lapse of memory and commit perjury, a la Libby. On C-Span, this stuff is the best show in town. The LEAK and cohorts, among whom are Senators Biden, yet again a president wannabe, Durbin, Feingold, and Schumer, who badgered Gonzales, strongly intimating that he is a deceiver and should resign no later than yesterday. Gonzales takes it all in stride, being acutely accustomed to this frequent bloodletting, and tries to convince the senators of things that happened in 2004. That's the key to perjury possibilities – going far enough back in time to elicit "false" sworn testimony, thus causing someone to impeach himself just because he can't (or won't) remember. The LEAK has given Gonzales a chance to "revise" (i.e., un-swear, incredibly) his testimony…so stay tuned to the best show of the summer.
But the prize of the week for congressional posturing goes to Senator Feingold, who is about to submit – as he did last year – a resolution of censure with regard to the president. Censure as a noun is defined as: "a judgment involving condemnation." As a verb it's defined as: "to find fault with and criticize as blameworthy." Censuring happens not to come within the purview of the Congress, and most of the solons wish Feingold would stuff it. But, the fate of the nation is in the hands of a president deserving some sort of condemnation for acts upon which he is blameworthy, according to the good senator, who believes – certainly in this case – that the pot should call the kettle black. The LEAK surely will not go for this because it would remark his own inability to keep his own mouthing under control.
In a few more days the nation will be safer than now, since the lawmakers will – like the French – take August off, not returning until after Labor Day. Senators will slowly but only temporarily recover from their angst, and Schumer may stop frothing at the mouth by the ides of August. As for Feingold, that may take longer.
And so it goes.