Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Party Line Vote?

The House Judiciary Committee sent a signal that our democracy is broken. On a 22-17 party line vote, Harriet Meirs, former counsel to the president, and Josh Bolton, chief of staff were found guilty of contempt.

This was a no brainer vote especially in regard to Harriet Miers. How are you doing today is a question that does not involve executive privilege. That is why Miers was required to show up to the hearing for which she had been subpoenaed. She is able to claim executive privilege on questions that can be litigated before the court to determine their validity.

That question is not in dispute. Not bothering to show up is both legal and moral contempt for the institution of congress. Just as in a trial, a witness may invoke their fifth amendment right on the stand, they aren't allowed to refuse to show up to court after they have been ordered legally to do so.

This is the crux of the contempt Harriet Miers showed for congress. The Republicans unanimously said, "No big deal". Our congress is dead and broken. Democrats shouldn't be left off the hook so easily either. If the situation was reversed, one would suspect that some of them would ignore the facts, their constitutional obligation, and do the same.

Trent Lott is a living example of this principle. As a member of the House in 1974, he voted against impeaching Richard Nixon for a series of crimes. As a member of the Senate in 1998, he voted to convict Bill Clinton for lying about an affair.

We should do better than this. The reason this administration felt free to break the laws for the first six years is that the Republican congress refused to do oversight. The democratic congress in 1993-1994 (before the GOP take over) did much more oversight of Bill Clinton, than the Republicans could manage with George W. Bush from 2001-2007.

This is how politics is played in this country, and it's a disgrace. If somebody can thumb their noses at the checks and balances and constitutional obligations and get unanimous support, the GOP is beyond redemption.