Thursday, May 25, 2006


How Dumb/Smart Are You?

1) How dumb are you, Dennis Hastert?

Yes, you -- in creating a constitutional crisis over the case of "cold, hard cash"
Congressman William Jefferson?

As National Review

By nothing more than dumb luck, the Republican-controlled Congress—lambasted for the junkets, earmarks, and “culture of corruption” that have aligned to produce the lowest approval ratings in memory—was handed a shot at some desperately needed redemption. All its leaders had to do was make the right choice between condemning the rankest corruption and displaying an outsized arrogance. Guess which one they chose?

There should have been little for leaders of Congress to do but applaud. Instead, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Majority Leader John Boehner led a chorus of disgruntled legislators in crying foul, closing ranks around an apparent felon, and raving incoherently about a supposed separation-of-powers violation.

This incredibly tin-eared performance was based on an extravagant construction of the Constitution’s speech-and-debate clause (Article I, Section 6). Congress evidently reads this clause as giving its office space blanket immunity from any investigation by the executive branch—even with court authorization—in connection with any crime, no matter how heinous.
They make this argument even though "felony" is actually one of the cases where the Constitution allows for the arrest of Member during a session (forget for a moment that Jefferson wasn't even arrested -- only served with a search warrant).

However, even from a purely tactical standpoint, one wonders exactly why Hastert would raise this objection.

Unless, of course, as some surmise, it is because he is concerned about other warrants that might be issued on other GOP members or --
if one believes that bizarre ABC News story -- on Hastert himself. The Justice Department has issued not-quite-blanket denials that Hastert is a target of any investigation.

Yet, the entire affair just brings further clouds to an already-tainted institution.

So, Dennis Hastert, how dumb are you?

2) How dumb are you, Nancy Pelosi?

Yes you -- given that nearly everything above could also be said of you as House Democratic Leader (except for the ABC report).

After making "culture of corruption" part of the Democratic talking points all year, how on earth could you let yourself be convinced by the Speaker of the House that it would be a good idea to sign on to this letter professing outrage over the serving of a search warrant and subsequent raid on the office of member of Congress?

Aren't you aware of how people are now making the joke: "Oh, so now Republicans and Democrats can find some bipartisan agreement -- avoiding FBI warrants!"?

Furthermore, the 45-day seal on the files removed from Jefferson's office essentially freezes that Justice Department investigation -- thus making it harder for an actual indictment to be returned, which in turn makes it more difficult for you to nudge Jefferson out of either his W&M position or get him to resign his seat completely. Of course, 45 days also makes the actual release of the files in the middle of the summer -- a lot closer to Election Day and easier for voters to link "corruption" with a Democrat.

The time lag also leaves the Congressional Black Caucus
more time to kvetch about your being "unfair" to Jefferson -- which is happening simultaneously with accusations that the "Howard DeaNC" was working (unsuccessfully) behind the scenes to support "vanilla" Mitch Landrieu over "chocolate" New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

Geez, multiple fissures between Democrats and members of its most loyal constituency -- at a moment when Democrats most need all of their base to turn out this fall if the Party has any hope of retaking at least one of the chambers of Congress?

Maybe it's great work like this that causes even the hard-core-base Lefties at Kos to
despise your leadership job, Ms. Pelosi?

Hmmm...come to think of it, maybe the question I should ask is:

3) How smart are you, Dennis Hastert?

Yes, you!

Let's just take you at your word and, indeed, you are not under any investigation -- and are not afraid of having to face a subpoena yourself. Well, tactically, it is actually not a dumb idea to allow the constitutional issues to blow up over a Democrat's corruption! You look like you are fighting solely on constitutional grounds -- without any regard to partisan- or self-interest. You're on the high road.

But, in doing that, you have effectively removed the whole "culture of corruption" arrow in the Democrats' quiver. Even despite the DeLay-Abramoff-Cunningham issues, it is hard for the Democrats to claim that they are far removed from this when the Democratic leader is a signatory to a letter that basically stakes a claim for Members of Congress being above the law.

Think Pelosi's letter urging Jefferson to step down from the Ways & Means Committee for the duration of the investigation is going to get much public play -- as opposed to the letter to the President?

I certainly don't. Though, as mentioned above, it certainly does tick the CBC off at Pelosi. And, you know only too well how black people feel about the FBI.

Geez, Denny, you always were a pretty sly wrestler!

UPDATE: Michelle Cottle at The New Republic makes similar observations on Nancy Pelosi.

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