Bending the Third Rail
Because We Should, We Can, We Do
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
This was in the roundup of the news today regarding the Bush/Congress showdown over subpoenas:
Experts believe a court battle is unlikely and that the issue will be solved in negotiations. The LAT points out that "openly defying a subpoena has little precedent." If subpoenas are issued and the White House aides refuse to cooperate, Congress could vote to find them in contempt. But making things just a tad weirder, the Justice Department would normally be in charge of prosecuting this kind of case. Congress could also use other tools at its disposal, such as withholding funds from an agency or refusing to approve any nominees.

The NYT points out that even if an interview isn't under oath, lying to Congress could still be a crime. But the WP notes aides would not face "the same level of criminal charges" if they're not under oath.
Perhaps the "experts" are correct. But using precedent for such a showdown is a mistake. Bush is not like previous Presidents ... even Nixon.

First, Bush needs to play for time. In his ever-present contempt for voters and rule of law, he believes he will not be held accountable and that if enough time passes people will tire of the fight. He also knows he only has 670 days (and counting) left in office.

Second, by opposing now, Bush attains his best negotiating stance. He doesn't believe Dems will stand up to him (for good reason) and he may know that if they do, there will be future battles over witnesses, subpoenas, records etc. By setting precedents now of a negotiated settlement with Congress he can shape the future situation. In other words, he knows where the bodies are buried which is shaping his decision-making now.

As I've said before, the key to the whole thing is the other Republicans. And watching them is going to be great sport as the entire situation plays out.