Ordered Liberty

Breathtaking Hypocrisy, Even By NYT Standards

On Twitter, Byron York notes the embarrassingly naked partisanship of the New York Times, comparing its railing against the congressional committee’s decision to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for stonewalling the Fast & Furious investigation to its 2007 cheerleading for a congressional committee’s decision to hold Bush White House staffers in contempt in the investigation of U.S. attorney firings.

To be clear, the Bush situation involved (a) a non-crime (presidents do not need a reason to fire U.S. attorneys), (b) a non-scandal manufactured into a scandal (Bush 43 fired 8 U.S. attorneys; Clinton had fired 92 of the 93, and for no better reason than partisan patronage after he defeated Bush 41), and (c) patently improper subpoenas to the president’s personal staffers who are not subject to Senate confirmation and assist him in his constitutional duties. The Obama/Holder situation, to the contrary, involves outrageous government malfeasance in firearms transfers that led to murders, including the killing of a federal agent, and a patently proper subpoena for documentation maintained by the Justice Department, an agency created by Congress and dependent on Congress for its existence, funding and jurisdiction.

Yet, here is the Times on July 26, 2007, editorializing about the effort to subpoena Bush staffers Harriet Miers and Joshua Bolten:

The House Judiciary Committee did its duty yesterday, voting to cite Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, and Joshua Bolten, the White House chief of staff, for contempt. The Bush administration has been acting lawlessly in refusing to hand over information that Congress needs to carry out its responsibility to oversee the executive branch and investigate its actions when needed. If the White House continues its obstruction, Congress should use all of the contempt powers at its disposal.

The committee really had no choice but to hold Ms. Miers in contempt. When she was subpoenaed to testify about the administration’s possibly illegal purge of nine United States attorneys [ACM note: it was patently legal], she simply refused to show up, citing executive privilege. Invoking privilege in response to particular questions might have been warranted — the courts could have decided that later. But simply flouting a Congressional subpoena is not an option.

Mr. Bolten has refused to provide Congress with documents it requested in the attorney purge investigation, also citing privilege, and he has been equally unforthcoming about why he thinks it applies. Together, Ms. Miers’s and Mr. Bolten’s response to Congress has simply been: “Go away” — a position that finds no support in the Constitution….

The administration’s contemptuous attitude toward the constitutional role of Congress was on display again this week when Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He repeatedly refused to answer legitimate questions, and he contradicted himself so frequently that it is hard to believe he was even trying to tell the truth. [ACM note: Hmmm, sound like anyone we know?]

Congress must not capitulate in the White House’s attempt to rob it of its constitutional powers. Now that the committee has acted, the whole House must vote to hold Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten in contempt. The administration has indicated that it is unlikely to allow the United States attorney for the District of Columbia to bring Congress’s contempt charges before a grand jury. That would be a regrettable stance. But if the administration sticks to it, Congress can and should proceed against Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten on its own, using its inherent contempt powers.

It is not too late for President Bush to spare the country the trauma, and himself the disgrace, of this particular constitutional showdown. There is a simple way out. He should direct Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten to provide Congress with the information to which it is entitled.

In startling contrast, the Gray Lady today slams the House oversight committee, under the leadership of Chairman Darrell Issa, for provoking what it calls “a pointless partisan fight” over Fast & Furious — which it calls “botched” not “illegal.” The committee, according to the Times, is conducting itself “shamefully,” and so the White House has reasonably responded by invoking executive privilege “as most administrations do at some point.”

Read the whole thing. Even by the laughably low standards of the former “Newspaper of Record” — currently battling NBC News for the post of Obama campaign chief — it is breathtaking hypocrisy.