A Principled Response: Part 2
If the White House decides to fight the subpoena process and thereby provoke a Constitutional crisis, so be it. That will be one battle well-worth waging.
I appear to be getting my wish.
Last night the President made it clear that the White House staffers would not testify under oath in open hearings. They would only be made available for informal "interviews" behind closed doors with no transcripts being made of whatever those staffers might say. Last night's Los Angeles Times covered the President's speech.
Responding to Congress' rejection of the White House offer to let senior administration aides testify informally in private interviews, Bush accused Democrats of playing politics with the issue, noting that a president has "broad discretion" to replace political appointees. ...
He added that he was trying to protect a president's ability to get advice from top officials without fear they would be subjected to "the klieg lights" of congressional inquiries....
"In the midst of this current debate, the president must remain faithful to the fundamental interests of the president and the requirements of the constitutional separation of powers," White House Counsel Fred Fielding said in the letter to House and Senate leaders. [Emphasis added]
Mr. Bush and his minions have become more than a little reminiscent of Lewis Carroll characters rather than the leaders of a democracy. That would be amusing if it didn't have such a deadly impact on that democracy.
Yes, the president has some discretion to replace political appointees, unless that replacement is done to obstruct justice by halting an honest investigation into possible corruption by other government officials. Then it becomes a crime. At that point, the oversight function of Congress requires the "klieg lights" of congressional inquiries into the operation.
Mr. Fielding's letter to congressional leaders inadvertently pointed to the heart of the matter. You will notice that he refers to the "fundamental interests of the president," not the fundamental interests of the presidency. For the past six years we have seen what the interests of this president involve: a broad usurpation of power at all levels, accomplished through the machinations of secrecy and cronyism.
It's long past time for Congress to turn on those "klieg lights."
It's time to issue those suboenas and to prepare for the battle.