Sunday, April 22, 2007

Kagro X

Welcome to the party, Dahlia Lithwick.
by Kagro X
daily kos

No, not the Democratic Party. I have no idea where Lithwick stands on that score.

Rather, consider this an enthusiastic round of applause for Lithwick's latest in Slate magazine, in which she puts "in print" something that a number of us -- especially around here -- have been discussing for some time now:

So, I've changed my mind. On sober second thought, it occurs to me that when I find myself in enthusiastic agreement with "White House insiders" and the National Review that Alberto Gonzales disgraced himself yesterday, I may have missed something important. Assuming the president watched so much as 10 minutes of his attorney general being poleaxed by even rudimentary questions from the Senate judiciary committee, it strains credulity to believe that Gonzales still has Bush's "full confidence."

Until you stop to consider that the president wasn't watching the same movie as the rest of us and that Gonzales wasn't reading from the same script. Perhaps what we witnessed yesterday was in fact a tour de force, a home run for the president's overarching theory of the unitary executive.

Ah, yes. The unitary executive theory, a/k/a, the "Nixon Doctrine:"

Frost: "So ... what ... you're saying is that there are certain situations ... where the president can decide that it's in the best interests of the nation or something, and do something illegal."

Nixon: "Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal."

Frost: " By definition."

Nixon: "Exactly, exactly. If the president, for example, approves something because of the national security ... then the president's decision in that instance is one that enables those who carry it out to carry it out without violating a law."

For Lithwick, that makes things start to click:

If you watch the Gonzales hearing through this prism (and in this White House, even the bathroom windows look out through that prism), they were a triumph. For six impressive hours, the attorney general embodied the core principles that he is not beholden to Congress, that the Senate has no authority over him, and that he was only there as a favor to them in their funny little fact-finding mission.

Viewed in that light, Gonzales did exactly what he needed to do yesterday. He took a high, inside pitch to the head for the team (nobody wants to look like a dolt on national television) but hit a massive home run for the notion that at the end of the day, congressional oversight over the executive branch is little more than empty theatre.

That's a valuable realization to have in "print," and in the "mainstream media" (Does Slate count? I think so. I guess you could argue it doesn't, but I think it does.) And it's no surprise that I'm ready to cheer it. After all, I've been going on about this very point -- the ineffectiveness of Congressional oversight as against the "unitary executive" -- for going on a year now, and I surely was not the first.

So, my thanks to Dahlia Lithwick, and here's hoping that she'll also consider looking ahead to what happens when the subpoenas are defied and what our options are after that.

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