The Cocktail Party Strategy

The White House's offer to the Senate that it would make Rove and Miers available only for a secret off-the-record no-oath “chat” — something with the legal value of cocktail party chatter — is risible. And even if the Crawford gang hasn't figured out that others are wise to their game, surely Fred Fielding understands that. So they can't seriously believe that the Senate will take such an insulting offer.

Which raises the question of why the White House is proffering such a silly idea. What have they been drinking? I can only think of three possible justifications for this strange move:

1. This could be a pure, cynical PR ploy to attempt to look reasonable. Given how CNN swallowed it hook line and sinker (“unprecedented access to Justice Department documents” — missing the point that the offer, which is far from unprecedented, doesn't include access to the key White House documents) this has to count as the most generous explanation.

2. The staff gets it, but the boy in the bubble doesn't get it, and he overruled the staff.

3. The truth is so awful, that Rove can't be allowed near a Bible. If nothing else, he'd be taking the Fifth over and over again.

I've heard a fourth explanation, but it's so crazy, that only someone who thought that the administration was hell-bent on creating disasters would believe it:

4. The administration wants to create a Constitutional crisis. It thinks it will win any votes in the Senate as it only needs a third plus one, and also win the in court of public opinion just like Clinton did (see “bubble” at (2) above). And the hardliners (Cheney) think that the precedents set by previous administrations of recognizing that senior appointees can be required to testify was mistaken; what's more they think that their hand is strong enough to allow them to rectify this. In short, they see Congress much as they saw Iraq.

Say it ain't so.

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6 Responses to The Cocktail Party Strategy

  1. Brett says:

    Interesting. Is it clear that 4) is that crazy? The whole “ambition counteracting ambition” thing hasn’t worked so well lately, and the Bush administration has a whole host of sitting members of Congress who have qualms about intruding on executive prerogatives. (My favorite visual representation of this is a picture of Senator Cornyn riding the “Bush bike,” a special Harley made for the President.) Tie it up with a bow and call it fidelity to the Constitution, and you’ve got an explainable, even laudable vote for your constituents.

    Plus, the administration obviously thinks that it looks good compared to Clinton, the clock is running, and an all-consuming impeachment scandal would probably a) arouse some reflexive public defense of the Pres, as long as the underlying issue isn’t terrible for him, b) create “partisan division” in a supposed era of the centrists, and c) lead to deadlock over issues that Congress should really care about, like Iraq.

    The scenario isn’t implausible.

  2. Daniel DiRito says:

    See a satirical visual lampooning the Bush administration’s version of “Justice Is Served”…here:

  3. Carl from L.A. says:

    There is a fourth explanation.

    The Bush administration knows its only hope lies in running out the clock until their term is over. Thus, we can expect to see anything which will delay the process of exposing their conduct to the light. They know there is no substance to their argument, but they are confident that it can extend the dance by weeks or months.

  4. apav says:

    1) They wouldn’t bother with. They’ve strategized beyond this by now.
    2) This is probably partly true because 3) 4) and 4a) are true. If they can’t change precedent and establish a unitary executive, then at least they can run out the clock and/or crank up the pardon mill. W. believes everything done by the “family” is justifiable and therefore rule-of-law be damned. Besides, he is president/dictator and has the power of the executive and the pardon. With enough cronies in the administration and enough Liebermans in the Senate, no Saturday night massacre is necessary.

  5. pgl says:

    I vote for #3. But you are right about CNN repeating almost every piece of spin from the White House as if it were the gospel. If CNN wants to be Faux News II, maybe they should just merge.

  6. Phill says:

    #4 is simply the rationalization of #3

    It is certainly a run out the clock strategy as well but they really have’t come to terms with the fact that they are facing charges of behavior that is criminal, not merely impeachable.

    #4 only works if Gonzalez is throw overboard. Otherwise the constitutional wrangling keeps the scandal boiling by itself.

    And the whole strategy is completely pointless because the Democrats don’t need to wait for Rove and/or Miers to speak to them. The only point of hauling them up in front of the Senate is to give them the opportunity to explain themselves (and hopefully perjure themselves in ways that will be prosecutable).

    Meanwhile the Democrats are uncovering case after case in which the Bushies blocked investigations into corrupt republicans. Time for an extra special prosecutor.

    And don’t necessarily expect the constitutional wrangling to be that long.

    Congress can tell the court that it is holding hearings under Article II Section 4 of the US constitution. Even a mindless partisan hack like Thomas or Renquist could not credibly claim that executive privilege applied in that situation.

    If the administration really wants their people to testify behind closed doors they may get their wish, unfortunately for them impeachment trials are on oath.

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