The Post editorial board, with plenty of criticism for House Republicans, nevertheless reaches the same position that conservatives have been advocating this week with regard to President Obama’s exercise of executive privilege: “Congress’s authority to gather information is broad — as broad as its sweeping powers to legislate, spend public money and hold executive officials accountable through impeachment. No doubt a lot of congressional investigations are partisan fishing expeditions. For better or worse, that comes with the democratic territory. Absent very strong countervailing considerations — stronger than some of those the administration has asserted in this case — Congress is generally entitled to disclosure.”
The mystery remains, however, why Democrats on Capitol Hill — who may well face a Romney administration next year, have an institutional interest in preserving Congress’s ability to conduct oversight and are struggling not to go down with the Obama campaign (which is taking on water at an alarming rate — should defend the president on this one. Whether Attorney General Eric Holder lied under oath or this is much to do about nothing, why prolong ad elevate the scandal?
The defense of Obama’s flimsy executive privilege claim is bad politics and bad law (unlike Obama’s immigration edict, which is good politics and bad law). The impulse in politics is to circle the wagons whenever “your side” is attacked. Hence the left-wing blogosphere and congressional Democrats, who regard Republican executive imperialism as akin to an anti-democratic coup, find nothing wrong with the administration’s stonewalling. This is the triumph of political partisanship over principle. Liberals certainly don’t believe in the flimsy use of executive privilege, except, of course, if Obama is wielding the privilege and there’s an election coming up.
I’m not at all impressed with the argument that Obama is entitled to stiff Congress because House Republicans are playing politics. That sure wasn’t the Watergate or Iran-Contra or Valerie Plame standard. Democrats wanted to get Nixon, Reagan and Bush in those instances, but that partisan motive wasn’t germane, was it?
The smart play for Democrats is to take the oxygen out of this scandal, prevail on the administration to fork over as many documents as possible and preserve their ability to keep watch on future Republican administrations. This is so obvious one can only conclude that irrational partisanship has overwhelmed rational self-interest.