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Refusal to Testify - Hubris or Cover-up?

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There are those who are trying to minimize the issue of the firing of the U.S. attorneys as political comedy, and no big deal. It is a very big deal when the Department of Justice becomes an arm of politics rather than an arm of justice. Gonzales has testified repeatedly that he "doesn't know" or "can't remember." Certainly a stonewalling technique. Bush then extended executive privilege to White House staff so they would not testify. Now the two highest ranked staffers subpoenaed have refused to even show up to testify before Congress. Is this just a flaunting of executive power, or is there a cover up?

Stacking the Department of Justice with political loyalists damages us all. That appears to be the purpose of the dismissal of U.S. prosecutors by Gonzales (who "doesn't remember" most of his tenure thus far). The fact that an administration that has huffed and puffed about politics from the court is doing everything within its power to politicize those very courts is beyond hypocritical. Of course, the side benefits of the strategic replacements are also self-serving.

While arguing that the President has every right to hire and fire U.S. Attorneys, the administration has acted as if their hand was caught in the cookie jar. After all, if they have done nothing wrong, then why not be completely open about the process? Isn't that what they tell us the citizenry about the loss of our privacy protections?

Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, and former Bush legal counsel and Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, were covered under an extension of executive privilege early in July. That executive privilege does not exempt them from a subpoena from the Judiciary Committee of Congress. They must show up, even if they decline to answer certain questions under the cover of executive privilege. To not show up at all signals contempt, even if the full Congress does not vote for contempt charges.

From the beginning of his tenure in 2000, George W. Bush and his administration have attempted to sculpt the office of the President under the principle of the "Unitary Executive." Essentially, this principle follows that the Executive Branch has all power without oversight or check. Clearly this is not what is laid out in the U.S. Constitution. However, it is the theory under which the Bush administration has operated even before the events of September 11, 2001. The current extension of executive privilege to an area where there is no legitimate reason for such protection is spitting in the face of Congress, the Constitution, and the people once again.

So is there something to hide here - as there is with "Scooter" Libby - or is this just a matter of "principle?" The "principle" being the complete disregard of Constitutional limits on the Executive Branch of government?

It is difficult to say whether the involvement of the White House in the politicizing of the Justice Department would look unseemly (if not illegal), or whether the refusal of the administration to openness and oversight is driving the current move. However, the "offers" made by the White House are typical. Bush has offered that the staff may be interviewed in private, off the record, and not under oath. You might remember that was the same path taken when Bush and Cheney agreed to meet with the 9/11 Commission instead of testifying publicly under oath.

Why are they so adverse to testifying under oath? Why do they keep offering these little "chats" to clear things up? Do they think that "we the people" are so stupid that we do not recognize the difference between legal testimony and a conversation behind closed doors? Do they think that we are so somnolent, that we don't realize the implications of political hacks in charge of enforcing the nation's laws? Even more to the point, do our elected representatives think that we are fooled by the political shenanigans being pulled?

This obfuscation needs to be stopped and stopped now. The Executive Branch needs to be brought back within Constitutional bounds now.

For those who are on the "conservative" side of the fence, this is not simply a partisan issue. Do you really want "liberals" operating under the powers and scope that George Bush has carved out for the Executive Branch of government? I don't. There must be a system of checks and balances or we are no longer the nation that we think we are. Instead, we are a dictatorship with a toothless Congress and Judiciary.
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Rowan Wolf is an activist and sociologist living in Oregon. She is the founder and principle author of Uncommon Thought Journal, and Editor in Chief of Cyrano's Journal Today.

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