Wednesday, July 30, 2003

The Senate Rediscovers The Separation Of Powers

I hope many of you were able to catch one of the several showings on C-Span of the grilling Mr. Wolfowitz and Mr. Bolton got in front of the Senate Foreign Relatins Committee yesterday. Not that either man looked discomforted, especially Wolfowitz, who may turn out to be more the embodiment than either Perle or Cheney of the PNAC vision of America's future, as democratic beacon and overlord to the world.

As the administration will undoubtedly do in the case of N. Korea, Wolfowitz blamed the failed policy of containment, i.e., the Clinton administration's policy toward Iraq, (actually, the policy left to it by the previous Bush administration), for....tada...Osama Bin Laden and 9/11. I'm still looking for a trasncript, but that is, indeed, what Wolfowitz seemed to be saying, and fairly explicitly. Apparently, had Clinton heeded the neo-con letter sent rather publically to him at the time of the withdrawal of the UN inspection regime, and invaded Iraq then, in 1998, no 9/11.

Interesting to remember that Clinton's chosen response to Saddam's final refusal to cooperate with UNSCOM, four days of targeted missile attacks meant to destroy what WMD were left, and the dual use facilities where they might be manufactured or stored, was greeted by Republicans as a "wag the dog" scenario, meant to distract the nation from what was really important, and we all know what that was.

Doubtless the neo-cons would have you believe that had Clinton decided to go to war, he would have had Republican backing. Does anybody really believe that?

If Clinton's motivation was the personal one of creating a distraction, what better distraction, surely lasting more than four days, than announcing a war policy towards Iraq. Does anyone doubt that had Clinton made such an announcement, it would have ended up on the list of Impeachment particulars?

Old news, you say. Don't think so. The blame Clinton meme is going to be played louder and more often.

Yesterday, though, the Senators, Republicans as well as Democrats weren't buying.

I agree with the rest of the members of this committee that I think you, Mr. Bolten, should be more forthright in terms of what the costs are going to be so that we have some idea, and the American people [know], how long, how much," said Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio).

The contentious three-hour hearing marked the second time in three weeks that the administration faced sharp congressional criticism of its performance in postwar Iraq.

Committee members from both parties also took aim at what they called the administration's "shifting justification" for the war....(edit)

"In the months leading up to the war, it was a steady drumbeat of weapons of mass destruction," said Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee (R-R.I.). "All the testimony this morning . . . is about what a tyrant Saddam Hussein is, who brutalizes the people. . . . So I'll ask the question, Secretary Wolfowitz: What are we doing there?"

And that was just the Republicans. Even Joe "Miss Congeniality" Biden is fed up with this administration's uh, anal-retentive problems with truthfulness.

When Bolten said that the administration did not plan to ask for funds in the fiscal 2004 budget for sustaining 150,000 troops in Iraq and rebuilding the country because it didn't know what the precise costs would be, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), the committee's ranking Democrat, erupted.

"Give me a break, will you?" he said. "When are you guys starting to be honest with us? Come on. I mean, this is ridiculous."

What filled that committee room yesterday was the sweet smell of oversight. What will be a more difficult problem for the White House than the passion they've raised among Democrats is the doubts they've raised among heavyweight Republicans in the Senate.