One Reason Why Democrats Are Outmanuvered

Because they don’t know the rules. I was stunned to read about this admission by Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman (italics mine):

Towards the end of the meeting, Dorothy Reik, President of Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains, urged Waxman to use the “inherent contempt” power of Congress to bring criminal charges against Bush and Cheney and their aides, hold a hearing in Congress on those charges, and then hand down the punishment, prison time. Reik expressed frustration with the refusal of Bush administration officials to testify before congressional committees, despite the fact that subpoenas had been issued.
“Your witnesses aren’t showing up — They’re ignoring your subpoenas,” said Reik, “so it is time for you, Congressman Waxman, to recognize that there is a precedent for members of congress to initiate criminal proceedings.”
Waxman said he was unaware of the “inherent contempt” power. In a follow-up letter after the meeting, Winograd emailed him information on the “inherent contempt” precedent.

I like Waxman–he’s been a dogged investigator of the Bush Administration’s malfeasance, and he is almost always where I am on the issues. But how can he or his staff not know about this? It’s their job to know this, particularly if your office’s claim to fame is investigation. Could you imagine a DA not knowing about all of the investigatory tools at his or her disposal?
We need smarter Democrats and/or smarter Democratic staffers.

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5 Responses to One Reason Why Democrats Are Outmanuvered

  1. stogoe says:

    If I were a cynic (and all signs point to ‘yes’ on that one), I’d say that Waxman knew and knows about inherent contempt, he’s just too chicken for whatever reason to use it.

  2. Barry says:

    They know about them, they just don’t want to use them. Right now, the only reason that we’re not publicly in a constitutional crisis is that Congress won’t fight back. The administration has publicly declared that (and acted as if) Congress doesn’t matter.

  3. SLC says:

    This sounds very nice but who is going to enforce it? As a for instance, if Congressman Waxmans’ committee handed out arrest warrants for Bush and Cheney, who would they send to affect the arrests? What is the likelihood that the Secret Service would allow the president and vice president to be taken away in handcuffs? The fact of the matter is that this suggestion is totally impractical and is a result of the frustration of many on the left with the inability of the Democrats in Congress to do anything about the excesses of the executive branch. I suspect that some of the folks proposing this whackiness are people in New Hampshire and Florida who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000. Maybe they should be arrested for stupidity.

  4. Kagro X says:

    Arrests under the inherent contempt procedure have historically been made by the Sergeant at Arms of the house that votes the contempt charges. What are the chances that the Secret Service would permit it? I don’t know. But what are the chances that their resistance to a lawful process that has been tested and approved by the Supreme Court adds to public support for Bush and Cheney?
    The suggestion in the article, of course, is not that the process be used against Bush and Cheney personally, but against witnesses who have defied Congressional subpoenas — for instance, Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten.
    I’m sure it was more fun to throw those spitballs than to do the research, but the plain fact is that inherent contempt is real, fully tested, and on the books.

  5. Another Mike says:

    Ah, but you forget that goal is not to get anything done, but to get (re-)elected. The *last* thing the Democrats want is a working relationship with the Bush Whitehouse or, in fact, troops withdrawn from Iraq.
    As conditions stand right now a Democrat president is a virtual certainty. So they just need to keep things simmering ’till November 2008. So don’t look for any activities that would force the issue right now. Perhaps they’ll turn the heat up a little next summer.
    Conversely you should probably expect the Republicans to declare ‘mission complete’ in Iraq around the same time and start a draw down of forces.

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