November 10, 2006


Okay, in general I have no intention of offering "advice" to the Democratic Party, but it seems like Dick Morris (of all people) is making a shrewd point here:
The Democrats, for their part, will use their new House majority to plague the administration with investigations. While the left would be appeased by investigations into why we invaded Iraq in the first place, it is financial scandals that will do the greatest damage to Bush and the Republicans.

Democratic committee chairmen will examine Halliburton contracts in Iraq, royalty deals for offshore oil drilling, defense procurement scandals, and resource leases in national forests and wilderness areas. They will examine the nexus between campaign contributions and favors from the trough of the executive branch.
From a pragmatic standpoint, this advice seems quite sound. Yes, it would be nice to have hearings right away on the administration's conduct in Iraq, or on its warrant-less spying program. But the Bush administration will almost certainly, as Jeffrey Rosen has argued, resist any and all Democratic subpoenas, claiming executive privilege and the like. A constitutional crisis could ensue. Some liberals might welcome such a showdown—I could be convinced—but then again, the courts, stacked as they are with Bush appointees, might well favor the executive branch. It could turn into a disaster.

Alternatively, Democrats could tackle Republican corruption by first going after those corporations that have bankrolled the party and basically controlled the policy process for the past six years. Oil companies, after all, can't claim executive privilege and refuse to turn over their records or stop by for a nice little chat about Cheney's energy task force. Ditto for contractors in Iraq. First the little guys get subpoenas, and then the trail leads to the White House. And politically, one assumes it will be difficult for Republicans to tar Democrats for going after their corporate allies too aggressively.

Democrats might also consider investigating some of the faith-based groups that have, possibly, been laundering government funds for partisan purposes. They can't run and hide, either. Again, eventually the investigations will lead to the White house, but in the meantime, serious financial investigations—alongside lobbying reform legislation—could help smash up "the nexus between campaign contributions and favors from the trough of the executive branch." The K Street Project, in other words. On the other hand, my understanding is that a number of pro-business Democrats—the faction led by Steny Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel, for instance—are actually interested in feeding from that same K Street trough, rather than tearing it apart. So that could be one obstacle here.

Update: Looks like some people have much the same idea:
It is unclear how far chairmen like Mr. Rockefeller may push the administration to obtain more information about secret programs. The committee, like many others, has often degenerated into partisan rancor over the past two years, and Mr. Rockefeller, like other incoming chairmen, has told colleagues that one of his priorities is to restore the committee’s historic bipartisanship.

But there is unlikely to be much downside for the Democrats in going after waste and fraud in government contracting, particularly in the Iraq war, which is not only unpopular with the American public but also where corporate giants like Halliburton, Parsons and Bechtel have committed highly publicized missteps in the rebuilding program.
That via in an article about how Democrats are planning to restore the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which had been in charge of rooting out waste and fraud before Republicans decided to shut the whole thing down. Mind you, it seems unlikely that vigorous investigations into waste and fraud will actually improve the situation in Iraq, especially at this point, but that doesn't mean it's not worth doing.
-- Brad Plumer 7:05 PM || ||