Thursday, May 25, 2006

Separation of Powers

As you know Rep. William Jefferson, Democrat, had his office was raided over the weekend by the FBI. They found that he was guilty of freezing his bribe money, and he has been asked to resign from Ways and Means committee. As it turns out, however, this is being seen as a question of the separation of powers, by such Republicans as Newt Gingrich and Sen. Bill Frist.

Tim Chapman's latest article praises Republicans for taking a stand on principle (for once).
It is worth examining the position that GOP leadership has taken. In 219 years the Executive branch has never infringed on the Legislative branch in this manner. This week's raid was a first. Now consider if the situation were reversed. Can you imagine what would have happened if House impeachment investigators had sent a team to President Clinton's White House to search for subpoenaed documents?

The FBI claims that it raided Jefferson's office with extraordinary safeguards in place. But did it? The historical practice of allowing a representative of the House such as the general counsel to observe the search was not honored. Quite to the contrary, in fact. The general counsel was not allowed in the room at the time of the search and was instead given assurances that the FBI would police itself in regards to privileged and unprivileged documents. Police itself?

Critics of congressional leadership certainly have a point regarding the politics of the situation: This is messy, and it appears silly. But critics should concede that a principled argument is being made here. Those critics are free to critique that argument, but they should recognize that those legislators who are making it are not in any way motivated by politics . . . for once.

This conservative would like to see Republicans stand for principle on a much broader range of issues. But hey, beggars can't be choosers.
I don't know if we should tire ourselves out patting Republicans on the back for this. Most people want to protect their turf. It's human nature.

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