Outside editorial: Bush digs in heels; Congress needs answers

Posted: Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The following editorial first appeared in the Seattle Times:

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The president is digging in his heels again. After being fed erroneous information, Congress wants clarification about the firing of U.S. attorneys, and Bush wants to sprinkle the answers like salt - to his taste.

Though committees in both the U.S. House and Senate last week authorized subpoenas of White House officials, none were issued yet. If they are, the president says he'll withdraw his offer to make senior staff available in a private meeting without transcripts and not under oath.

We should not be surprised. This is a secretive president who believes he knows best and doesn't need to explain his decisions or mistakes. This pattern dates back to his 2001 refusal to divulge who was advising on his energy policies. He opposed the formation of the 9/11 Commission, and its dignified members had to call the administration out publicly to get the documents they required.

On the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, the White House's stance is disappointing, especially considering earlier Justice Department testimony to Congress was refuted and had to be corrected. White House-provided e-mails show the firings were vetted through the president's offices.

The obfuscation has fueled speculation the firings were for political reasons, rather than for "performance reasons." Especially in the case of Seattle-based John McKay, who months earlier got a glowing comprehensive review, such an allegation is suspect.

Bush should make the subpoenas unnecessary and agree to make his senior staff available to Congress to testify publicly. Under oath or not and limiting the scope of questioning are points of negotiation.

Though the administration has a point that executive privilege applies, much would be gained by demonstrating public accountability and little would be lost.



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