I was listening to NPR this afternoon and heard something which literally sent a chill down my spine. Senator Pat Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, was being interviewed about the Great Prosecutor Purge. He was asked about his reaction when he heard in the media that Attorney General Gonzales had provided false information to Congress about the firings of the 8 US Attorneys:
"I just blew my stack. It was outrageous, because we had given the administration, the Department of Justice, every chance to come forward and tell us everything that happened. They assured us that they had told us everything that happened, and yet they left out some very, very key points. I saw the attorney general this morning in a meeting at the Supreme Court, and I told him that I was very, very unhappy with this — actually quite angry about it. [...] He said that he would be happy to come up and brief us some more. I said, "No, I've had enough of these briefings where ostensibly we're told everything; it turns out we weren't. The next time you come up will be before the full committee; it will be an open session; and you will be under oath."" (Emphasis original)I don't have an opinion about the case -- frankly, I don't know the law or the facts and for all I know this may in the end turn out to be just a crass and clumsy attempt at political patronage. I'm from Chicago, and patronage runs deep in my blood, so I won't get too high and mighty on the topic. But, if as appears to be the case, the US Attorneys were fired because they investigated Republicans or failed to investigate Democrats, well then, we've got a real scandal on our hands, don't we?
But what gave me the chill was not my simple partisan glee at anticipating Alberto "The Constitution does not contain an express grant of Habeas corpus" Gonzales' resignation (though I do relish the thought) but the simple thought that finally, after six years of complete neglect, Congress is finally exercising oversight again. No, we can't effect immediate policy changes or pull the troops out of Iraq on a moment's notice. But the grown-ups are back in charge on the Hill, and finally, someone with subpoena power, someone responsible, someone with an interest in being a check on this administration's abuse of power, is back at the reins and willing to actually fulfill the constitutional role of oversight again.
It's been far too long.