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A Study In Contrasting New York Times Editorials

The New York Times on July 26, 2007 regarding an Executive Privilege dispute between the Bush Administration and Congress:

The House Judiciary Committee did its duty yesterday, voting to cite Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, and Joshua Bolten, the White House chief of staff, for contempt. The Bush administration has been acting lawlessly in refusing to hand over information that Congress needs to carry out its responsibility to oversee the executive branch and investigate its actions when needed. If the White House continues its obstruction, Congress should use all of the contempt powers at its disposal.

The committee really had no choice but to hold Ms. Miers in contempt. When she was subpoenaed to testify about the administration’s possibly illegal purge of nine United States attorneys, she simply refused to show up, citing executive privilege. Invoking privilege in response to particular questions might have been warranted — the courts could have decided that later. But simply flouting a Congressional subpoena is not an option.

(…)

Congress must not capitulate in the White House’s attempt to rob it of its constitutional powers. Now that the committee has acted, the whole House must vote to hold Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten in contempt. The administration has indicated that it is unlikely to allow the United States attorney for the District of Columbia to bring Congress’s contempt charges before a grand jury. That would be a regrettable stance. But if the administration sticks to it, Congress can and should proceed against Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten on its own, using its inherent contempt powers.

It is not too late for President Bush to spare the country the trauma, and himself the disgrace, of this particular constitutional showdown. There is a simple way out. He should direct Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten to provide Congress with the information to which it is entitled.

The New York Times today:

The political feud between the White House and Congressional Republicans has now culminated in a House oversight committee vote to cite Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. for criminal contempt. His supposed crime is failing to hand over some documents in an investigation of a botched gunrunning sting operation known as “Fast and Furious.”

The Republicans shamelessly turned what should be a routine matter into a pointless constitutional confrontation. And the White House responded as most administrations do at some point: it invoked executive privilege to make a political problem go away.

(…)

Mr. Issa has relished making this investigation a political fight. Last week, he seemed to bait Mr. Holder when he said in a statement, “the Obama administration has not asserted executive privilege or any other valid privilege,” so it could not refuse to produce the materials.

On Wednesday, for the first time since he was elected, President Obama invoked executive privilege on the disputed documents. Doing so now bars prosecution of Mr. Holder in federal court should the full House vote to hold him in contempt of Congress.

Executive privilege cannot and should not be allowed to shield the executive branch from regular, valuable Congressional oversight. There was no reason the House committee and the Justice Department could not work out a deal to produce the documents requested, or some form of them. Instead, they show again that every issue, large or small, can be turned into ammunition for political combat.

Gee, I wonder what could’ve changed.

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. James Joyner says:

    Could you give us a hint?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. Jeremy says:

    Executive privilege cannot and should not be allowed to shield the executive branch from regular, valuable Congressional oversight. There was no reason the House committee and the Justice Department could not work out a deal to produce the documents requested, or some form of them. Instead, they show again that every issue, large or small, can be turned into ammunition for political combat.

    So, wait…is the Times chewing out Obama and Holder for not cooperating with the Committee, here?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  3. Moosebreath says:

    Yep, this really is a case of both sides do it. Strange that those like Doug, who see that all the time, and use it as a shield for Republicans, don’t like it when Democrats use it as a shield for themselves. I wonder what could have changed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 7

  4. MBunge says:

    “Gee, I wonder what could’ve changed.”

    Well, in this particular case there is one pretty big difference.

    “The committee really had no choice but to hold Ms. Miers in contempt. When she was subpoenaed to testify about the administration’s possibly illegal purge of nine United States attorneys, she simply refused to show up, citing executive privilege. Invoking privilege in response to particular questions might have been warranted — the courts could have decided that later. But simply flouting a Congressional subpoena is not an option.”

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

  5. @MBunge:

    And the White House yesterday invoked the privilege with respect to an entire class of documents that potentially numbers as many as 11,000

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  6. Tsar Nicholas says:

    A lot’s changed since 2007. Back then the New York Times Company’s stock traded in the 20′s. Now it’s under seven bucks per share. Back then it had a lot more readers and a lot more advertising revenue. Back then the Times was edited by loopy liberal idiots living in multi-million dollar lofts in SoHo and Tribeca. Now it’s edited by loopy liberal idiots living in million dollar lofts in SoHo and Tribeca.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  7. george says:

    In terms of the Times, they probably see it as the same thing as preferring the Yankees to say the Cardinals … politics is a team sport, and they’re going to cheer for their team.

    And yes, both sides and their reporters do it – Fox does the same thing in reverse. Again, team sports.

    So, seriously, is anyone surprised by this?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

  8. Andrei Vfeked says:

    I may have some facts mixed up so please correct me if I am wrong. Here are some additional differences;

    1. The 2007 subpoenas were related to an alleged attorney purge at DOJ. The 2012 subpoenas were related to a possibly illegal gun-running operation that contributed to the death of a Federal law enforcement officer and an unknown number of murders of Mexican citizens.

    2. The 2012 EP designation covers at least documents that were originally requested via subpoena what, eight months prior to EP being declared? Was there a comparable time lapse in 2007 or was EP declared in a timely manner?

    3. The 2007 subpoenas were seeking information regarding communications among the President’s staff. The 2012 subpoenas are not.

    What is very clear here is that if the roles and parties were reversed, those people defending the current administration or writing it off as “no big deal” would be absolutely apoplectic right now. That makes them hypocrites. The fact that the other side is also largely comprised of hypocrites is no defense to that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 4

  9. Moderate Mom says:

    The New York Times hypocritical with a change in Presidents? And in other news, dog bites man.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  10. sam says:

    Orin Kerr’s Law:

    A political party and its supporters are for/against X until such time as said party wins office or loses office, at which time it and its supporters are against/for X.

    Supply your own examples.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  11. wr says:

    I eagerly await Doug’s follow-up in which he quotes from the dueling WSJ editorials on the subject of executive privelege from the same two time periods.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 5

  12. al-Ameda says:

    Executive privilege cannot and should not be allowed to shield the executive branch from regular, valuable Congressional oversight. There was no reason the House committee and the Justice Department could not work out a deal to produce the documents requested, or some form of them. Instead, they show again that every issue, large or small, can be turned into ammunition for political combat

    This doesn’t seem very controversial to me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  13. Rick Almeida says:

    When a lawyer does legal commentary and doesn’t even address the idea that different circumstances may or may not indicate different outcomes, we all get made a little dumber.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

  14. Dean says:

    @Moosebreath: Yep, this really is a case of both sides do it. Strange that those like Doug, who see that all the time, and use it as a shield for Republicans, don’t like it when Democrats use it as a shield for themselves. I wonder what could have changed.

    It is fully expected that members of the political parties will draw up sides in these types of disputes. No surprise there. However, when the paper of record draws up sides, which it clearly has done here, it does support the argument of a biased hypocritical press.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

  15. Dean says:

    Apparently, the New York Times’ editorial writers have “evolved.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  16. Moosebreath says:

    Dean,

    No argument that this would be evidence of bias on the part of the NYT. And as wr pointed out, one can find the same example of bias in the other direction on the part of the Wall Street Journal. And even on the part of Doug Mataconis, no matter how much he claims to hate both parties.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  17. MBunge says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “And the White House yesterday invoked the privilege with respect to an entire class of documents that potentially numbers as many as 11,000″

    But only after an extended period of at least giving the appearance of trying to satisfy the demands of a Congressional committee. The case with Miers was simply a gigantic “Fuck You” to Congress without any attempt at cooperation.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  18. wr says:

    @Dean: ” However, when the paper of record draws up sides, which it clearly has done here, it does support the argument of a biased hypocritical press. ”

    Yes, you are absolutely right, as long as you strip out all context and judge based solely on two short excerpts presented by a partisan. Oh, and ignore the fact that these are editorials, not news coverage, and that therefore are presenting an opinion that is not meant to be objective.

    Yeah, you’ve really nailed that Lame Stream Media, Dean. You should run off and tell Michelle Malkin all about it. Maybe she’ll give you a cookie.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  19. george says:

    @Dean:

    It is fully expected that members of the political parties will draw up sides in these types of disputes. No surprise there. However, when the paper of record draws up sides, which it clearly has done here, it does support the argument of a biased hypocritical press.

    Yes, but not just from one side. The GOP press (so to speak) such as Fox does the same thing. The press isn’t a monolith, it’s divided as much as football fans are, and its different entities cheer on different teams. The press is certainly biased, and its biased both ways.

    There’s the left wing press, and the right wing press, and they both pretend to be non-partisan while cheering on their side. It’s really almost exactly like football fans arguing about penalties – hard nosed football vs unnecessary roughing for the same play, depending upon who did it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  20. I think that Eric Holder should resign, but these aren´t the same situations. Being incompetent is not as bad as using the US attorneys to railroad political opponents to the prison.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  21. Dave says:

    There is a world of difference between Harriet Miers outright ignoring a Congressional subpoena and Eric Holder refusing to turn over documents that cover a time period two months after the shooting Congress is trying to investigate, when he’s already turned over 7,000 to 8,000 documents and was actively trying to work out a deal with the committee.

    And as far as media bias goes, I would note that for months now Fox News has been the only major news media site to consistently give the Fast and Furious scandal front page coverage. Take that for what you will.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  22. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: I eagerly await Doug’s follow-up in which he quotes from the dueling WSJ editorials on the subject of executive privelege from the same two time periods.

    Feel free to do it yourself.

    If you are incapable (as is likely), feel free to outsource your homework to Kos/DU/Media Matters. Most of what you say is simply parroting of their talking points.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2