In the tradition of Republican statesmen of the modern era, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., expressed his respect for constitutional oversight yesterday when commenting on the House Intelligence Committee's probe of that late night visit to John Ashcroft's hospital room. According to USA Today, "he urged Congress to move on from speculation over the hospital visit, which he likened to a discussion of 'exactly what (flavor) Jell-O Ashcroft was eating in the hospital.'"
Sadly, the ranking Democrat on the committee seemed inclined to agree that it was time to put all that unpleasantness behind them. The same article quotes Rep. Sylvestre Reyes, D-Texas, saying "he was satisfied with Gonzales' explanation and cautioned against drawing conclusions. 'When there are issues of national security at stake, I think certainly one should not question the motivation of individuals,' Reyes told reporters. 'I'm willing to accept the rationale behind it.'"
(When there are issues of national security at stake, one should not question the motivation of individuals? Why on earth not?)
The bad news for Gonzales is that other Democrats are not so acquiescent to his robotic unresponsiveness. Just today, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., sent him a letter demanding to know if the memo the Justice Department gave the White House "declaring presidential aides absolutely immune from subpoenas was drafted legally." This latest salvo comes in advance of what looks more and more to be an impending constitutional showdown around the Harriet Miers and Joshua Bolten refusals to appear.
Marty Lederman at Balkinization gives a run-down of the possible legal responses to the White House's defiance, here. He writes that if the past were prologue, there would eventually be a negotiated agreement overseen by the courts. But we are dealing with a radical administration that has no respect for precedent, traditions, the balance of powers or the Constitution as commonly understood for over 200 years. It is far more likely that they will simply continue to defy the Congress and dare them to do their worst, secure in the knowledge that enough of their elected minions will happily go off the cliff right with them rather than do the right thing -- all the while running down the clock. It's a reckless strategy, from a reckless administration. Why would anyone expect anything else?