Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!
–A Man For All Seasons
Let us fast-forward six years into the future.
No, it’s not the dystopian future Democrats fear. The world of 2013 is pretty much one would expect, really. President Hillary Clinton is in the first year of her second term, after beating Tim Pawlenty in 2012; the Cubs are gunning for their third world championship in five years; and the third rounds of talks in Ankara aimed at ending the Iraqi civil war have stalled yet again over Sunni demands for reparations. Meanwhile, the hit movie “That’s Not Bologna,” starring Adam Sandler and Paris Hilton, is in its third week at #1 despite tepid reviews. All in all, the world is where one might expect it to be.
But in Washington, a scandal is brewing.
Republicans have found evidence that President Clinton’s staff took kickbacks when she awarded federal contracts for the new national health care program. The GOP has retaken the Senate, and the newly-returned chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee (Sen. Joe Lieberman, R-Conn.) brings forth a surprise witness, a former employee of Blue Cross Blue Shield, who confirms that he paid Clinton’s chief of staff $10 million for favorable treatment in the bidding process.
The committee erupts. It’s scandal! And yet minutes later, the president of Blue Cross Blue Shield testifies that nothing of the sort happened.
Clearly, there’s something going on. Perhaps graft, perhaps just an ex-employee with an ax to grind. The committee issues subpoenas.
After wangling, missed hearings, angry recrimination, and frustration by Congress, the committee finally votes to hold the President’s chief of staff in contempt of Congress. They forward their request to the U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C. And get back a one-paragraph letter.
“Dear Mr. Chairman,
“I regret to inform you that we cannot pursue this matter. Unfortunately, the President has invoked executive privilege in this matter. Under precedent established under the preceding administration, we are prohibited from enforcing a Congressional subpoena under these circumstances. Have a nice day.
“Anders Folk, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia”
With only he-said/he-said evidence, and without the testimony of the chief of staff, Congress is stymied. Hillary Clinton and her supporters say that there’s no real evidence of wrongdoing, and point to Bush’s conduct in 2007 to prove that there’s bipartisan agreement on the need for a unitary executive.
Two years later, very quietly, a former executive from Blue Cross Blue Shield will be spirited away to a detention center in Guam.
* * *
Now, none of this is to suggest that I believe Hillary Clinton is a likely candidate to commit graft while in office. But if she (or President Obama, or President Edwards) does, how does the GOP expect to stop it? The President yesterday essentially declared himself and his administration above the law. That’s tragic for a variety of reasons, but dark suspicions aside, I don’t expect George W. Bush to be president past January 20, 2009.
When the Democrats take the White House, all of the Calvinball rules set up by this administration transfer to them. The secrecy, the ability to decide things unilaterally, signing statements — the whole kit and kaboodle, transferred into the hands of Hillary or Barack or John.
Is the GOP comfortable with this? Do they expect that this cannot come back to bite them later? Do they not understand that when Bush weakens the checks on the executive branch, he does so for all future presidents as well?
When Hillary Clinton overreaches as Bush has done, I suspect the GOP will gnash their teeth and wail, and lament that they didn’t do anything when they had the chance. And I’ll want to accept that, and agree with them that we should roll back the abuses of the Bush administration. But I’ll admit, I’ll have a hard time feeling particularly sorry for them when that day comes. And more than a part of me will want to say that as you sow, so shall you reap.