A Quiet Little Deal By Uncle Pat

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted along party lines a few days ago to reject Democrats demands of an investigation into the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance program.  Instead, they bravely approved establishing (with White House approval) a seven-member panel to oversee the effort.

It would be hilarious if it wasn’t such a stick-in-the-eye to the constitution. These comedians are going to oversee an illegal presidential operation.

That must be why they call it the Select Committee. They select the intelligence the President most wants them to bow down over and then, like ducks in a shooting gallery, they all fall down in compliance.

SenpatrobertsThe Republican members, that is. Chairman Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas (where anything can happen and often does) broke a lot of legs in closed session. Closed, not because anything important to al Qaeda was being discussed, but because when you rip up and throw away the laws of the country, it’s best done in private.

Continuing his role as standup-comedian in place of standup-guy, Roberts played off the ‘friendly uncle’ card against whatever press representatives even bothered to come. He smiled gently and sold out the country, saying he had appealed to the committee "to reject confrontation in favor of accommodation."

A brand new, shiny subcommittee, that Uncle Pat described as "an accommodation with the White House,"
will "conduct oversight of the terrorist surveillance program."

Lot of accommodating going on under Pat’s leadership.

Unfortunately, Pat hasn’t as yet come up with a plan for any single individual, or any committee (sub or otherwise) to conduct meaningful oversight of our loose-cannon president. That, if he would only check his Cliff Notes on Senatoring, is the main object of the United States Senate, its rules and its committees. Bush has been accommodated. We have been flim-flammed.

SenrockefellerDemocrat vice-chairman, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, got a blunt lesson in power-politics from Uncle Pat. If you don’t have the votes, you’ll be the goats. That’s an old and little remembered saying from when we were a more agrarian society. "The committee is, to put it bluntly, basically under the control of the White House through its chairman," Rockefeller told reporters. Attending press representatives dutifully nodded their heads and made plans for lunch. By a vote of five to three, they decided on Kinkeads Raw Bar.

Raw bar, raw deal, it somehow suggested itself.

"At the direction of the White House, the Republican majority has voted down my motion to have a careful and fact-based review of the National Security Agency’s surveillance eavesdropping activities inside the United States," Rockefeller announced to various receding backsides.

The remaining cool thing and sole interesting fact in the Senate is that the fat lady seldom sings. The Committee on Intelligence bleeds the national body-politic nearly dry and, just when it seems over, another committee pops its head above the fray and makes us all wonder.

SenarlenspecterThe surveillance issue was brought up at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing by Sen. Arlen Specter. Drafting his own bill, Specter threatened to cut administration funding unless Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales agrees to answer more of his committee’s questions. Spector (a Republican with a mind of his own) runs the show over at the Judiciary Committee.

Unfortunately, no one serves popcorn while we lowly citizens watch the antics within our Congressional zoo. It takes stamina and a certain amount of unworldly naivete to see these issues through to their ultimate conclusion. To a large part, that’s what Washington depends upon, that the wheels of justice do grind exceeding slow. In our Capitol, tomorrow comes so quickly to yesterday’s news.

Meanwhile, over at Kinkead’s Raw Bar…

For more comments on Washington at work, see my personal web site.

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