Magazine article The American Prospect

Memo to House Democrats

Magazine article The American Prospect

Memo to House Democrats

Article excerpt

DEMOCRATS: ODDS ARE, COME NOVEMBER 7, YOU will gain the 15 seats you need to take back the House (the odds are much lower in the Senate). So it's not too early to start thinking about what you should do during the two years leading up to the 2008 presidential election.

You'll be sorely tempted to showcase the Bush administration in all its lurid awfulness. Imagine an endless parade of witnesses offering shocking details of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, torture camps, payoffs to Halliburton, Defense Department usurpations, Iraq's descent into civil war, and other cover-ups, deceptions, data manipulations, suppressions of science, crass incompetencies, and outfight corruptions. Out of all of these hearings would come a bill of particulars so damning that every 2008 Democratic candidate running for everything from Indianapolis City Council to president will be swept into office on a riptide of public outrage.

After all, didn't House Republicans during the Clinton years wreak all the damage they could even when there wasn't much to complain about? Recall Dan Burton, the Indiana Republican who, while chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, issued truck loads of White House subpoenas along with a sulphurous geyser of unsupported accusations. Why shouldn't Henry Waxman, who will fill the same shoes, give as good as the Clinton White House got? Imagine how John Dingell, who will run the House Energy and Commerce Committee, could expose the intimacies between the Bushies and Big Oil; what John Conyers, in command of the House Judiciary Committee, could reveal about Bush's trouncing of Americans' civil liberties; or the job Barney Frank, at Financial Services, could do on the administration's nefarious links to Wall Street. Hell, why not try to impeach Bush?

Warning: Resist all such temptation.

YOU WON'T BE CREDIBLE. THE PUBLIC would see the investigations and hearings as partisan wrangling. They might even cause the public to question what it already knows, allowing Republicans to argue it was all conjured up by partisan zealots from the start.

You won't get any new information anyway. Your subpoena power would have no effect on this White House. You'd end up fighting in federal courts for the whole two years. Besides, there's enough dirt out there already to sink any administration. Although cowed at the start of the administration, the mainstream media have done a fairly good job since. …

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