Friday, December 06, 2002

Do you ever get the feeling that reporters are sneaking stuff into the newspaper behind somebody's back? The New York Times reports today that Henry Kissinger's refusal to disclose his client list while taking up a government post violates the law. That would make Ari Fleischer's official White House statements to the contrary lies.

But to find that little detail, you'll have to scroll all the way to the bottom of a completely different story --- though one which also bears on how much independence we can really expect from Kissinger's commission.

It turns out that the Republican leadership had an informal agreement to let the families of 9/11 attack victims approve one of the five Republican committee members (with Sens. McCain and Shelby, who have close ties to the families, acting as their agents). Which is particularly significant because the commission will require six votes to issue a subpoena --- so if all five Republicans are beholden to the White House, then Dubya and co. will be able to squelch any inquiry which threatens to make them the least bit uncomfortable.

And the families have made a perfectly respectable choice, former Republican Sen. Warren Rudman. But that's not enough for Trent Lott, who has refused to agree to the appointment. The families claim he's being pressured by the White House, but it can't be --- Ari Fleischer said explicitly that the White House, having chosen Kissinger would have no voice in the selection of the other committee members. And if that's a lie too, then Fleischer had better be careful. If he keeps this sort of thing up, he may wind up with a reputation.

Besides, the White House has said that really they want independent inquiry into the handling of terrorism before 9/11. Perhaps they just don't want that independence taken to extremes --- otherwise, we might wind up with a free-floating inquiry into anything the President and his associates have ever done in their public and private lives, which could drag on for years, issue thousands of subpoenas, cost millions of dollars, and delve into private matters of no legitimate interest to the public at all. And that would offend Republican ideas of good government. All things in moderation.


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