Thursday, May 20, 2004

You can learn a lot about an institution by what kicks up a fuss and what doesn't. Take, for instance, the administration's diversion of $700 million from Afghan aid in the summer of 2002 to prepare for the war in Iraq (at a time, you may recall, when Dubya's national security staff left a meeting in Crawford denying that Iraq had even been a subject of discussion).

In any prior administration, Congress and particularly the House would have made this a major scandal, regardless of party affiliation -- not just because it involves breaking a solemn promise we'd made to the Afghans, but because it undercuts one of the main bastions of Congressional power itself, the power of the purse. This is how the Federalist Papers describe the process of checks and balances -- one of the checks on an overreaching executive is supposed to be the Congress guarding its own institutional interests. Not nowadays, though; Congressional Republicans aren't bothered, saying that Congress was happy to allow the White House "unprecedented flexibility" in the post-Sept. 11 environment.

Which is not to say that the House leadership has failed completely to guard its institutional interests, as they perceive them. They're apparently very, very upset that Dubya's crew is allowing their is knocking some of their activities off newspaper front pages. They want limelight, dammit. And worse -- he's threatening to veto a pork-laden highlight bill. So "flexibility" still has its limits. Good to know.

And speaking of what gets coverage and what doesn't, a former commander of Centcom apparently testified to the Senate yesterday that "... we are absolutely on the brink of failure. We are looking into the abyss." He was backed up by Larry Diamond from the Hoover Institution, who spoke of a "perilous situation" and a "quagmire". That's all according to the Guardian; like Atrios, I can't find a thing about this in domestic media, using Google News. (The only other mention as I write in anything that approaches domestic media is a VOA story that quotes these guys on involving the UN, but leaves out the money quotes).

But then again, there's the stuff that does get coverage. I've been wanting to comment on this for a couple of days, but I'm honestly not able to force myself to read to the end of it...

More: Ted Barlow has a bit to say about Hastert's views on sacrifice and fiscal rectitude, as contrasted to John McCain's...


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