Sen. Russ Feingold deserves some credit. Unlike colleagues such as Sen. Pat Leahy, whose criticism of the “imperial presidency” vanished with a new White House occupant, Feingold is going after the Obama administration for its reliance on “czars” not subject to congressional oversight or confirmation. Feingold decided to hold a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee, but alas the administration stiffed him and refused to send anyone to appear in it. After all, czars don’t have to answer to Congress, and apparently neither does anyone else in the administration. Feingold’s opening comments at the hearing say it all:
The White House decided not to accept my invitation to send a witness to this hearing to explain its position on the constitutional issues we will address today. That’s unfortunate. It’s also a bit ironic since one of the concerns that has been raised about these officials is that they will thwart congressional oversight of the Executive Branch.
But that’s par for the course. No ACORN investigation. The Obami don’t have to. No cooperation with the U.S. Civil Rights Commission on its investigation of the dismissal of the New Black Panther case. Who’s going to make them? Allow Gen. Stanley McChrystal to testify, as his predecessors did, before Congress? Not a chance. All that accountability and transparency we were promised hasn’t really panned out. And aside from Feingold, it’s now quite clear, if it wasn’t before, that the fuss about a “unitary executive” and “shredding the Constitution” — buzzwords for an overreaching administration that showed insufficient respect for the Congress — was just another excuse (as if they needed one) to club the Bush administration.