Democrats and the political left hammered the Bush administration for using executive privilege, and are now faced with trying to justify President Obama’s much more questionable use of it. This isn’t as tricky for the Democratic politicians — they’re partisans, and it’s not exactly surprising they have a double-standard based on which party is in power. But left-wing pundits, columnists and bloggers (at least the ones who want to avoid being labeled as hacks) seem to be having a hard time justifying it.
Take Eugene Robinson’s valiant effort in today’s Washington Post:
These are the facts, and they don’t cover any Justice Department officials with glory. But neither do they remotely justify the partisan witch hunt by House Republicans who threaten, without legitimate cause, to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress. Obama has responded by asserting executive privilege — effectively shutting down the inquisition.
The House wants to go fishing in a vast sea of documents, some of which relate to ongoing investigations. As a believer in sunshine and disclosure, I don’t much care for questionable claims of executive privilege. But I like the politically motivated sideshow the GOP is staging even less.
If you say you’re a “believer in sunshine and disclosure” only in situations when the people requesting the information have motives you personally approve of, then you probably aren’t a believer in sunshine and disclosure. Maybe you believe in it with limits or in times when your party is in power — fine. But Robinson is no principled sunshine advocate. He thinks there should be different rules for different sides, and would be better off admitting it than trying to act as if this was a weighty decision he came to after struggling against his deep-rooted respect for government transparency.
But this is really the only argument the left can make — that they dislike the use of executive privilege, but this “politically-motivated witch hunt” is one of those rare circumstances when it’s necessary. And that would be fine, if there wasn’t already plenty of evidence indicating that the DOJ has tried to mislead the Congress on this investigation. And if past investigations that the left has cheered on — i.e. the Plame affair — hadn’t clearly been blatantly politically motivated.
If this is the greatest defense from the left, then the Democrats are in trouble. No wonder Jon Stewart has already abandoned them on this.