Sen. John McCain, who has been out in front on the White House leaking scandal, introduced a resolution earlier today calling for a special counsel to investigate. The Hill reports it was immediately blocked by Senate Democrats:
McCain introduced a resolution Tuesday expressing the Senate’s support for [Attorney General Eric] Holder to appoint a special prosecutor. But Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) objected after McCain asked for unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to consideration of his resolution.
“What is at issue here is whether or not we are going to give an opportunity for U.S. attorneys, professionals in their fields, to handle this particular inquiry,” Wyden said. “And I see no evidence, Mr. President, that the way U.S. attorneys are handling this investigation at this time is not with the highest standards of professionalism.”
Democrats are (to their credit) willing to criticize the White House for the leaks, but so far they’ve lacked the political courage to call for a special prosecutor to lead the investigation. Even Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the most vocal of these Democratic critics, announced her opposition to a special counsel appointment today. Feinstein said that the two attorneys appointed by the Department of Justice can handle the investigation — despite concerns over conflict of interest — and insisted that appointing a special prosecutor would needlessly prolong the investigation.
The strong opposition from Democrats is interesting. They certainly didn’t have the same concerns about DOJ appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the Valerie Plame leak, which had far fewer national security implications. Resolving this case as quickly as possible is important, but the overriding concern should be to get it right.
By opposing the special counsel appointment, Democrats are basically demanding that we blindly believe the White House’s claim that the leaks were unauthorized. Of course there’s no way to know for sure. Even if you’re inclined to trust the White House, there is still always a chance — slim as we might hope — that the leaks were approved at the highest level. And, if that’s the case, should we really let the administration control an investigation of itself?