Inside the Senate Committees on Iraq
Whatever you think of Hillary Clinton, her political instincts are nonpareil, and this is a brilliant move:
The Senate Armed Services Committee will vote on a request by Senator Hillary Clinton to take testimony from six retired generals who have called for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's removal, the panel's chairman said.
Clinton, a Democrat of New York, asked Republican John Warner of Virginia in a letter last week to call a hearing so the committee "can help ensure we learn from past experiences and better shape future operations.''
Warner declined to say when the vote would take place and whether it would be in open session. "All of those matters will be taken up with members of the committee having a voice in the matter,'' he said in a brief interview today on Capitol Hill in Washington.
It's a no-win situation for those on the Armed Services Committee. By denying the testimony they appear to be water-carriers for a President with approval ratings in the low 30s. If they allow it, they open the floodgates for a "the Generals march on Washington" narrative to be played out over several days. Hillary hasn't called for the resignation of Rumsfeld (in fact, she's cleverly shifted the target over to the President, refusing to let him pass it off on Rummy by saying "As far as I can tell, Secretary Rumsfeld is doing what the President wants him to do"), but she can say that she brought the generals to Capitol Hill and gave them an audience. Plus I think it's undeniable that the country can benefit from the wisdom of these guys' experience. It's an absolute trap for Senate Republicans.
Turning to other Senate Committees that don't work, Pat Roberts of Kansas, who has no problem with being a water-carrier for the White House, is at it again:
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said he wants to divide his panel's inquiry into the Bush administration's handling of Iraq-related intelligence into two parts, a move that would push off its most politically controversial elements to a later time.
The inquiry has dragged on for more than two years, a slow pace that prompted Democrats to force the Senate into an extraordinary closed-door session in November. Republicans then promised to speed up the probe.
And that closed-door session has yielded nothing, and so it's time for another one. Sen. Roberts is abandoning his oversight responsibility and hurting the national security of this country by refusing to carry out this inquiry. Democrats like the ranking member Jay Rockefeller cannot let this cover-up continue. Just over the weekend we learned that Tyler Drumheller, the 60 Minutes interviewee subject who obtained inside information on Iraq's (lack of) WMD capabilities and presented it to the executive branch, only to be dismissed, actually talked to the Intelligence Committee about his findings and how they fell on deaf ears in the run-up to war. Roberts clearly does not want this and other secrets to get out into the public. But we need to know what is being done at the highest levels of government in our name, especially when the climate is ripe for the same kind of bamboozlement in dealing with Iran.
We need answers on the Office of Special Plans, on Doug Feith's role, on Cheney's constant visits to Langley in 2002, on the Niger forgeries, on Drumheller's contacts, on Curveball, on what the White House knew and when they knew it. We can't let this happen again, and there has to be accountability for these past mistakes. The Armed Services Committee may signal that they understand that. Pat Roberts doesn't.