Betrayal in the Buffet Line
Vice President Dick Cheney knew at lunch on Tuesday that he had pulled the string on the Senate Judiciary Committee's plan to subpeona telephone company executives; knew that he had lobbied Republican Committee members behind the back of their Chairman, Arlen Specter (R-Pa.); knew that he had advised the phone execs not to answer relevant questions. But did he share this information with Specter so the Senator would not be taken by surprise just hours later when he found out he didn't have the votes to subpoena? Here's the Senator's answer, written in a public letter sent to Cheney :
"I was surprised, to say the least, that you sought to influence, really determine, the action of the Committee without calling me first, or at least calling me at some point. This was especially perplexing since we both attended the Republican Senate caucus lunch yesterday and I walked directly in front of you on at least two occasions enroute from the buffet to my table."
Specter should not have been so surprised at the deliberate snub. It has been the policy of the Administration, and certainly the personal inclination of the Vice President, to treat members of the other two branches as though they were junior partners in the legal war on terror. That Cheney would treat the Republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee with such disrespect and scorn tells us all we need to know about how the White House intends to proceed on the issue of domestic surveillance-- lawful or otherwise. And Sen. Specter's lame response-- a letter but no subpoenas-- tells us all we need to know about the desire and ability of Congress right now to stand up for itself and make good on its promise to act as a check and balance on the executive branch.
Sen. Specter is not going to get the White House's attention or respect by writing whiny letters. He is going to get it by issuing subpoenas, and holding frank hearings, and pushing legislation that will bring the judiciary into the matter. Either that, or the Senator ought to dump his lunch plate in the Vice President's lap the next time they are close to the buffet.
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