Hey, Sara Taylor: Be a Hero Today

This is it, former White House political director Sara Taylor: Your moment is here. Your chance, too. You say you are a dedicated public servant who wants what is best for this country? That you are devoted to the rule of law? That you put country ahead of party?

Then stand before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning and ignore President Bush's attempt to muzzle your testimony under the guise of executive privilege. Tell him "thanks but no thanks" -- tell your lawyers to back off -- and simply give the senators the full and complete truth as you know it about the U.S. attorney scandal. The law will support you. And if the law doesn't, history will.

Sure, it will infuriate your former bosses and colleagues at the White House. It will rankle conservatives everywhere. But you are smart enough to understand that you now owe less to them and more to the millions of Americans who want you to do what we all have had to do at one point or another in our lives: Do what's right even when what's right is what's hardest.

If you don't feel ready, don't worry. This country has had plenty of heroes who didn't think their time had come. Theirs did. Yours has.

If you testify truthfully on Capitol Hill, you obviously will avoid the "contempt of Congress" sword that's hanging over your head. But that's not the reason to take a stand. The chances that any federal prosecutor would choose to indict you on that charge are miniscule -- even if the legislators found the political will to make you a scapegoat for this mess. (That distinction rightfully belongs to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, and everyone except the president knows it.) So don't do it to save your neck from a criminal case. It just ain't going to happen.

If you tell the committee all you know about White House involvement in the prosecutor purge, you also (as you probably already know) won't necessarily be violating any sort of executive privilege claim that has ever been formally recognized in a court of law. That's why the White House keeps "instructing" you to recognize the privlege instead of "requiring" you to do so: There simply isn't any clear precedent. If you don't believe me, ask John Dean. In the end he got it right and told his story on Capitol Hill -- and look at how history now views him. Yes, I know this isn't Watergate. But that's an argument in favor of you testifying today.

I understand that you are leaning toward trying to answer the questions from the committee on an ad hoc basis. I give you credit for that, but it's still not enough. We all know that the questions the White House doesn't want you to answer are precisely those questions the rest of us want asked. So don't parse each question asked. Don't try to have it both ways. Just brush aside your lawyer's advice -- with all due respect, there are other things for you to consider -- and help us learn the answers to three questions:

-- Who came up with that list of U.S. attorneys to be fired?
-- What did the attorney general know and when did he know it?
-- Why has there been such a concerted cover-up of what is typically a routine practice (that is, letting go of executive branch employees)?

The world will not end if you offer this information. The government will not fall. Other White House employees will not feel a single drop more reluctant to give the president candid advice. Indeed, some of the less partisan ones will see it as an act in the best traditions of the office you once served.

And the rest of us? We will be grateful that someone once inside the White House was willing to come out and help us understand how this episode came to pass. We will be better off, in and out of government, when we have a Justice Department whose leadership we can trust.

Even if you have nothing especially fascinating or relevant to say, you will still make history -- because you will help provide some clarity to a legal dispute between these two bozo branches about executive privilege. By testifying, you will generate a pure procedural good -- even if in the end you aren't able to deliver some substantive "smoking gun" or "bulletproof alibi." Don't let party loyalty or reliance on shaky legal arguments persuade you otherwise.

You are young, Sara Taylor. You have a bright future ahead of you. This morning, choose to be a profile in courage instead of a potted plant.

By Andrew Cohen |  July 11, 2007; 7:00 AM ET agag
Previous: The Scorched-Earth Subpoena Strategy | Next: Taylor to Miers to Chance


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As much as I agree with you Mr. Cohen, there is no way she will tell anything. The White House was her first job out of college, and with the contacts she has of Repubs w money; there is no incentive to go against bush. She's bright and young, but as we have seen time and time again, the culture of this administration is loyality to themselves (and especially to bush).

Posted by: johng | July 11, 2007 07:44 AM

A hero in this administration? Not a chance in hell.

Posted by: JL | July 11, 2007 08:29 AM

This administration and its enablers could turn any outsider into a cynic. I believe I would see the tooth fairy before a brainwashable like Sara Taylor will give up the kool aid.

Posted by: Sara B. | July 11, 2007 09:00 AM

While I agree completely with Mr. Cohen, I doubt that Ms. Taylor's Christian duty to the Truth will be as strong as her competeing Christian duty to advance the Holy Republican Agenda.
What few realize is that Ms. Taylor, Ms. Goodling, et. al. have allowed the Holy Republican Agenda to usurp Holy Scripture as the basis for proper conduct.
"Thou shalt not bear false witness" has been replaced by "Don't injure the Republican Cause."
This is the danger of theocracy. Not that religious belief becomes law but that partisan politics becomes religion.

Posted by: Shannon | July 11, 2007 09:03 AM

I agree with the others posting comments here. There is no hero in this administration, only lackies.

Posted by: JoeW | July 11, 2007 09:19 AM

I agree with the others posting comments here. There is no hero in this administration, only lackies.

Posted by: JoeW | July 11, 2007 09:19 AM

No chance this administration hired anyone who would be an American hero. No chance. I can hear the money flowing into a fund to pay for her "expenses" right now to buy her silence. The only potential heros are the rank and file government employees who have evidence of this corrupt administration. Go out and find them Cohen. They might become heros, but not this lady, not a loyal Bushie.

Posted by: Fate | July 11, 2007 09:38 AM

You expect Karl Rove's assistant to do the honorable thing? The DC Madams hookers have more honor than any loyal Bushie. She'll stonewall and get a cushy, high-paying Haliburton job down the road.

Posted by: nthdegree | July 11, 2007 10:15 AM

Nice try and worth the effort, but we have ample reason, through bitter experience, to believe that no one associated with this administration even knows how to tell the truth, much less be willing to do so under adverse circumstances.

She started working for Bush when she was 24, and has spent her whole life drinking the kool-aid that what's good for Bush is good for the country. It's pretty obvious that isn't true, but she doesn't understand that.

Posted by: Egilsson1 | July 11, 2007 10:22 AM

Surely you jest.

Posted by: mtrav | July 11, 2007 10:48 AM

Can a good Christian be a liar? Well, no.

Can a Republican Christian be a liar? Well, it's obviously yes.

Posted by: | July 11, 2007 10:48 AM

Wonderful column, Mr. Cohen, if only it could come to pass.

Posted by: Chris Fox | July 11, 2007 10:50 AM

Your column is more like a prayer. Let's hope it doesn't go unanswered.

Posted by: guitar_blue | July 11, 2007 11:12 AM

I think she has already proven she will take a corporate bribe by the supposedly lucrative offer she has received? Why would she back down now? She has already crossed the Rubicon. She has made her decision. Now the Congress will have to make theirs. Neither she nor George W Bush have the right to obstruct justice or hide information from the Congress in an investigation. She has chosen to obstruct justice and perhaps to be an accessory to a crime. At the very minimum, it is contempt of Congress.

Posted by: kralford | July 11, 2007 11:12 AM

If one follows former Surgeon General Richard Carmona's
testimony, one finds that Ms. Taylor will be faced with
"mean spirited, vindictive" Republicans who will seek to
destroy her future.
Is there any chance whatever that she will sacrifice
her future career? None whatever. Sacrificing one's
future career and life is what soldiers do - not
Republican political operatives.
By the time 2008 rolls around, the national revulsion
to this Republican crowd will be a tsumami that will
wipe them from the landscape for a generation.
They will leave in their wake thousands upon
thousands of dead and ruined lives. Ms. Taylor
is no hero.

Posted by: cms1 | July 11, 2007 11:18 AM

If one follows former Surgeon General Richard Carmona's
testimony, one finds that Ms. Taylor will be faced with
"mean spirited, vindictive" Republicans who will seek to
destroy her future.
Is there any chance whatever that she will sacrifice
her future career? None whatever. Sacrificing one's
future career and life is what soldiers do - not
Republican political operatives.
By the time 2008 rolls around, the national revulsion
to this Republican crowd will be a tsumami that will
wipe them from the landscape for a generation.
They will leave in their wake thousands upon
thousands of dead and ruined lives. Ms. Taylor
is no hero.

Posted by: cms1 | July 11, 2007 11:18 AM

I have a feeling that honor and integrity weren't requirements for those who wished to be part of the Bush administration. Therefore, what would compel Sara Taylor to answer questions posed to her truthfully?
I've read that Alberto Gonzales can be impeached. Any takers??

Posted by: denisestro | July 11, 2007 11:19 AM

The odds of her doing her honest, ethical duty for the American people are about the same as VP Cheney resigning to operate a Solar Energy cooperative in Marin Co. CA. In other words, not an ice cube's chance in Hell.

Posted by: Paul in KY | July 11, 2007 11:20 AM

To the above, don't ever presume what a female might do. Hopefully in this case she tells the truth, meaning THE FULL TRUTH she knows.

Posted by: | July 11, 2007 11:29 AM

Interesting insight into the Republican mindset: Taylor mentioned during Schumer's line of questioning that she could not answer the question because her "employer" told her not to.

Her employer was the federal government, if I remember correctly. And her paymaster was the American taxpayer. George W. Bush was not her "employer" per se. He was her simply her boss--a temporary occupant in a position that proceeded him by generations--and which, God willing, will survive the calamity of his mal-administration.

It's also time for the Republican party and its Lord and Savior George W. Bush to stop behaving like criminal organization. Time to stop building the stonewall and come clean--no matter how ugly the truth really is.

Posted by: JP2 | July 11, 2007 11:33 AM

Heh heh -- love your ending sentence. But I can't say I'm surprised Ms. Taylor chose the potted plant option.

Posted by: lisatann | July 11, 2007 11:46 AM

Not a chance. And you're the only Post 'journalist' to suggest such an...American thing. But, we're talkin' republican$ here, not Americans. Fascists, not Americans. Loyal Bushies, not Americans. In 1989, a young Chinese man with a briefcase stood in front of a tank in Tienamen - he knew the real meaning of Liberty and Justice for All. Driving that tank was another young man who understood responsibility to his country and they both had honor and the faith in freedom to act as they did. We have let them and everyone in the world who respected freedom and honor down. Shame on Americans.

Posted by: A N Other | July 11, 2007 11:46 AM

The dust on the Taylor episode has, for the time, settled. She is now complicit in the cover up of lies and corruption in the Republican arm of government. Taylor refused to testify. She has proven her worth in the cult of Bush. In the process, she has failed her duty to America and her responsibility to honorable service. We care most about the latter failures and trust she will eventually be punished for violating the public trust.

Posted by: J. Farber | July 11, 2007 11:48 AM

Up to this point in time, no one in the bush/CHENY administration has been shown to lack feet of clay.

Posted by: PatD | July 11, 2007 11:49 AM

>I think she has already proven she will take a corporate bribe by the supposedly lucrative offer she has received? Why would she back down now? <

Dunno. I used to think the chance of anyone from this administration facing consequences highly unlikely. Now I think it is almost a certainty that after the next election there will be prosecutions and some serious hard time. There is just too much rage across the nation for congress to duck.

Loyal Bushies may find that the strings to their golden parachutes have been cut.

Posted by: wrb | July 11, 2007 11:50 AM

After watching w as Texas governer and as president I still don't understand why anyone would be loyal to him including republicans and most certainly a real Christian. I can't figure out what his presidentail library will have in other than pictures and videos of him at staged gatherings. It is nice that it won't be poluting another state.

Posted by: Larry in Texas | July 11, 2007 12:05 PM

Unfortunately, Miss Taylor simply doesn't posesses the courage and integrity necessary to come clean. Mr. Cohen gave it a great effort, but Bush appointees are carefully screened for robot-like loyalty and indifference to the rule of law before being offered jobs in the administration.

If Miss Taylor had principles and integrity, she never would have accepted a position working under Karl "Turdblossom" Rove.

Posted by: Quinn | July 11, 2007 12:10 PM

I am surprised that Mr. Cohen would suggest such a thing and that so many posters agree with him. No one has the right to expect that Ms. Taylor will defy a presidential order not to testify regarding certain matters. This is a battle between the President and the Congress, and they must fight it out between themselves. It is not Ms. Taylor's responsibility, or even her place, to defy the President's instructions. The courts will have to decide this if the President and Congress can not come to an accomodation. And why in the world would a savvy commentator like Mr. Cohen advise Ms. Taylor to ignore her own attorney's advice and place herself in that kind of jeopardy? As far as I can see, she is doing the only thing that she reasonably can do.

Posted by: lydgate | July 11, 2007 12:13 PM

Whew! The anti-Bush/anti-Republican hot air is blowing especially strong in this post today. The thing that is funny about all this U.S Attorney firing stuff is that no one really cares. Look at any poll out there and you'll find the only ones who give a rip is the hard core lefties who hate all things Bush and Republican anyway. This whole investigation is partisan excercise designed to embarass the President. The fact is all U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. He can hire and fire at will. He can fire them for anything. He can fire them just because he doesn't like the way they dress. The only thing scandalous about this whole thing is the fact that the Bush administration didn't stand up at the beginning and say that they were fired because the President wanted them to be fired, end of story. As a matter of fact Clinton fired every U.S. attorney in the country early on in his administration just because he wanted his own operatives in those positions. As for Cohen's article, I wonder if he ever urged members of Clinton's cabinet to testify against him during the various times he claimed executive priveledge? I should do a search in WP archives and look that up. I somehow doubt it.

Posted by: RobT | July 11, 2007 12:16 PM

You're right about American apathy. After all, that's what got this crew into the White House to begin with. If nothing else, hopefully, the press will finally start to challenge assertions made by spokesmen and members of this administration. They've been given a free pass for far too long. And, hopefully, the American people will see that,in 2008, when voting for a person to be president, they will judge that person on their merits, not on whether they'd like to have a beer with him or her.

Posted by: denisestro | July 11, 2007 12:31 PM

I agree with you that the American people are apathetic. In this case though, the apathy is justified since there is no scandal. Just something created by the media to keep the Presidents poll numbers down.

Posted by: RobT | July 11, 2007 12:43 PM

RobtT: You are a complete Bushboy moron.

Posted by: Ralph B. | July 11, 2007 12:46 PM

OOOOH!! Name calling Ralph? Very intelligent debating technique.

Posted by: RobT | July 11, 2007 12:52 PM

Lydgate, those claims of Executive privilege are laughable on their face. The "Executive branch" apparently extends to any communication with ANYONE that Taylor had while she was employed at the White House--including with people who existed outside of the federal bureacracy?

Her "employer" is George W. Bush?

These are ludicrious notions.

RobT, are you new to this country? You see in America, we have this tradition of being a nation of "laws and not men". We have a system of checks and balances at the Federal level as well. There are rules and procedures that public servants need to follow--precedents as well. When those rules and procedures and precedents are violated without a coherent justification--or any justification in reference to many of the issues at stake here--there are problems.

The fact that many ordinary Americans don't get this one is a pretty sad statement. In the case of loyal Bushies this isn't the least surprise. As per usual, they're they last ones to figure ouut what's going on.

Among professionals--especially ones who deal with the federal court system--there is not so much indifference as outrage and disgust with this administration. This is what I'm seeing and hearing. They get it. Maybe in time ordinary people will too.

Posted by: JP2 | July 11, 2007 12:52 PM

Clinton allowed his aides on numerous occasions to testify freely and openly. He did not invoke executive privilege to silence them. On Bush's weekly radio address he championed open and transparent govt. Then he should let is people testify with no restraints and should supply all the documents requested. Why not? What does he have to hide?

Posted by: Yoman | July 11, 2007 12:55 PM

RobT: It seems to me that you underestimate -- and thus misrepresent -- the amount of public anger and disdain over the mounting scandals coming from the Executive Branch. Your comments make me believe that you, were you in the same position, would do exactly as all those over at the Executive Branch are doing now: hold party affiliation in higher esteem than the welfare of our nation and our unique democracy.

Personally, I believe our nation is more important than party loyalty. Any public servant who sees otherwise is not fit to represent me.

And don't think this is just a lefty issue. This is an issue of conern to all Americans. It is an issue concerning the validity of our Constitution and the ideals of checks and balances our forefathers enshrined in that great document.

Posted by: Eric Sczeczymbinskii | July 11, 2007 12:56 PM

RobT: You need to recheck your facts. It is common for an incoming President to fire all of the US Attorneys and start with a fresh team, often including some of the fired attorneys. Most presidents, including Bush, have done that when first coming to office. It is not, however, common for attorneys to be fired midway thru a term. Add to that the mishandling of explanations to all of us about why it was done, and I don't see that Congress has any choice but to look into the matter. If nothing wrong was done, then there's no reason for any of them to refuse to hand over the documents or testify. Their refusal to do so is what makes them look guilty and prolongs the investigation.

Posted by: SueB | July 11, 2007 12:59 PM

The 20% that still defend this administration will defend them to the bitter end. It doesn't matter how many times Bush and his cronies are caught lying to the American people or what evidence of corruption is uncovered.

Bush apologists are cheerleading partisan hacks and therefore cannot be reasoned with.

Posted by: Quinn | July 11, 2007 01:01 PM

RobT is still spouting the Bushco talking points, nevermind the facts. One of these times we will get a Republican who can actually do more than regurgitate what Rush and Hannity say. I won't hold my breath, though.

Posted by: Nellie | July 11, 2007 01:10 PM

RobT, I don't think that Bush's poll numbers are down because of the media, but because the American people are finally awakening to the fact that they've been lied to for the past 6 1/2 years. There seems to be no responsibility for anything shown by people involved in this administration. I fear what this nation may become, and has become, to the world. People should be able to intelligently discuss differences of opinion, and not be villified for differing with the current administration. How can we seek peace in the world when we cannot even maintain civil discourse in the US? Call me a pollyanna, but, people should remember that we have 2 ears and only l mouth for a reason.

Posted by: denisestro | July 11, 2007 01:14 PM

Well said, Pollyanna!

Posted by: Eric Sczeczymbinskii | July 11, 2007 01:17 PM

"The fact is all U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. He can hire and fire at will. He can fire them for anything."

I hear some variation of the above argument above all the time. However, it's not exactly true. The President DOES NOT have the authority to demand that U.S. Attorneys let political considerations determine who gets prosecuted and who does not. However, the testimony of current and former Justice Department officials makes it seem very likely that this is exactly what was going on. The argument that Congress has no standing to look into these matters is ludicrous.

Posted by: stevieB | July 11, 2007 01:18 PM

"The fact is all U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. He can hire and fire at will. He can fire them for anything."

I hear some variation of the above argument all the time. However, it's not true. The President DOES NOT have the authority to demand that U.S. Attorneys let political considerations determine who gets prosecuted and who does not. The testimony of current and former Justice Department officials makes it seem very likely that this is exactly what was going on. The argument that Congress has no standing to look into these matters is ludicrous.

Posted by: stevieB | July 11, 2007 01:21 PM

Let me repeat once more. U.S. Attorneys are political appointees. Whether is unusual or not doen't matter, the President can hire and fire them at any time during his administration. So, no scandal and therefore there should be no investigation. Also, when you people talk about seperation of powers you seem to only want to discuss congress's powers of investigation of the executive branch but you don't seem to want to aknowledge the executive branchs co-equal ability to resist those investigations if they stray in the executive branch's perogatives spelled out in the constitution. Ask most lawyer's and they will tell you that the Bush administration would probably win a court battle with congress in declaring executive priveledge in this situation. I'd also be willing to bet you all were cheering Clinton on when he declared executive privelege 15 different times during his presidency becuase of, I'm sure you felt, harrasing Republican investigations.

Posted by: RobT | July 11, 2007 01:23 PM

RobT: Don't assume anything about me or my political beliefs.

I cheer for no one. This is politics, not J.V. football.

And the topic here is not about former-President Clinton. We are talking about George W. Bush, the current occupant of the White House. Quit confusing the issue by screaming about what President Clinton did during the last century.

These are very complex issues and the American people deserve the truth. And since you mention Clinton: Congress's current attempt to get to the truth is very, very different than Congress's attempt to get the truth during the Monica Lewinsky affair. The GOP was completely gung-ho to go after a sexual matter, but when it comes to ensuring the legacy and viablity of our democracy, the GOP turns yellow and screams "Partisans!" against those who don't agree with them.

Genug with the hypocrisy!

Posted by: Eric Sczeczymbinskii | July 11, 2007 01:42 PM

The President has no authority to fire a U.S. Attorney because of the attorney's refusal to break the law. Too many people do not seem to understand that just because someone serves "at the pleasure of the President" does not mean the President is above the law, and it doesn't mean that the President can compell someone to break the law at the risk of being fired. Can we please put this bit of misinformation to rest?

Posted by: StevieB | July 11, 2007 01:42 PM

RobT: Respectfully, please verify your claims in the Constitution itself. To wit, there is no mention of executive privilege anywhere in it (Article II lists the executive's duties)--the Executive Branch is supposed to execute legislation (mostly) created by Congress. Article I, which covers the Legislative Branch and the Founders considered more important than the branch in Article II, spells out this particular prerogative quite clearly in Section 8: "To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution [] all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof."

As i noted yesterday in this column, Ms. Goodling all but confessed to committing crimes in the personnel management at DoJ. And there is good reason to believe that US attorneys were fired in order to obstruct justice (cf. Ms. Lam, here in San Diego, and her aborted investigation of "Duke" Cunningham's co-conspirators). And "most lawyer's" will not agree with you or the administration on this; look to US v. Nixon (or my comment in yesterday's post), or pop an email off to your local (respected) Constitutional Law professor.

Posted by: brecca | July 11, 2007 01:44 PM

RobT that is a weak line of argument.

There are clearly limits to the president's "hiring and firing" authority. He could not, for example, fire a U.S. Attorney with an eye towards influencing the outcome of litigation for partisan advantage; he could not fire a U.S. Attorney in violation of 14th amendment protections.

Even if a person takes the most extreme attitude towards the president's firing authorities you still have to reconcile this with the fact that the Department of Justice was created by a legislative act, as was the position of the A.G. and the D.A.G. as are these U.S. Attorney positions. By an act of Congress these positions could disappear tomorrow with or without the president's consent.

The bottom line here, is that some of the president's men violated the law by pushing and supressing purely partisan litigation (e.g. the Siegleman case in Alabama; the Schlozman prosecutions in Missouri; the prosecutions by Biskupic in Wisconsin of Georgia Thompson; the tampering with the prosecution of a Cheney-mentee Kyle Foggo in San Diego; we could even go back to the first days of the Abramoff case). Now they are engaged in a fairly massive coverup.

Obviously there are reasons why this administration wants to block a legitimate inquiry--and few of those reasons are legitimate.

Posted by: JP2 | July 11, 2007 01:54 PM

Eric S., Ditto for me! This isn't about sex. This isn't about ideology. It's about the U.S. Constitution and the government of the U.S.A. While I am not an expert on governmental legalese, I am a U.S. citizen and I have a right to know if the executive branch of our government has broken the law. Pure and simple, I want to know that our leaders realize that they are accountable to all of the American people, not simply to one wing of one political party.

Posted by: denisestro | July 11, 2007 01:55 PM

A hero, in this administration? Only partisan hacks, I'm afraid, as Ms. Taylor's testimony today has proven. Warren Harding is cheering in his grave as the Bush administration has long surpassed his group of Teapot Dome Scandalmongers as the most corrupt and miserable in our nation's history.

Posted by: ekrauss | July 11, 2007 02:06 PM

You're kidding, right? She's a 33 year old party aparatchik, who got where she is by absolute, blind loyalty to party over country.

Posted by: cb | July 11, 2007 02:25 PM

Did you hear Sara Taylor explain that she wouldn't testify because she takes her oath "to support the President" seriously?!? She needed to be advised that the oath she took was to protect the Constitution of the United States, NOT the President. Seriously, we can't get this new generation of the Hitler Youth out of American government fast enough.

Posted by: view from the couch | July 11, 2007 02:33 PM

Referring to Sara Taylor as an apparatchik is incredibly apt. As Kafka said, "[apparatchiks] are people who dominate a game for which they are not competent." (Actually, this applies to the vast majority of those in the Executive Branch.)

Posted by: Eric Sczeczymbinskii | July 11, 2007 02:37 PM

Gotta wonder what Taylor's lawyers were thinking. Seems to me that she just obliterated any basis for EP that she might have had.

Posted by: wrb | July 11, 2007 02:40 PM

But, but, but, Clinton toooooo, Clinton, Clinton, blow job, penises, Boner in the White House, mushroom clouds, pictures of the human breast, Winnebagos of Death!!!

Posted by: Falwell Nation | July 11, 2007 02:41 PM

she failed the hero test.

Posted by: fedupwiththegop | July 11, 2007 02:48 PM

And yet througout the history of this country Presidents all the way back to Washington have been using executive privelege to sheild information from congressional investigations. It's based on the part of the constitution you quote about seperation of powers. If you care to look I'm sure you can find ample case law on this. I did a quick google and found loads of articles. Sometimes executive privilege claims work sometimes they don't. Clinton claimed the privilige 15 different times during his administration and only an handful stuck. President Bush however has only claimed it twice counting this time and seems to be on solid legal ground with the current claim. The first time by the way was release of Clinton era documents. I realize this current discussion is about the Democratic partisian attack on President Bush's firing of some U.S. attorneys and not the various improprieties of the Clinton administration but I bring Clinton up just to point out the hypocicy of all the people on this post whining about Bush firing U.S. attorneys but if this was Democratic President facing down a rabid Republican congress you people would be supporting the Democratic president. Don't call me partisan when you are Democratic partisans.

Posted by: RobT | July 11, 2007 03:01 PM

Very interesting, that she thinks that the oath she took was to the President. That speaks volumes.
I'm sure she's not alone -- in fact, I'm quite certain she is absolutely representative of the top administration officials.

Posted by: twc | July 11, 2007 03:02 PM

Another loyal lackey, and another nail in the coffin of legitimacy of the Bush Administration, and also in the legitimacy of Congress. Both bozo branches are failing us!

Posted by: H5N1 | July 11, 2007 03:03 PM

One of the most pathetic parts of all these episodes is Bush hiding behind women. Meirs, Goodlaying, and this sorry excuse for a human. I guess he's still got Matalin and Cho to cry to.
Yo, W! Your Oedipus is showing.

Posted by: A N Other | July 11, 2007 03:07 PM

RobT makes such a persuasive argument: No one cares about the US attorney firings, so it must be the media's fault the president's approval rating hovers in the 26 percent range.

Well, I for one am persuaded by that. NOT

Posted by: Loudoun Voter | July 11, 2007 03:16 PM

RobT's next argument: blah blah Clinton blah blah blah Clinton blah blah...

Another winner!

Posted by: Loudoun Voter | July 11, 2007 03:20 PM

Why is it when there is a hint of criticism against the current administration, the "anti-" whatsoever rhetoric is used as a response?

I'm particularly interested in Taylor's case, among all other reports about VP's claim and the CIA leak case because they all tend to tell the same story--politic isn't about the welfare of the nation, but whatever suits the Republican party. It is not about service and integrity, but SPINNING...spinning for self-preservation!

Anyway, final words to RobT, I think the Anti-Bush/Anti-Republican hot air is particularly democratic and patriotic today. And, much thanks to the Bush Administration for making me the hard core leftie, feminist Christian I am today.

Posted by: JL | July 11, 2007 03:58 PM

Did someone forget that hiring or firing for political reasons is considered unlawful? That's a real simple concept that a lot of people seem to overlook.

But, like Little Al, we have staffers who seem to think their allegiance is to the President rather than the people or laws of America. Little Al's "oath" to uphold the U.S. Constitution was a sham, and he's repeatedly lied under oath to Congress. But I'm sure he's big on Shotgun Cheney's Christmas list.

Posted by: pacman | July 11, 2007 03:58 PM

So RobT, if a Democratic president, mid way through his term, fired AGs who were investigating republicans for criminal charges, or fired them for refusing to investigate democrats for criminal charges, that would be fine with you?

Of course not, because you are a dishonest hypocrit wallowing in ignorance like most republicans these days. What happened to your party anyway? It has absolutely no integrity left. None at all.

I've never seen such a failure of governance as these republicans have handed us. It's unbelievable.

Posted by: Egilsson1 | July 11, 2007 04:00 PM

oops, got that hypo backwards. You know what I mean.

Posted by: egilsson1 | July 11, 2007 04:01 PM

Marty Lederman has a great analysis


Money Quote

"All of which is to say that Taylor and Miers have chosen to commit a federal crime, and to disregard the only legal directives (the subpoena, the federal statute) to which they are in fact subject."

Posted by: wrb | July 11, 2007 04:28 PM

Why should anyone expect her to be a "hero" and out this administration when nobody else would when they had a chance? Whitman waited four years to explain why she left while they allowed the air (that even Republicans breathe) to be polluted, and Powell stayed far beyond his expiration date. Don't wait till after the fire to sound the alarms.

Posted by: JD | July 11, 2007 04:47 PM

There may be another way to get to the bottom of the firings. Yesterday's WaPo story on Gonzales' misleading (lying) testimony on violations of civil liberties relating to the Patriot Act should be--SHOULD BE-- more than enough to start the ball rolling on his impeachment. We'd be sure to hear a lot of interesting testimony during the trail. And if he resigns before the full story gets out, well, that would be too bad, but, mission accomplished.

Posted by: Jeff | July 11, 2007 05:04 PM

Rob T; First Mr. Bush claims that he had no involvement, so how does executive privelege apply? His advisers must feel they can candidly give no advice to the President on matters that he has no knowledge of? Second he is willing to let Rove and others testify in secret,without a transcript, while not under oath. So he is saying that he will waive his EP as long as no one can verify what was said.

Your argument that there was nothing wrong with the firings is absurd. If he was hiring and firing US Atty in order to corrupt the DOJ and make it into a political arm of the White House that would be very wrong, most likely illegal, and if proved that the Pres was a legit party to such machinations that would be a real case for impeachment. There are serious indications that these firings were made to stop investigations, (Lam), or in punishment for not pursuing a partisan case regardless of evidence, (Iglesias). The DOJ may emphasize a President's policy agenda, like prosecuting porno, they are not to be used to acheive partisan goals, ie prosecuting the opposition party, or ignoring the wrongdoings of the Repubs.

Posted by: Paul | July 11, 2007 05:16 PM

Why are thse people so stepford loyal? Have they set up a payola system for party chronies? The thing Bush misadministration is destroying the country-economically, socially and diplomatically yet they grovel. Do they not have any character or principles? Where are there values? Are they capable of seeing the larger picture of what America could be? Torture would not work on these people because there is really nothing substantial inside themselves.

Posted by: ghostcommander | July 11, 2007 05:24 PM

Everyone speaks of the president's right to hire or fire the U.S.A.'s. But that is not the issue. The question is, what was Bush trying to accomplish with the firings and hirings? Was what he was trying to accomplish legal? Apparently not, in at least a few documented cases. The goal appears to have been politicizing law enforcement, particularly with regard to electoral law. We would like to find out about the rest. What's your problem with that? It has nothing to do with the routine operation of the executive, unless thuggery is your idea of routine operation. I suppose if you are a Republican, that may very well be the case.

If executive privilege is in the way of this reasonable inquiry, then executive privilege will wind up going right down the convenience on this particular occasion. By means of impeachment process, if necessary.

Before you quote Pelosi at me, remember that she is a creature of politics and the winds are changing since she made her famous pre-election announcement about impeachment.

Posted by: fzdybel | July 11, 2007 05:32 PM

Well, no chance of that pathetic lapdog freak Harriet Miers playing the hero role.

Posted by: Loudoun Voter | July 11, 2007 05:58 PM

Larry in Texas, as one who was more a firsthand observer than many of us (but still Texas strongly voted for him both times) what did you observe if anything of GW in Texas that was mirrorred in his administration?

Posted by: Jack in Oregon | July 11, 2007 06:01 PM

Larry in Texas, as one who was more a firsthand observer than many of us (but still Texas strongly voted for him both times) what did you observe if anything of GW in Texas that was mirrored in his administration?

Posted by: Jack in Oregon | July 11, 2007 06:01 PM

A n ther, You're right on, I've noticed this too. I think its part of his psychobabble, born-again mindset that seems to have subversively taken over much of American life (now enormously abbetted by the visual media and movies/depicted simulations) as a way anyone can get anything they feel like or even don't want, not by their natural effort, whatever their ability. It's here, trust me. Most especially those of older generations don't see the menace it poses (one reason Bertrand Russell was so violently opposed to Dewey's pragmatism, but this is that with an exponent of at least a 1000)to basically all areas of life.

Posted by: Tex | July 11, 2007 06:10 PM

I have more respect for women than anyone could know, but putting such pressure and dependency on them to have the label of "heroes"? I know without question many are capable of taking the most difficult stands under high pressure, but this is a faceless, neutered equal-opportunity usage to a ridiculous extent.

Posted by: | July 11, 2007 06:17 PM

What to say about Rob T's claim that other presidents have repeatedly invoked executive privilege, and GW only twice?

Posted by: | July 11, 2007 06:21 PM

Note today what it takes for the administration to respond and feel panic (as quoted by themselves and nationally reported):not pushing for a dubious agenda ("they are all wrong, they don't see what I AM TRYING TO DO"-at best I think it is a hail Mary/wishful hope-, as if he has this godlike insight that isn't capable of being expressed in English to mortals) that blithely involves many of our own knowingly and hundreds of thousands (imagine the suburbs of your favorite US metropolitan area completely wiped out in a scale making Katrina's death toll as if nothing) of others, not Democrats concertedly opposing him, not popular approval plummeting, all of this they amazingly yawn away and ignore, but OPPOSITION AND DEFECTION IN HIS OWN PARTY, THAT DOES IT!

That simple fact speaks VOLUMES.

Posted by: Y | July 11, 2007 06:39 PM

Eric, what is your last name, Polish-Greek (no innuendo, just asking)?

Posted by: | July 11, 2007 06:42 PM

I'm sure someone, speaking for Bush, at the White House said to her, "take the money, Sarah otherwise the terrorists will win".

Posted by: Troyce Key | July 11, 2007 07:54 PM

The level of delusion on display is staggering.

Join us in reality, friend.

Posted by: ethan salto | July 11, 2007 07:54 PM

ethan salto-yeah true enough, but ain't it grand?

Posted by: Troyce Key | July 11, 2007 08:04 PM

JP2 -- With regard to your comment that "those claims of Executive privilege are laughable on their face:"

With all due respect, you have completely missed the point. We can all have our opinions on the merits of these issues. Mine are very similar to yours. But the notion that Ms. Taylor should defy the President, on the basis that he lacks authority to issue such instructions, is ludicrous. Only the courts can decide whether the President has the authority that he claims -- not you, not me, and not Ms. Taylor. It would be foolish beyond belief for her to defy the President, whose position just may prevail in court, whatever you or I or anyone else may think of it. Any competent attorney would advise her precisely as her attorney appears to have done: "This is between the President and Congress. Let them, or the courts, resolve it before you begin defying explicit orders from the President."

Posted by: lydgate | July 11, 2007 09:09 PM

It's unbelievable that a columnist for the Washington Post would, at this late date, still believe that any person associated with this administration has any chance of behaving at all honorably.

There are notable exceptions (see Former Surgeon General, The) but none of them are movement conservatives, with their lovingly authoritarian loyalty to the criminals in the White House.

This fact -- the tendency towards the embrace of authoritarianism by conservatives -- has been explicated at some length in the blogosphere:


There is obviously no need for Andrew Cohen to consistently make reference to this body of work. However, his obliviousness here signifies to me either obvious ignorance of this phenomena or, on the other hand, rank stupidity.

You pick.

Posted by: ethan salto | July 11, 2007 09:13 PM

Lydgate, if that's the case, then why didn't the Bush administration challenge the subpoena in the courts?

The fact of the matter is that they didn't--so we're left with a subpoena, which compelled her to truthful testimony. Absent a court injunction, or her invocation of the 5th, there was no legal basis for her refusal to testify truthfully about the matters in front of the committee.

Posted by: JP2 | July 11, 2007 09:22 PM

One consequence to these loyal Bushies could be that in the future, when they look back on their actions, they will be sorry they were such lying bootlickers instead of truthful heroes. I hope so anyway.

Posted by: Barbara | July 11, 2007 09:35 PM

Ethan Salto, perhaps this is your first time reading Bench Conference?

I would recommend reading the "Case Against Alberto Gonzales" at the top of the blog. I don't get the sense based on other columns by Cohen that he was expressing anything more than a wish--no matter how baseless--that just one loyal Bushie connected to this matter might provide honest and full answers in reference to this congressional inquiry. I didn't see anywhere in the above column where Cohen stated that he expected Taylor to testify fully and truthfully.

Posted by: JP2 | July 11, 2007 09:44 PM

I do not expect to see a shift in Sara Taylor's approach in these hearings. Her demonstrated talents and skills are, in sum, loyalty to management. She can only win by continuing to display those talents.

In this hearing, the stakes for her are whether the possible legal sanctions and penalties might outweigh the rewards her loyalty to management can bring. We should probably not expect to see any other (moral) compass at work. Congressional hearings will need to have teeth--and not simply bark--for this to change.

Posted by: David | July 11, 2007 09:48 PM

Thank you Mr. Cohen for great article which has certainly elicited so many interesting and some well thought out comments. I am a registered Independent and would have to agree with those that want to hear the truth and let justice be served. Many people already think we have a corrupt government much like some of the ones around the world that we criticize. I have been overseas for a year, and I have to say that we are fortunate to be able to offer our constructive criticism and views, though we're looking like some of the third world countries when we substitute cronyism for justice. When we protect our cronies and wreck the careers of those who take contrary views, it sure reminds me of some of the placers I've been to in Asia. Lying should not be tolerated by our elected officials. If they took an oath before taking office then they should held accountable. I have to agree with JP2 that it's all about a cover up and taking care of ones cronies, just like organized crime. How tragic that our great country has come to this. I was sadden to read a pole a while ago where people selected China over the U.S. to lead the world through the 21st Century.

Posted by: Jesus Bueno | July 11, 2007 09:49 PM

lydgate wrote: "No one has the right to expect that Ms. Taylor will defy a presidential order not to testify regarding certain matters."

The problem is that the president CANNOT ORDER ANYONE not to comply with a subpeona. He can challenge the subpeona. He can ask for an injunction. He can take this to court. But he cannot order anyone to not talk when they comply with a subpeona. When people do that we call it obstruction of justice and witness tampering.

lydgate also wrote: "It is not Ms. Taylor's responsibility, or even her place, to defy the President's instructions."

It is also not her responsibility, or even her place, to defy a subpeona of Congress. Why do you think the president has more authority here than congress? She can, and very well may, be held in contempt. And just because the two branches are fighting over this does not give anyone the right to ignore congress' subpeonas.

lydgate also wrote: "The courts will have to decide this if the President and Congress can not come to an accomodation."

No, the courts do not get involved unless one party or the other brings the courts in. Jezz does no one in the country understand how our government works? Bush can claim executive priviledge but it gives no one cover UNLESS he takes it to court which would likely pass an injunction against the hearing until they have time to rule. Bush has not done that. He simply made an "order" that I dare for you to find in the constitution. Its a power he does not have. All he can do is ask the courts to stop the hearings and rule on his claim of priviledge. He has not done so. Taylor no longer works for Bush so he cannot order her to do anything. Congress has subpeonaed her so she MUST show up and she MUST take the oath and she MUST answer the questions, or take the 5th. She cannot lie or ignore the questions without being in contempt.

lydgate also wrote: "And why in the world would a savvy commentator like Mr. Cohen advise Ms. Taylor to ignore her own attorney's advice and place herself in that kind of jeopardy? As far as I can see, she is doing the only thing that she reasonably can do."

I agree she is in a tough spot. She can refuse to answer questions but that opens her up to a contempt charge. She can answer truthfully however and face no legal jeopardy because Bush's claim to priviledge cannot stop her from telling the truth unless there are other priviledges involved, like attorney/client, which no one is claiming.

Sorry lydgate, Taylor is freely taking sides in a dispute between the executive and congress. She is before congress and must comply with the subpeona unless Bush acts to involve the courts. He has not done so. Her refusal to answer questions opens her up to contempt. That is probably why she answered most questions today. Her attorney walked her on the fine line.

If Miers refuses the subpeona, she will likely be in jail by 5pm Thursday. Its one thing to comply with the subpeona and refuse some questions, its another to ignore the subpeona. If Miers does not show up they will throw Miers in jail or loose all credibility. I don't think Leahy wants to loose credibility, especially when he is right and standing on strong legal and constitutional ground.

Posted by: Fate | July 11, 2007 11:31 PM

Such a beautiful, intelligent young woman. Such empty, soulless eyes.

Posted by: Nicekid | July 12, 2007 06:00 AM

don't want to beat a dead horse, but if the US attorneys serve at the president's pleasure, then why are his aides saying he had nothing to do with the firings? Was it his pleasure for them to stay or to go? IF not him, then who did it? Who is really running the show? We have a right to know! Claim of Executive privilege is a non-sequitur

Posted by: marie | July 12, 2007 12:19 PM

I'll bet this authoritarian (without question to me) trend comes from the era where former substance abusers used "functionalism" to enable them to go through the appearances while internally
(but that doesn't matter, because anything inner doesn't exist and only external expected reactions are known) not together at all, and from the influential superego/id misconception that rules and structure if necessary are arbitrary in themselves and only imposed by whatever happens to be in authority, and ultimately less authentic than one's basest immediate impulses. Similar dubious concepts as positive/negative reinforcement (a great heritage from those in this country who had no problem administering electric shock therapy as treatment) and the self-esteem/niceness movement also have a wide-spread, subterranean influence, and we see to what importance now. I'd say the blind actions of four/five Supreme Court members and much of the population is something of significance.

Posted by: M | July 12, 2007 12:32 PM

Nicekid, beautiful? come on. Let's not extrapolate from her eyes; you don't know her personally.

Posted by: | July 12, 2007 12:33 PM

Jp2: "I don't..wish"
Of course.

Posted by: | July 12, 2007 12:37 PM

Ethan, your harsh implication toward Mr. Cohen is doubly/trebly uncalled for based as it is on a surprisingly poor reading of Mr. Cohen's post; if you'd read his other articles much at all, you'd know he has at least some sense of irony and nuance and humor, without necessarily needing a sledgehammer to make a point.

That much of the administration thinks this authoritarianism is rectitude doesn't mean that any of its members under oath is automatically assumed to follow suit like an automaton. For more of the patently obvious, also see JP2 @ 9:44.

Posted by: Rick | July 12, 2007 12:48 PM

Denisestro, Personalizing/narcissism reality as a reflection of one's arbitrary circumstances/habits has become so ingrained, I wonder what percentage actually will/are capable of doing that now.

Posted by: Dan | July 12, 2007 12:56 PM

Lydgate at 12:13,yeah, the SS 1938-45 were just "following orders", and its members and other parts of the population had no primary consideration to being "good Germans". Uh, maybe that's why it was possible to consider that a party member might at least say what they knew under oath, despite circumstantial party affiliation.

Posted by: C | July 12, 2007 01:08 PM

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