It was just three years ago that Justice Department investigator Robert Conrad recommended to Atty. Gen. Janet Reno that she name a special counsel to investigate the possibility that Al “Buddhist Temple” Gore, then Vice President, may not have been truthful in describing his fundraising activities to department investigators.
That was only after Reno had spurned requests from FBI Director Louis Freeh, Campaign Finance Task Force Chief Charles LaBella, and top Justice Department advisor Robert Litt that she call for an independent counsel to investigate the Clinton fundraising scandals of the 1990s.
In those days, Democratic elected and appointed officials marched in lockstep to ensure that a full investigation of Clinton campaign fundraising was never conducted. Clinton aides systematically stonewalled congressional investigations-refusing to testify.
This elicited hardly a whimper from the watchdogs of the liberal press.
Democrats and liberals had no interest in truth then. They lived in fear of the truth and its consequences for their partisan cause.
They even flip-flopped on the independent counsel law. In 1994, Democrats pushed its renewal through Congress and President Clinton signed it. Five years later-to cheers from the Washington Post-they let it expire, leaving it to the attorney general (not a panel of federal judges) to name special counsels (still ultimately answerable to the Executive Branch) when the situation is appropriate.
“When the independent counsel law expires tomorrow, few will mourn its passing,” the Post editorialized in 1999. “The problem with the current law is that it assumes the [Justice] Department is untrustworthy in a wide array of situations, whereas in fact the number of cases that pose serious conflicts for the attorney general is small.”
Given her record, that was cutting a lot of slack to Janet Reno. But that was when a Democrat was in the White House and the potential targets of a special investigation were Clinton and Gore.
Now, a Republican is in the White House. Now, the potential targets are not a President and Vice President, but unnamed administration officials who may or may not have illegally leaked the identity of a CIA officer (see Robert Novak’s column on page 8).
Now, we do not see solemn editorials about the trustworthiness of the Justice Department. Now, we see front-page stories launching preemptive attacks on the Justice Department.
“Outside Probe of Leaks is Favored-Poll Findings Come As White House Softens Denials,” said the headline in the October 2 Washington Post. With lightning speed, in collaboration with ABC News, the paper had conducted a poll, which it said, indicated that “[o]nly 29% said the investigation should be handled by the Justice Department, while 69% favored a special counsel with autonomy from the administration.”
“Attorney General is Closely Linked to Inquiry Figures-Rove Was a Consultant,” said the headline in the same day’s New York Times. The argument of this news story was that because White House political director Karl Rove had worked as a direct-mail consultant for some of Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft’s political campaigns, Ashcroft should recuse the Justice Department from the leak investigation and hand it to a special counsel.
This, of course, is without any evidence that Rove had any thing to do with the alleged leak.
Innocent until proven guilty is another principle liberals adopt or discard as it suits their political aims.
The most brazen hypocrisy so far, however, comes not from the press but from Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.). He has called the alleged leak “dastardly” and is leading the charge demanding a special counsel. But as revealed in a column in the Washington Times by Free Congress Foundation Chairman Paul Weyrich, Schumer three years ago praised President Clinton for vetoing a bill that would have increased penalties for leaking classified information.
“President Clinton did the right thing,” said Schumer then. “Although the bill seemed well-intentioned in its attempt to deter leaks of classified information that could affect our national security, it did so without regard for the potential of rampant over-classification of government information and would have had a profound effect on the ability of an informed citizenry to keep our government honest.”
Make no mistake: The Democrats are going for President Bush’s throat. They are in Watergate-style attack mode. This, they believe, may be their one chance to wound this President enough to actually have a chance of defeating him next November.
The answer to this strategy is simple: Republicans must not act like Democrats. They should not fear the truth. They should chase it down and disclose it. If anybody has committed a crime, they should prosecute and seek conviction.
And-as if the liberals didn’t already know it-they are about to discover that John Ashcroft is no Janet Reno.