Wednesday, May 17, 2006
If Investigations are What it Takes, So Be It
The only real chance, then, that Congress will uncover the truth of what's happened in Washington during the Bush years will come if Democrats to win in November—a fact that puts the mainstream press in an awkward situation. While mainstream journalists, for obvious reasons of professional interest, generally support openness and increased access to information, they feel they cannot be seen as siding with one political party over another. Should the Democrats take the House, the press, desperate to stick to a “neutral” storyline, will frame the issue of post-election investigations as being not about accountability and access to information, but about political payback. Hence the current focus on impeachment...
Democrats might wish they could avoid talking about their investigative plans. But if they do, the press and the GOP will raise the issue for them, and they'll frame it around the prospect of impeachment. So Democrats might as well meet the challenge head on, and spend the summer making their case. Of course we'll vigorously investigate the administration if we win, they should say. And we'll do so the same way previous Democratic Congresses have investigated GOP presidents: shoulder-to-shoulder with honest Republican lawmakers willing to put country before party. The fact that the current GOP leadership chose to abandon the great American tradition of bipartisan Congressional oversight is no reason Democrats have to follow suit. Instead, they should embrace that tradition, with the faith that if they do, the president will get the legacy he deserves.
The key to winning the argument about investigations is for Dems to weave the issue into a larger, foward-looking message. Investigations aren't about the past; they're about the future, about getting the country back on track again. The press will try to frame any talk of investigations as political payback. The response is to say, "The only way the extensive damage of this awful presidency can be fixed is if Dems control Congress. If it requires investigations, so be it. We'll do whatever it takes to figure out exactly how the Republicans got the country into this mess -- and more important, we'll figure out how to get us out of it."
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