I'm not a bona fide "hearings junkie," but occasionally I check in on C-Span or online to see what's happening in various congressional committees. This can be highly entertaining and can spice up this hot, drought-ridden summer, at least in Kentucky. It's hard to imagine – in light of such barefaced exposure – why some of the solons or presidential candidates are not more careful in what they say and in how they appear.
I checked in on the Senate hearing for Dr. Holsinger (surgeon general nominee) on Thursday. In his opening remarks, Chairman Ted Kennedy tore into Holsinger like a wild man and stopped just short of announcing to the world that Holsinger is a liar and a bigot. In the process, he made it clear that the only thing that mattered in Holsinger's job was homosexuality – not surprising from the senator from a state where men may marry each other.
I checked in also on the Senate Judiciary hearing chaired by Senator "Leaky" Leahy on Wednesday, the person on the hot seat being Sara Taylor, former White House honcho handling "political affairs." The lady, who does not work at the White House now but was told in a written directive from the White House not to answer questions subject to executive privilege, had been subpoenaed and was there to testify. Leahy, who was at least once forced to resign from some committee because he blabbed classified material (happened more than once, at least with sensitive matters such as the Achille Lauro thing) to the press or somebody, tore into her in his usual mouth-frothing way, obviously attempting to intimidate her. His habit is to accuse a witness of not answering his question right after the witness has answered his question. Go figure.
The democrat-controlled Congress has done virtually nothing since becoming the majority in January but hold hearings in an effort to hang somebody – apparently anybody – in the Bush administration. Besides Leahy, Congressman Waxman seems to spend all day in hearings. So far, no luck. The worst thorn in the democrat flesh is the inability to get rid of Rove or Gonzales, and so now just any lower hireling is fair game, thus poor 30-something Ms. Taylor, whom Leahy or some other committee clown(s) (choose one on his committee – Biden, Durbin, Shumer, Feingold, among others) seem to have as the main goal tricking someone – anyone – into some form of perjury.
There were some funny things in both hearings. Senator Mikulski (who may hate all men) appeared as a large frog about to clomp on a poor, defenseless Junebug, this one being Holsinger, whom she let it be known from the outset was deaf and dumb with respect to sexual harassment (are these committee-folks obsessed with sex and deviancy?). Senator Murray seemed to want Holsinger to approve fornication in the high schools (that condom/abstinence/hormone-uprising thing), but he disappointed her and said he would mention (gasp) condoms.
The weirdest performance of the day came from Senator Specter in the Taylor hearing. For reasons known only to himself, Specter mentioned that president Clinton fired all U.S. attorneys on one day, and that he could do so legally without giving any reason whatsoever. He then said that the question at hand had to do with the firing of U.S. attorneys for an "improper reason." How crazy can it get? If a president can fire a U.S. attorney for no reason, why does any reason matter – proper or improper? To his credit, Specter pointed out that if the "executive privilege" question went to the courts, a decision would not be rendered for at least two years. By that time, nobody will remember anything, the administration will gone, and "Leaky and the gang" will still be frothing at the mouth for nothing.
To contemplate the ignorance of some of these solons, consider Kennedy's reference to a hearing the day before in which three former surgeons-general regaled the committee with accounts of White House interference on the part of a number of presidents, but especially George Bush (the Carmona thing). The committee person demanded to know what Holsinger, if put upon by the White House, would do. He said he would attempt to educate the White House, but that, absent success, he would resign. That's the answer the questioner was forcing and dreading, but apparently it had not dawned upon Kennedy that none of the other surgeons-general had resigned in protest, meaning that what they had to say was suspect or that they were too opportunistic and self-serving to do what Holsinger said he would do, i.e., the honorable thing. So, Kennedy deep-sixed the very men he was holding up as paradigms for withstanding White house pressure. Strange.
Any time things get slow, just check in on the hearings. The self-serving speeches, posturing, campaigning, and general nuttiness will be entertaining, if not very enlightening. I'm still laughing at the memory of dropped-jaw Senators Kennedy, Biden, Schumer, Feingold, and Durbin sitting behind those piles of documents, with aides feeding them words to say and notes to read, in the Roberts and Alito SCOTUS hearings, while their targets had not even a notepad.