“Stonewalling” is a term that is used to describe when the White House refuses to surrender information to another branch of government, generally Congress, when that other branch is investigating suspect conduct. The most famous example is, of course, Watergate, but it’s hardly uncommon; Reagan with Iran/Contra, Clinton with the whole Lewinsky nonsense, Johnson during Vietnam, and for all I know Jefferson avoiding questions about Sally Hemmings.
But the Bush Administration is bringing this to a whole new level such that the wall is not made of stone, in my opinion, but steel. “Steelwalling.”
First and foremost, of course, we have Dick Cheney, who has invented a new stamp for basically every piece of paper in his office: “Treat as Secret.” This stamp is applied even to press releases, in other words information he wants to disseminate is stamped “treat as secret.” He fought like a lion to keep deliberations of his “energy task force” secret. Even his daily locations are a secret from the press. (This is a public servant, and we don’t even know where he is most of the time, and can’t find out!)
But under new White House counsel Fred Fielding, the Bush Administration has used the “Executive Privilege” rubric to cover, well, basically everything. And yesterday brought news that they are using this to block Congress’ investigation into the details of the death of Pat Tillman, the former football player who gave up his career to join the army and was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan several years ago.
Yup, that’s right: the White House is asserting “executive privilege” to block Congress from investigating something the Pentagon did.
It’s bad enough that Bush has plunked us into this moronic war in Iraq in which he adamantly refuses to face reality. It’s bad enough that he has done his level best to cut out the other two branches of government. It’s bad enough that he issues “signing statements” that assert he can ignore laws, that he yanks American citizens off of American soil and imprisons them without cause or trial for years, that he fails to account for any of his actions, and that he lies–constantly–about his reasons for doing things. But now this, too? What next? He’s going to assert “executive privilege” to block DC police from issuing parking tickets when his White House aides double-park when getting a latte from Starbucks? His office staff need donuts and don’t want to pay, they say “executive privilege” and just grab them out of the store? Who the hell does this guy think he is? (The answer is clear, of course; he thinks he is King. He thinks he has unfettered power.)
I hope to God that congress has the huevos to stand up to this latest heinous power grab. The only way to stop types like these, as Churchill once observed, is to step on their toes until they apologize. It’s time for Congress to do some serious toe-stepping with these clowns.