"No wonder they call us the Stupid Party,"
said a disgusted Republican operative in Washington. "You've got to wonder
what these guys were thinking."
At issue was the publication of a report by David Barrett, an
independent counsel who has spent the better part of a decade looking into
some of the most hair-raising allegations of presidential malfeasance in
Like most independent counsels, Barrett didn't set out on such a
mission. He was assigned the duty of looking into whether former Housing and
Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros committed tax fraud in trying to
cover up payments to a former mistress.
Yet, as published reports have indicated, he soon discovered
that he was onto something much bigger. He found unsettling evidence that
Justice Department officials were actively interfering with the probe and
even conducting surveillance of Barrett and his office. Worse, there were
indications that Team Clinton was using key players at the IRS and Justice
to harass, frighten and threaten people who somehow got in the former
The pattern was set early on, when the White House sicced the
FBI on Billy Dale, who had served as the director of the White House Travel
Office since the days of John F. Kennedy. They mounted a baseless probe of
Dale's finances, while chasing after his daughter, his sister and others.
Dale was guilty of holding a job coveted by presidential pal Harry
Thomasson. But rather than simply firing Dale, the Clinton White House chose
to destroy him.
By all accounts, the 400-page Barrett report is a bombshell,
capable possibly of wiping out Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential
prospects. At the very least, it would bring to public attention a scandal
that would make the Valerie Plame affair vanish into comical insignificance.
Democrats know this. Using provisions in the independent-counsel
statute that permit people named in a report to review the allegations
against them and file rebuttals, attorneys close to the Clintons have spent
the better part of five years reviewing every jot and tittle of the charges
arrayed against their clients and friends.
This careful and continuous monitoring of the report explains
why Sens. Byron Dorgan, Dick Durbin and John Kerry took the highly unusual
step earlier this year of trying to slip into an Iraq-war spending bill an
amendment to suppress every word of the Barrett report. (Every other
independent counsel finding has been printed in its entirety, with the
exception of small sections containing classified material.)
Alert Republicans, pushed by talk-radio listeners and bloggers,
managed to short-circuit that effort, but Democrats patiently pursued their
goal. They got what they wanted recently, when the House and Senate met to
iron out differences in yet another appropriations bill. Democrats inserted
language that would prevent public release of the 120 pages of the report
listing the Clinton transgressions. They offered what may have looked like a
good deal. They promised not to object to letting Barrett continue with any
prosecutions already underway.
Republicans negotiators, led by Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., and Rep.
Joe Knollenberg, R-Mich, took the bait. They agreed to keep the public in
the dark about the important stuff in exchange for a big, fat nothing.
Unbeknownst to Bond and Knollenberg, Barrett shut down his grand juries
three years ago.
The move represents more than just boneheaded politics. It's
grossly irresponsible. If the report contains the kind of bombshells that
have been hinted at in reports published by The Wall Street Journal and
National Review, among others, the public not only has a right to know,
Congress has a duty to investigate.
If Barrett has found evidence that officials at Justice and the
IRS served as a praetorian guard, that means some bureaucrats felt it
appropriate or beneficial to ignore their duty to the public and instead to
perform dirty work for the people who oversee their budgets.
Another big "if": If such behavior were covered up, the
malefactors would conclude that they may do the same thing again for other
Something stinks, and the only way to get at the truth is to
release the full report. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who fought a lonely
battle to ensure the document's publication, is furious. So is House
Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc. The question is
whether Republican leaders Bill Frist and Denny Hastert will step in and
ensure the report's publication, or whether they'll just sigh and look the