Monday, August 21, 2006

A Day Late, A Dollar Short, and Then Some

Mix equal parts Clinton-hating with IRS-a-phobia, and you have the makings of a perfect storm of conservative bloviating.

And that’s exactly what Mark Hyman gives us in
his latest editorial in which he is upset about the recent conclusion of independent counsel David Barrett’s investigation into Clinton HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros. He’s not bothered by the fact that Barrett’s odyssey took 11 years and cost $23 million (the most expensive independent counsel investigation ever), but that portions of the report dealing with the IRS were redacted.

Hyman breathlessly tells us that “[t]he redacted sections reportedly detail widespread corruption by senior IRS officials.”

There are some problems with Hyman’s conspiracy narrative, however. First, the portions in question were redacted from the version of the report made public. Members of Congress, however, would have access to the full report. If any explosive charges are in the report, it wouldn’t take long before a politician privy to the information would cause a ruckus.

Secondly, the report apparently contains
no clear evidence of obstruction of justice or whether any criminal laws were broken.

Lastly, a three-judge panel recently put the smack down on Barrett, concluding that the allegations of obstruction stemmed from nothing more than bureaucratic conflicts, and that no ordinary prosecutor would have filed charges based on the nearly non-existent evidence Barrett produced.

Of course, right wing voices and Barrett himself claim that the lack of evidence of obstruction just goes to prove how successful the cover-up was. Not that this is surprising; even though Cisneros resigned seven years ago, the chance to engage in some nostalgic Clinton-bashing is too much for any red-blooded Republican to pass up.

But while the right wingers are chasing after black helicopters, it might be worth looking at the larger issue of what we choose to spend time, money, and energy investigating. Back in the Clinton days (you remember . . . budget surpluses, rising stock market, peace in the Middle East), no chance was lost to launch a major Congressional investigation of the president. No matter how trivial, witnesses were sworn, prosecutors appointed, and reports issued.

Just as an example, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives heard 140 hours of sworn testimony about whether President Clinton was using the official White House Christmas card list as a tool to find possible Democratic donors.

Flash forward ten years. How many hours of sworn testimony were given in regard to the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison—actions that perhaps permanently crippled not only America’s efforts in Iraq, but in the entire Middle East? Twelve.

And what about raw dollars? Barrett’s 11-year investigation cost us $23 million. Meanwhile, we’ve recently learned that House Republicans decided to cut the already-paltry $14 million budget researching treatment of brain injuries to soldiers in the field in half, to a measly $7 million. This at a time when concussive injuries are the most pervasive combat injury our troops in the field face in Iraq.

If “supporting the troops” is anything more than an empty phrase for him, perhaps Hyman could actually do some good and use his soapbox to call for *more* funding, not less, for treating the brain injuries of our men and women in uniform, rather than wasting another two minutes opining about a report that’s already 11 years late and $23 million short.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 5.12


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