C’mon, Dan. Give us a hint!

The White House has announced that it will no longer answer questions from Members of Congress, except for committee chairs (i.e., Republicans). Daniel Drezner disapproves, calling the move “imperial.”

Drezner doesn’t note that, in less partisan days, Republicans on the Hill would have been nearly as outraged as Democrats at such an unprecedented act of institutional as well as partisan arrogance. (Just imagine what Richard Russell would have said to Harry Truman about such a move, or Everett Dirksen to Dwight Eisenhower.)

But in the same post, Drezner says that the Republicans are “justly outraged by the contents of a leaked Democratic memo from the Intelligence committee that outlines a strategy for exposing contradictions between intelligence reports and Bush’s claims about Iraqi weapons programs.” But he doesn’t tell us wherein the justifiable outrage lies. What is wrong with having a strategy for uncovering White House mendacity, over the partisan opposition of the chair of the relevant committee?

As Kevin Drum points out, the memo (apparently never sent or circulated, and apparently pilfered from a desk or wastebasket or surruptitiously copied from a hard drive) is an entirely reasonable one.

What we have here is another instance of “slime and defend,” a strategic doctrine whose first principle is never to engage the substance of a controversy when you can instead impugn the motives of the people arguing on the other side. Or so it seems to me. But I’m open to illumination. What, precisely, is wrong with the memo?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

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