Overdue oversight

Hearings coming on the U.S. Attorney purge. How about Building 18?

After six years without any hostile hearings, the Bush Administration seems to be unable to adjust to a world in which it gets called on its crap.

Two fresh examples: the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys, including the one who had the Cunningham case and its (potentially much more explosive) Foggo spin-off, and the attempt to punish and isolate the soldiers in Building 18 at Walter Reed.

The administration could have gotten away with either one, just as it’s gotten away with so much else, as long as it had a tame Congress and a mostly tame press. But Linda Sanchez, who chairs the relevant subcommittee of House Judiciary, and Chuck Schumer on Senate Judiciary, are both getting ready to issue subpoenas in the fired-U.S.A. case, which now includes the ancillary question of whether the Deputy Attorney General lied to Congress about the reason for the firings. That’s a no-no.

Of course, it’s taken a month of aggressive reporting, mostly by TPM Muckraker, to get the Congressional Democrats to flex their investigative muscles, flabby after fourteen years of disuse.

Is there any reason the sergeant major who decided (or was told) to impose a bunch of boot-camp Mickey Mouse on the wounded warriors of Building 18 shouldn’t be telling his story to a Congressional investigator tomorrow? I can’t think of one. And if I were a member of any of the relevant committees &#8212 say, just for instance, Jack Murtha &#8212 I might pay a little visit to Building 18 myself. As a matter of law, soldiers may not be prevented from communicating with Members of Congress.

Footnote Yes, the brass hats at Walter Reed, including the current Surgeon-General of the Army, have known about the problems for three years and have been keeping them covered up. The woman who, last October, brought Rumsfeld’s wife along to a meeting where some of the problems were discussed was told that she was no longer welcome to do the volunteer work she’d been doing at Walter Reed.

I wonder whether Joyce Rumsfeld, having learned about the rotten conditions and been told that the soliders her husband met at Walter Reed had been cherry-picked, told Donald, and I wonder what if anything he did about it. He probably said, “stuff happens.” It’s amazing how many people want to be fooled.

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