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May 24, 2006

Bipartisanship Flu

The Centers for Spin Control (CSC) believe they have isolated the meme responsible for the sudden outbreak of bipartisanship in the US Congress.  Observers have been alarmed to see Newt Gingrich, Dennis Hastert, Nancy Pelosi, and Bill Frist all similarly afflicted.  Symptoms include a sudden over-whelming concern for separation of powers and foaming at the mouth.

Memeogenisis, according to the CSC, occurred when federal agents obtained and used a warrant to search the congressional offices of Rep. William Jefferson.  The meme has been identified as a member of the SI family of memes.  Your reporter was not able to determine whether SI stands for “self interest” or “self importance.”

Evidence that the meme is virulent includes both the fact that it is able to spread freely across the congressional aisle and that it renders its victims incapable of predicting the reaction of their constituents.  For example, it has taken a drumbeat of polling results to get Bill Frist to moderate his original outrage and repeat the mantra that no Congressperson or Senator should be above the law.  A cure may involve writing this one thousand times without the aid of a word processor.

CSC notes the difference between the outrage caused by this meme among congresspeople and their reaction to the fact that their constituents have been subject to WARRANTLESS wiretap.  In the wiretap case, outrage did not break out – even among those congresspeople who had been briefed – until the taps became public, a much more normal reaction according to the CSC.

Seriously – it’s hard to take this seriously.  The constitutional argument from the opponents of the search is bunk.  The founders set up three branches for check and balance reasons.  The executive and the judicial branches agreed in this case that a search was reasonable (unreasonable searches are constitutionally forbidden).  Too bad if the legislative branch finds this threatening.  It is NOT an exercise of unchecked unilateral executive power.

The logic of the search is compelling as well.  There is ample evidence of the congressman using his ELECTED office for illegal personal gain including a tape of him soliciting a bribe and marked bribe dollars found in his freezer at home.  It is reasonable to assume that he might also use his PHYSICAL office for illicit purposes, especially if he knew that no congressional office has been searched since the founding of the Republic.  Moreover, he had not complied with subpoenas to turn over potential evidence from that office.

But what about the precedent?  I think it’s a good precedent: Congress has made a habit of exempting itself from the laws it imposes on the rest of us (for our own good, of course).  OSHA? Not on the Hill.  Social Security?  Not good enough for our elected officials.  Freedom of Information Act? Fuhgetaboutit.  Your offices can be searched.  Mine can.  And most of us aren’t in space paid for by the Federal Government.

Is there a danger that an out-of-control executive could use searches for intimidation?  Yes.  That’s why warrants ARE important.  This should not be something the executive can do unilaterally.  This kind of search should not be done lightly.

That being said, aren’t there some Republican offices that need to be searched as well?

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