The insufferable asses testifying on behalf of the Bush Assministration before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday seem to think, despite the Hamdan decision, that they can do as they please, according to Dana Milbank’s latest.
As Congress opened hearings yesterday on the treatment of terrorism detainees, the Bush administration’s view was neatly summarized by Steven Bradbury, the Justice Department lawyer serving as lead witness. “The president,” Bradbury said, “is always right.”
Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court rebuked the administration by rejecting military tribunals for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and forcing President Bush to get approval from Congress. But the officials who came before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday — Bradbury and Pentagon lawyer Daniel Dell’Orto — were unrepentant.
“Surprising and disappointing . . . without historical analogue” was Bradbury’s view of the high court’s ruling on the Hamdan case.
Rather than regard it as a defeat, Bradbury said it presents Bush with an “opportunity to work together” with Congress.
The ranking Democrat, Patrick Leahy (Vt.), fished for any admission that the administration’s legal view had been wrong. Bradbury retorted: “It was completely reasonable.”
When Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) suggested a framework for future tribunals, Dell’Orto cut him down. “I have many concerns about taking that approach,” he said.
The witnesses were even dismissive of the new Pentagon memo applying the Geneva Conventions to all detainees for the first time. “It doesn’t indicate a shift in policy,” Dell’Orto said.
And in a veiled warning, Bradbury told Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) that Bush still didn’t need Congress. “The court did leave open the theoretical possibility that the president could come back on his own,” he said.
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The administration lawyers didn’t show much fear of [Committee Chair Arlen] Specter yesterday, either, when the chairman asked them to provide thoughts on his legislation within two weeks.
“Only the president has the decision to introduce legislation,” Bradbury reminded Specter. “I cannot commit as I sit here now that the administration will submit a particular bill.”
Specter made a tight smile. “How much evidence should be presented to key people detained in Guantanamo in enemy combatant status?” he queried.
“That’s a policy question,” Bradbury rejoined, sitting on the edge of his chair.
Specter, irritated, furrowed his brow. “What’s your recommendation to Congress to establish the policy?”
Bradbury replied that the matter “should be left up to the Department of Defense.”
This prompted a harangue from the chairman. “We’re not going to leave it to the Department of Defense or give the Department of Defense a blank check,” he said.
Specter did get one measure of revenge. Early in the session, two women from the left-wing group Code Pink raised signs in the press section demanding: “CLOSE GUANTANAMO.” Police stepped in to remove the activists, but Specter whispered instructions to an aide, who told the cops to stand down.
But Bradbury and Dell’Orto may also have noticed that they were getting less than a full defense from the GOP side. When Bradbury rejected Graham’s approach to the tribunals, Graham issued a warning. “If you fight that approach, it’s going to be a long, hot summer,” he told Bradbury.
When Dell’Orto repeated Bradbury’s defiance in a later round of questions, Graham raised his voice. “You didn’t consult with us when you created the military commissions,” he said. “I’m not going to respond to some product that was enacted without any consultation.”
Hatch, wielding Specter’s gavel, quickly ended the session and dismissed the witnesses. Graham shook his head and rolled his eyes.