GQ is doing some very interesting stuff these days (and I’m not just talking about the swoon-worthy Christian Bale story). TheRumsfeld Biblical verses story got me watching them a bit closer, and it paid off. Lisa DePaulo hasan interview with Barney Frank on the GQ Blog that’s well worth reading. (My favorite bit comes when DePaulo asks Frank about his coming out, and whether he could survive such a “scandal” politically nowadays, and Frank’s response is, “I don’t know. Dave Vitter seems to be surviving.” Hee!)
But that’s not what I really wanted to point out. It’s what Frank has to say about Nancy Pelosi getting hammered for what she knew and when she knew it about torture:
“I was given that choice once. I was invited, when I was senior Democrat in the minority on the Financial Services Committee, to a briefing by two young guys from the Treasury Department. I got there–after divesting myself outside of my cell phone and my wallet and everything else–and they said, “We’re gonna show you something that’s gonna be in the newspaper in a couple weeks, and we want to tell you about it.” I said, “Why is it gonna be in the newspaper? Is this something you’re announcing?” “Oh no.” And it became clear to me, as we talked, it was something that had been leaked, and they were happy that it was being leaked, but they were gonna tell me about it beforehand. And I said, “Well let me ask you this question. If I listen to you now and read what you want to show me, and it then appears in the newspapers, can I talk about it after it’s been in the newspaper?” They said no. I said good-bye. And so I think that’s what happened to Nancy. She was given information in a way that she literally couldn’t use, could not self-evaluate, because she was all by herself. In fact, she and I have talked about this, and some others.We have to change these rules about what you can do with briefing information.” [my emphasis]
I really wish De Paulo had followed up on that comment, because I think it’s one of the more interesting things to come out of the interview. He’s talking about a briefing from the Treasury–not exactly a national security issue, I’ll bet. So why all the hush-hush? There’s a reason we protect the freedom of the press. It’s because the threat of public scrutiny can sometimes keep people from doing really stupid or really bad things. We need to find a way for Congress to beef up its power to act in those kinds of situations. Oversight only works when Congress actually has the power to change things, either through direct action, or by exposing the situation to the public.
This is yet another situation where the power of the executive branch has grown too much. It’s time for Congress to take this bull by the horns. I’m glad to see Frank is at least talking about it.