Thursday :: Mar 4, 2004

Why Is McCain Demanding More Accountability on Iraq WMD Commission Than Chuck Robb?


by Steve

Thanks to the tip from frequent commenter larre, we report this interesting tidbit today from The Hill, the center-right alternative to Roll Call amongst Capitol Hill newspapers. It appears that John McCain is pushing the White House, in the face of a "no" from Dick Cheney, to grant subpoena powers to the Iraq WMD Intel Commission, similar to those granted to the 9/11 Commission. You'll recall that when Bush established this commission under pressure last month, he narrowed their scope of inquiry away from how the White House manipulated the intelligence, and declined to give the commission subpoena powers. Worse yet, he put off their reporting deadline until after the election in March 2005.

He also appointed co-chairmen for the commssion: former Virginia Democratic Senator Chuck Robb and lunatic former GOP appeals court judge Larry Silberman. We now know why Robb is on the commission: he agreed to be Bush's bitch in exchange for the assignment.

McCain has appeared more active than Robb, the top-ranking Democrat, in seeking wide authority. In a conversation with Bush prior to his appointment, Robb assured the president he would not support examining the administration’s use of intelligence, said a Senate source familiar with the meeting.

“Robb bent over backward [to say] he did not support looking at the users,” said the source.

Bush has made it clear to Robb that he must keep his distance from Senate Democrats. Robb learned that he was to be appointed co-chairmen only a few hours before Bush made a public announcement.

And Robb was warned that if he consulted with Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) before the announcement, he would be stripped of his appointment, Senate sources said.

Senate Democrats should demand Robb's resignation from this whitewash as soon as possible.

More interesting is that McCain is pressuring the White House to grant the authority, even after Pacemaker Dick told him "no". Furthermore, McCain wants the commission to be able to look into what the White House did with the intelligence, which is the smoking gun in all of the Iraq WMD debacle. Even Pat Roberts feels that the commission should get subpoena power if it requests it.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is pushing the White House to give subpoena power to the independent commission President Bush created last month to investigate intelligence operations.

The administration has turned him down, but the senator is refusing to take no for an answer.

McCain is one of the commission’s most prominent members and says it will be ineffective without the power to subpoena the administration. “I just think you need to have the threat of subpoena power,” McCain told The Hill.

He said he told Dick Cheney that on the phone recently but the vice president refused.

McCain’s plans to take the issue to the commission’s chairmen, former Sen. Chuck Robb (D-Va.) and Laurence Silberman, a federal appeals-court judge who served as deputy attorney general in the Nixon and Ford administrations.

McCain also wants to extend the inquiry’s scope beyond the limits set down by the president. Bush prescribed an examination of the quality of intelligence gathered on Iraq, but he withheld a mandate to scrutinize how the administration used the information.

McCain wants to examine how that intelligence was used by policymakers to justify the Iraq invasion.

This thorny issue has split Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee for months. After much acrimony, Republicans finally agreed last month to Democratic demands to review the use of intelligence. One congressional source said giving the independent commission subpoena power would be “huge.”

“If you don’t have it, you have no leverage,” he said. “If you do have it, you have all types of leverage. … It’s the sign of a seriously empowered investigative commission.”

Why would McCain be pushing so hard on this, knowing that the White House will fight him every step of the way and say no? He must know that Bush is vulnerable here if anything gets out before the election which confirms that the White House manipulated intelligence. Yet he keeps pushing, even against Cheney.

Steve :: 2:26 PM :: Comments (9) :: Digg It!