Yesterday was another disappointing one for Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee and for the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank. The previous disappointment occurred three weeks ago when the Dems attempted to grill Vice President Cheney’s top aide David Addington about war on terror detainee policy. Milbank was forced to report that the Dems barely laid a glove on Addington (Milbank chalked it up to Addington’s “nastiness”). The only sound-bite to emerge from the hearing came from the reprehensible Rep. Delahunt (D-Mass.) who told Addington during the televised hearing that he was “glad [al-Qaeda] finally have a chance to see you.”
Yesterday, Douglas Feith, formerly the number three man at the Pentagon, testified before the same Committee, and the ever-hopeful Milbank was present again. But alas: according to the Clown Prince, “Republicans on the committee created a diversion, and Feith escaped unscathed.”
As far as I can tell, the diversion Milbank refers to was nothing more than insistence that the Committee members follow the five-minute rule for questioning. This apparently proved to be too tough for the windbag Dems some of whom, as Milbank put it, need five minutes just to clear their throats. While the members seem to have squeezed their speechs/questions into the five minutes, the witness often lacked much time to respond. In one case, according to Milbank, Feith had time for only 72 words.
Fortunately, the filibustering cross-examiners had the benefit of Feith’s informative opening statement — in the unlikely event they listened to it.
For me, Addington and Feith are heroes who helped quickly move our country into an anti-terrorism mode that minimized the likelihood of additional attacks on the homeland (of which there were none). In so doing, they probably enhanced civil liberties; a second attack would have produced enormous pressure on those rights.
That said, there are respects in which detainee policy was excessively harsh, in my view, and hearings that thoughtfully explored this subject would be beneficial. But there is no prospect for such hearings with this committee, and that’s true whatever time limits (or none) are placed on the members.