The Republican majority in the House is preparing a concerted effort to tear the Department of Justice apart. NPR reports this morning that we're about to see a repeat of Republican efforts to take Justice down during the Clinton era. "Justice," in all its meanings, isn't something contemporary Republicans have much respect for.
Robert Raben, who ran the legislative affairs unit at the Justice Department at the time, advises current department leaders to buckle their seat belts.
"In a sadly partisan and charged environment, very few opportunities to make the other party look bad go without waste," Raben said.
Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican famous in this household for ending his email account because, as he commented, he didn't have time for constituents, will focus on making Guantanamo a permanent black site.
"You know, we have a first-class facility there," Smith said. "I've been to Guantanamo. We've spent millions of dollars on it. That is the exact right place to house terrorists, as long as the war on terrorism continues."
Such a useful, if vague, term, that "terrorism," and straight out of Orwell.
Then there's the initiative to make sure white voters are "protected."
"There are a number of instances, such as those involving the New Black Panthers, where the administration appears not to have enforced the law equally, and we may well get into that and look at that in some time in the future," Smith said.
Smith is not alone in wanting to redirect the Justice Department along Bush-Gonzales lines. Several other members of Congress, including Darrel Issa, are gunnin' for Eric Holder in the name of Congressional oversight. Time-wasting and misuse of power are other applicable terms.
Raben, the former Justice lobbyist, said the challenge for the Obama Justice Department will be making sure that leaders don't get sidetracked by endless congressional hearings — and that they know how to turn sometimes hostile questions to their advantage when they are on Capitol Hill.
"Explaining your decisions becomes significantly more important when you are under subpoena, under oath, in front of a camera, constantly questioned about decisions that you've made," Raben said.
Democrats advising the White House and the Justice Department said that it's important to offer the Republican-led Congress a baseline for how it will approach disputes down the road. They cited a January 2000 memo, signed by Raben, in which the Clinton Justice Department pledged to cooperate with Congress, but flatly said it would not provide sensitive information about ongoing law enforcement investigations and internal deliberations.