Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Roberts and privilege again

This WaPo article is far superior to the poor and misleading piece of work in the LAT I discussed here. Of course, it still begins by trivializing all disputes over privilege by reducing them to politics. And it doesn’t carefully distinguish between the Clinton Administration’s unsuccessful attempts to assert privilege in the face of criminal investigations and the current case. Nonetheless, there are some nice blurbs worth reading, like this one:

"For better or worse, the Bush administration has done a much more effective job than we did of protecting privileges," said Ronald A. Klain, a lawyer who served as chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore.

Clinton waged many battles over privileges but lost some of them in court and surrendered others in the interest of damage control. In a showdown with the Senate opposition over something like the Roberts papers, Klain recalled, a politically and legally weakened Clinton White House often would find a compromise to end the dispute.

"I have no doubt that if that had been us, we would have turned over the papers," Klain said. "I’m not saying that’s a good thing; I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. But whenever we walked up to the brink, we blinked. And these guys don’t, and they’re prepared to pay the price for it."

Being prepared to pay a price for something suggests that it’s a matter of principle, rather than politics, something Peter Baker, the author’s article, would have done well to reflect on.

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