Sunday, March 14, 2004

The Hatch act

If there were any doubt that Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch is one of the most duplicitous figures in American politics, it should have been erased with his most recent performance, blindsiding Democrats by kicking the push for an investigation into Republicans' theft of internal e-mails out of the Judiciary Committee.

Remember, it was only a few weeks ago that Hatch was playing the role of honest Republican, voicing his deep concern and regret over the thefts and promising to do what he could for an investigation. Indeed, his extremely pliant position had earned Hatch the wrath of fellow conservatives, who went so far as to call him a "traitor" for daring express a modicum of basic decency.

That was all just the setup for last `week's stunt -- which effectively killed any chance of the Senate supporting a Justice Department investigation into the matter. Democrats were gulled into believing Hatch was on their side, and then given the shaft when they weren't expecting it. Now any probe is left in the hands of the Republican sergeant-at-arms of the Senate.

Now Hatch can tell the people betrayed by him that he was pressured into killing the Judiciary vote -- and he gets to be a hero to those same conservatives who were willing to draw and quarter him a few weeks ago. Quite a slick routine, really.

Hatch's gentlemanly schtick has been used to good effect many times in the past, including effectively sidetracking a federal hate-crimes law by pretending to support it and then introducing various poison-pill amendments; and helping to insure the successful nomination of Ted Olson as Solicitor General by various backroom machinations.

In this case, the real agenda at work was readily discernible just within the response from defenders of the theft of the e-mails, as reported in the most recent story:
Lawyers representing one of the former aides who took the documents, Manuel Miranda, released two lengthy documents criticizing Pickle's report. They said Miranda was a whistle-blower, not a thief, taking advantage of a computer security glitch to fulfill his duty to further the president's agenda on the judiciary.

Of course, any Senate staffer's duty is not to the president but to the senators for whom he works. That Hatch's staffer saw his duty thus gives us a pretty clear idea just whose agenda Hatch is fronting for.

It's perhaps useful to recall that this is the same Orrin Hatch who, in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, revealed to the public classified information about federal investigators' information about the terrorist attacks -- which then became one of the White House's excuses for refusing to share intelligence with Congress thereafter.

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