On Attorney Dispute, a Flashback for Fielding?

After watching the tense standoff between Democrats in Congress and the White House over the fired U.S. attorneys, it seems Republicans don't have a very good hand to play.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Senior news analyst Daniel Schorr has been watching the standoff between Democrats in Congress and the White House over the fired U.S. attorneys, and he says Republicans don't have a very good hand to play.

DANIEL SCHORR: For White House counsel Fred Fielding, who worked in the Nixon and the Reagan White House, the developing (unintelligible) over testimony to Congress must have a familiar sound. But the White House and the Justice Department apparently did not consider in the purge of prosecutors that what was undertaken during the Bush administration might come up against a Democratic-controlled Congress.

The harvest of e-mails released by the administration refer generally to actions taken before last November's election. Carol Lam, a prosecutor in San Diego, was discharged as part of a plan hatched two years ago. Representative Darrell Issa, the California Republican, said he knew about the discharges in October 2006, that is, one month before the election.

Reinstating the fired prosecutors, that would not work. So now the Bush administration faces what looks like a lose-lose position. The Democratic leadership seems to be dead set against any compromise that would permit administration figures to testify without an oath or a stenographic record.

One can expect a lot of Democratic speeches asking what do they have to hide. I can recall one point in the Senate Watergate investigation when chairman Sam Ervin threatened to send the Senate sergeant at arms to arrest anyone of the Nixon White House who refused to testify before his committee.

One can expect a lot of back-and-forth between congressional Democrats and the White House on the subject of executive privilege, but win or lose the constitutional argument, the Republicans lose the political argument by somehow having neglected to remember that it's Democrats who wield the gavel on Capitol Hill now. This is Daniel Schorr.

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