Yet another Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee has come out against the idea of creating an independent commission to investigate the Bush administration, saying such a move would unnecessarily rile partisan feathers.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who used to chair the committee, called the notion of a truth commission an effort to "demonizing and criminalizing opponents."
A commission, he said, "is not the American way. We have congressional oversight and aggressive media which have already been exhaustively investigating these matters and we have the American people to pass judgment on the result through elections."
Hatch's statement follows similar ones from two other members of the committee. On Wednesday, Senator Arlen Specter said:
"When this idea of the so-called 'truth commission' first surfaced, I said it was unnecessary because you had a change of administration, you could walk in the front door, ask for directions to the relevant filing cabinet, go in and open the drawer and find out anything you wanted to know. Well that's been done. And it's being done to a greater extent. You had some rather startling disclosures with the publicity in recent days about the unusual, to put it mildly, legal opinions which were issued to justify executive action."
While Senator John Cornyn offered the following statement:
"I oppose the creation of a so-called 'truth commission' because it is a redundant and politically divisive exercise that would distract the Executive, Congress, and the American people at a time when we should be focused on reinvigorating our economy and winning the war on terror. This roving, unaccountable inquisition into each and every grievance with a Bush Administration policy is a backward-looking proposition that is directly at odds with President Obama's stated goals of unity and moving forward. Now is not the time for government to waste more of taxpayers' money by outsourcing a core Congressional responsibility."
The opposition from the Republican side of the aisle is not, in the end, enough to impede Leahy from going forward with his idea. But the basis of an independent commission is that it is fundamentally apolitical, and Hatch, Specter and Cornyn certainly know that without GOP involvement any findings will seem tainted. That said, going to bat one more time for the Bush administration may not be great politics for Specter, who is facing a tough reelection campaign in 2010.