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March 27, 2004

the Frist speech in historical context

Yesterday, Senator Frist charged Richard Clarke with perjury, imputing extremely dishonorable motives to this career public servant. If the Senator is correct, which is certainly possible, then he should produce proof and call for Mr. Clarke to be prosecuted for perjury. If he is not correct, then Senator Frist's denunciation reminds me of a famous moment in the US Senate, fifty years ago:

I am equally troubled that someone would sell a book, trading on their former service as a government insider with access to our nations most valuable intelligence, in order to profit from the suffering that this nation endured on September 11, 2001. ... Mr. President, I do not know if Mr. Clarkes motive for these charges is partisan gain, personal profit, self promotion, or animus because of his failure to win a promotion in the Bush Administration. ... Mr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories under oath. In July 2002, in front of the Congressional Joint Inquiry on the September 11 attacks, Mr. Clarke testified under oath that the Administration actively sought to address the threat posed by al Qaeda during its first seven months in office. Mr. President, it is one thing for Mr. Clarke to dissemble in front of the media. But if he lied under oath to the United States Congress it is a far more serious matter. As I mentioned, the intelligence committee is seeking to have Mr. Clarkes previous testimony declassified so as to permit an examination of Mr. Clarke's two different accounts. ... Mr Clarke can and will answer for his own conduct but that is all.  

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, March 26, 2004

The Senator ... , in ... charging three members of the Select Committee with "deliberate deception" and "fraud" ....; in stating to the public press on November 13, 1954, that the chairman of the Select Committee (Mr. Watkins) was guilty of "the most unusual, most cowardly things I've ever heard of" and stating further: "I expected he would be afraid to answer the questions, but didn't think he'd be stupid enough to make a public statement"; and in characterizing the said committee as the "unwitting handmaiden," "involuntary agent" and "attorneys-in-fact" of the Communist Party and in charging that the said committee in writing its report "imitated Communist methods -- that it distorted, misrepresented, and omitted in its effort to manufacture a plausible rationalization" in support of its recommendations to the Senate, which characterizations and charges were contained in a statement released to the press and inserted in the Congressional Record of November 10, 1954, acted contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute, to obstruct the constitutional processes of the Senate, and to impair its dignity; and such conduct is hereby condemned.

From the resolution to censure Senator Joseph McCarthy, Nov. 9, 1954.

Nov. 9, 1954 was the end of McCarthyism, because on that day the Senate said that a Member could not make unsubsantiated, personal accusations on the official record, based on secret information allegedly in his possession, without bringing dishonor upon himself and the Senate.

March 27, 2004 6:16 PM | category: Iraq and democratic theory | Comments

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