Stop with the Congressional inquisitions
When Congress makes itself an inquisitor, it will almost certainly find something.
“Here in my hand,” Mr. McCarthy said, his rapt audience of Republican women held by his earnest concern for our nation. “A list of 205.” Two hundred five names of “all the men in the State Department who have been named as members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring.”
The list was a partial fabrication. The FBI and the State Department had determined some number of federal employees were deemed security risks. Of those, 57 had ties to the Communist Party, and the remainder, 205, is what McCarthy used as his “list.” In fact, the official version of his speech at the Women’s Republican Club in Wheeling, WV, uses the number 57. Perhaps McCarthy was afraid of using a number he knew was bogus in the official record.
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Now, the patrician, dapper Alger Hiss was indeed a spy, although the effect of his spying, and the level of his devotion to communism has been inflated over the years. But the fact is, Richard Nixon and Joe McCarthy were right about there being Soviet spies in America. There were. Just not 205 in the State Department, and certainly not as many as McCarthy’s crusade believed there were in Hollywood and other places of influence.
When Congress makes itself an inquisitor, it will almost certainly find something. There will be a whole lot of noise, flashing lights, and theatrics, and some actual dirt. But when Congress makes itself an inquisitor, it fails to do the job for which it exists, and that is to legislate.
President Joe Biden, while he was Vice President, had some documents stored at the Biden Center of Diplomacy and Global Engagement (a mouthful!) at the University of Pennsylvania. Some of the those documents were classified. His lawyers found them and returned them to the National Archives. There were no subpoenas, and no FBI search warrants. Biden himself was “surprised” there were documents. After five decades of government service, I don’t know why.
Now Congress, under Speaker Kevin McCarthy, wants to investigate Biden’s documents. I can imagine a speech “I have in my hand a list of 205 classified documents President Biden mishandled.” I’m sure every president and ex-president has classified documents in places where no classified should be stored. I’m sure between their libraries, and researchers at various educational institutions, some classified has been left somewhere. I’m sure, that given enough manpower and snooping, these documents would be uncovered.
I’m sure that somewhere at the National Archives, some librarian, document control specialist, computer database designer, or faceless mandarin has screwed up and lost records, or failed to keep good records. Given a few subpoenas, the incompetence, sheer laziness, or contractor screw-ups will emerge. I’m sure that somewhere in there is a scandal.
Given enough time and investigators, Speaker McCarthy’s inquisition will find them. And there’ll be speeches, and “red scares” with the Chinese, and lists of documents, and lists of spies, and it will all amount to very little, as the business of Congress, and the business of governing, will be ignored in favor of endless investigations.
Eventually, the Senate censured Sen. McCarthy for his ambition and outright fabrications to make a name for himself. Today I think he’d be celebrated.
If the current McCarthy wants to be known for anything more than being an officious throne-sniffer, he’ll dispense with the inquisitions and do what he was hired to do.
As someone elsewhere stated: this shows good reason to overhaul the system for how documents are handled in general.