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‘Insincere probe’

“A president removes a U.S. attorney, and Congress demands to see privileged files related to the firing. The president refuses, noting that ‘these suspensions are my executive acts,’ and ‘based upon considerations addressed to me alone.’ The Senate has a meltdown, arguing it has oversight authority over the removal of administration officials and threatens to censure the attorney general,” Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley A. Strassel writes.

“If this sounds familiar, it shouldn’t, since it’s the story of a long-forgotten battle President Grover Cleveland fought with Congress in 1885. One reason it is long-forgotten is because nothing happened. The Senate was steamed that Cleveland wouldn’t cough up the docs, but it also recognized there were limits on its power. It never did hold any officials in contempt, never did take any judicial action. Instead, it confirmed Cleveland’s new choice for the U.S. attorney position,” the writer said.

“What a difference 122 years makes. Democrats are conducting an insincere probe into President Bush’s firing of U.S. attorneys, but these days they see no constitutional reason why the White House shouldn’t cooperate in their partisan attack. In response to the administration’s refusal to respond to subpoenas, the House Judiciary Committee this [past] week voted to issue criminal contempt citations against Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers.

“Chairman John Conyers is spinning the line that his party had no choice, but was forced into this by a recalcitrant president who is eviscerating Congress’s oversight authority. If you believe that, Mr. Conyers also has a Capitol building to sell you. The contempt citations are, rather, an audacious break with history, and Mr. Conyers has far more honorable options. The reason Democrats haven’t pursued those more dignified routes is because this is about smearing the president, not proving a principle.”

News to Obama

“At last week’s Democratic debate, a YouTube questioner asked Barack Obama whether he was ‘authentically black.’ ” the Weekly Standard’s Scrapbook column notes.

“Said Obama: ‘You know, when I’m catching a cab in Manhattan, in the past, I think I’ve given my credentials.’ It’s a line Obama has used before, and the audience at the Citadel burst into applause at the candidate’s caricature of New York City taxi drivers as racist,” the magazine said.

“When it comes to minorities and New York cabbies, however, things are a little more complicated than that. That’s the lesson from Calvin Sims’s October 15, 2006, New York Times article, ‘An Arm in the Air for that Cab Ride Home.’

“Sims writes about a change he had been noticing: ‘In New York, it is much easier for me — a black male in my 40s — to get a cab.’ The experience of Sims’s friends, it turns out, is similar. At first Sims speculates it may have something to do with getting older. But then he conducts research that suggests a city program called ‘Operation Refusal’ may be responsible.

“The program sends undercover policemen out to hail cabs. If the cabbies refuse to pick them up, they are fined. The compliance rate among cabbies in 2006, Sims says, was 96 percent. ‘It’s a better climate today for everybody in the city to catch a taxi than it was back then, no matter what your race,’ New York City’s taxi commissioner tells Sims. Maybe someone should tell Sen. Obama.

“Oh, one more thing: The city began Operation Refusal in 1997. The mayor at the time? Rudy Giuliani.”

Worried reporters

“Some grumpy White House reporters aren’t happy with their newly refurbished West Wing digs,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

“A few hate their assigned seats, others want more space, and then there’s the ban on jeans and sneakers. And now there’s unease over who uses the facility after a reporter was barred from the briefing room one night because Chief of Staff Josh Bolten was using it to meet with interns. Officials tell us they will strive to keep out of the media’s way, but ultimately, they say, it’s their space.”

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