The Positive Politics of Shame, Part 1.2: The Flintstones Paradigm:
Let's put this in terms that conservatives might understand: whenever Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble were about to go on a spending tear throughout the boutiques and department stores of Bedrock, they'd announce, like the cavalry coming into an Indian village, "Charrrrge it," and then go nuts. And who would have to deal with the results of them buying all the saber-toothed tiger skin coats and baby mammoth vacuum cleaners? Fred and Barney. See, Fred Flintstone would get his little gravestone-like statements from, what the hell, American Rex-press, and he'd wanna know what all his hard-earned cash at the Slate Rock and Gravel Company went to. Jesus, you work the goddamn dino-crane at a motherfuckin' quarry all day and you're gonna be pissed when your wife blows the wad.
And would you begrudge Fred Flintstone his anger? Would you say it's wrong for him to wanna know how Wilma spent the budget that he appropriated? Would you say that about Lucy and Desi? About Ward and June? About Ralph and Alice? (Well, maybe not Ralph and Alice - she'd take that fat fuck apart like he's made of lardy Tinkertoys.)
Congressional oversight does the same thing. Yeah, Congress approves a budget - the "power of the purse," as it's constantly called now. But once the purse is open, it doesn't mean go crazy. Here's a little something from Section 9 of Article 1: "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time." Now, hundreds of billions of dollars in expenditures takes a little more time to review than your average checking account statement. It might take committees of people who appropriated the money, staffs of those committees, and cooperation from those who got the cash.
See, one way to think about Congressional hearings into the activities of the White House, the various departments, the military, and more is that it's figuring out if the money was spent right, balancing the thousand-page check book, if you want. If, say, Karl Rove is using the time and space and personnel of various offices to hold meetings about elections, well, shit, that doesn't seem like the money's being used in the way it was budgeted. And if the Attorney General fires people because they weren't willing to purge voter rolls in the way the White House wanted, it's possible to see that as misusing funds. It's the job of Congress to make sure the budget follows all the rules and regulations and limits of that big ass document put out every time some appropriation is passed (and signed by the President). If the White House doesn't want to give Congress information about the Department of Justice or the Pentagon, then the White House is saying to Congress, "Fuck you. Just give us the fucking money and go about your little business of giving us more money." And that's pretty much eliminating the role of Congress.
In this context, nearly everything Congress investigates can be boiled down to wanting to know how the funding it appropriated is spent, from Katrina to Pat Tillman to the wars to goddamn postage meters. Why, why, dear right wingers, would you want to block the budgeter from knowing where the money goes? Unless, of course, it's about Al Gore allegedly making a couple of phone calls from his office, right? And if you want the money spent a different way, without oversight, just a mad dash to the treasure chest to see who can be corrupted by its gold, then change the rules, even amend the Constitution.
Instead, put yourself in Fred Flintstone's calloused feet. You can't get the money back. And no matter how many times you've told Wilma to keep the credit rock in the purse, she goes on a spending spree. You need to make sure that Wilma learns a lesson. You're a fuckin' caveman, and it's time to act like one. You know how to handle this. Ask Fred Flintstone: you've never done any real fucking until you've put your pebbles in the bam-bam of a hot prehistoric babe tied prone to a granite slab.
It's time for Congress to go all Neanderthal on the White House's ass.
Note: Yeah, yeah, the Rude Pundit promised Harriet Miers in chains today (so cold at the thought), but he wanted to wait until after today's Alberto Gonzales toad-fest at the Senate.