Do Kennedy and Durbin Believe Senate Judiciary Committee Minority Staffers Outrank the Vice President?

After more than 20 years in Washington, I shouldn’t be naive, but there is an aspect to the “leaked” Judiciary memos controversy that I just don’t get.

Specifically: why are government documents of this type not automatically open to the public? Why should it require a “leak” for the public to see what its paid government employees are doing and thinking?

I’d make an exception for national security issues, of course, and certain other documents, such as raw FBI files (which often contain unsubstantiated allegations that can unjustly harm people’s reputations), but certainly not for the topic under discussion in this story. Either a judge is worthy of confirmation or he isn’t, and knowing the thought processes that go into deciding is very much in the public interest.

Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings, after all, aren’t held in closed session. So why should a process that should simply be a matter of deciding what questions should be asked at an open hearing be secret?

(Maybe because shenanigans were going on instead?)

And, besides, aren’t many of the same people upset that GOP majority staffers saw some “confidential” minority memos about judicial confirmations the same ones who support the lawsuit against Vice President Cheney, claiming that the Vice President should not be allowed to have meetings of his energy task force without the transcripts being made public?

Why should minority staffers on a Senate committee effectively outrank — in terms of the deference with which their desire for private work product is honored — the second-highest elected official in the land?

Overall, I’m for open government (far more than we have now), but if I had to decide between giving “secrecy rights” to either anonymous staffers or an official who has to run for election and then re-election to keep his job, I’d rather trust the guy who faces the voters. At least he’s accountable to somebody, and takes questions from the press occasionally.

As for you, Senators Kennedy and Durbin, if your employees are doing things you are ashamed to have made public, fire them. And since public officials shouldn’t be agreeing to things in private they are ashamed to have known in public, how about firing yourselves as well?

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