In an unsurprising display of executive branch idolatry, George Weigel, the man who learned to stop worrying and love aggressive war, declares that Secretary Rice–this incompetent, tiresome appointee–should have shown contempt to the elected representatives of the nation.  Thus Weigel:

BY AUGUST 1950, Secretary of State Dean Acheson had taken all he could stand from those congressional critics whom he privately dismissed as “the primitives.” So when Nebraska Sen. Kenneth Wherry leaned across a hearing table and wagged a finger, Acheson blew up. He leaped to his feet and demanded that Wherry not “shake his dirty finger in my face.” Wherry said he’d do as he pleased. “By God, you won’t,” Acheson hollered — and prepared to land a haymaker until restrained by State Department legal counsel Adrian Fisher, a former college football player.

I couldn’t help thinking of that scene from Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas’ multi-biography, “The Wise Men,” last week. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is, one suspects, far too polite to respond Acheson-style to the indignities she absorbed during her first appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But would anyone have blamed her if, in response to Chuck Hagel’s ambitions or Barbara Boxer’s personal nastiness, she had said something like this:

“Look, senators, there are real consequences to our ‘ending the war’ in Iraq, as the new speaker of the House has put it — rather glibly, if I may say. Those consequences include a bloodbath, chaos throughout the Mideast and perhaps the emergence of an apocalyptic maniac in Tehran as the regional hegemonist. Do you think that would play well in Omaha? Or Sacramento? I don’t. In any event, I’ve got important things to do, and they don’t include sitting here acting like my mother’s pin cushion. I’ll be back when you’re ready to get serious. Impeach me if you like. They pay a lot better at Stanford.”

Actually, one of the things expected of a minister in government is to suffer the scrutiny of the legislative branch.  It is one of the principal mechanisms allowed to the legislative to check and supervise the actions of the executive.  Autocrats and their hangers-on find this obnoxious, as well they might, but republicans and constitutionalists respect this as an integral and necessary functioning of the government and a way to ensure some minimal accountability for policy decisions.  It is one of the few practical methods the representatives of the people in Congress assembled have these days to hold to the fire the feet of these pompous would-be lords who believe they have received some holy mandate to do what they please with the people’s government.  Oversight of this kind is one of those small triumphs over an arbitrary executive won over decades and centuries of struggle with the claims of the Crown that our ancestors wisely chose to incorporate into the management of affairs in our government. 

Was Sen. Boxer’s observation correct that Secretary Rice makes her bold, declarative statements about the war in Iraq without any personal stake in the consequences?  Yes.  Was that the most relevant thing to point out during the hearing?  Obviously not.  Yet it was not irrelevant, nor was it “nasty.”  The whinging of jingoes about how rudely and roughly they are being treated now that they can no longer intimidate, shout down and otherwise insult their opposition is simply pathetic.   Sen. Boxer’s remark–which, as usual given the idiocy of the media, was made into some sort of cat-fight over the true meaning of feminism–was an observation that those who are most blithe about committing American soldiers to war happen to be those whose families bear no risk of suffering from the evils of that war.  This statement may not be a terribly important one to make (since most people in this country are in no danger of seeing their friends and family in danger because of the Iraq war, which does not invalidate their opinions), but it is true and perfectly legitimate.

There are many more things that I can and probably will say later about Mr. Weigel’s depressing, embarrassing op-ed, but I have no time this afternoon.