Bakst on Whitehouse, Dems, and 2008

Perhaps it was the scrutiny being cast on US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales by the likes of US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse that led him to finally announce his plans this morning to leave the Bush administration. As the ProJo's Charlie Bakst wrote yesterday:

He [Whitehouse] is angry at President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney over the war and what he considers the administration’s disdain for the Constitution and the rule of law. He told an East Providence community dinner he hosted Wednesday night that he doesn’t quarrel with the idea they deserve to be impeached. But he knows it won’t happen and, in any case, feels the “hugely divisive” process of impeaching the two men would divert attention from more important work, such as strengthening health care and ending the war.

On the other hand, this former U.S. attorney and former Rhode Island attorney general would welcome the impeachment of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whom he has long criticized. He thinks the House may initiate the proceedings on, say, the grounds of having lied to Congress. Just the launch of an impeachment inquiry might be enough to send Gonzales over the side, Whitehouse said later. “That may be the thing that pushes him out.”

In his column, Bakst also notes how DC Democrats have failed to deliver on some of their campaign pledges from 2006:

Whitehouse called for getting the troops out of Iraq and filling in the so-called doughnut hole in the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. A Democratic Senate could make these and other things happen, he said.

But — and Whitehouse himself finds it maddening — the war rages and the hole is unfilled. He says it’s tough when Democrats lack the votes to overcome GOP filibusters and the president is a Republican.

I asked in an interview last week if Whitehouse was naïve last year, or misled voters about the difficulties, or has anything to apologize for.

He said no. He said he was frustrated that those and other things have not been accomplished. “But, you know, we are 7 months in. It’s a 6-year term. The fight is a long way from over. I’m not willing to concede defeat on either point. I believe that we’re actually going to be able to deliver on both of those. It’s just that you have to battle your way.”

Bakst also shares this interesting bit about Whitehouse's support of Hillary Clinton:

When Whitehouse came out for Clinton, whose husband named him U.S. attorney, I wondered how Obama felt. The celebrity senator from Illinois visited Rhode Island for Whitehouse twice last fall, including a jaunt when he was unable to get a flight out of Newark and had to ride here in a car.

Whitehouse says that when he decided this year to endorse Clinton, he phoned Obama and said, “I want you to know the context of this. I go back to being a Clinton U.S. attorney. They did TV ads, they came in four times, I am very, very personally committed there. I appreciate what you did for me.”

He says Obama replied, “Well, I hope you don’t forget what I did for you, because I came in twice, and one of them was pretty inconvenient.”

Whitehouse said, “Barack, I will always be indebted to you for that, but on this one I have to make the call that I have to make.”

Senators running for president frequently see each other in the Capitol. I’ve read that the body language between Clinton and Obama is cool; Whitehouse says he is “astounded” to see “zero” evidence of such tension.

For what it's worth, many RI progressives are delighted with Whitehouse's performance thus far in the Senate.

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