Subpoena This

Paul Krugman makes the familiar-to-the-blogosphere case that party, not personnel, is what matters when you go to vote in a couple of weeks. Party control matters most of all because, on the one hand, "moderate" Republicans are basically frauds, and, on the other hand, because only a Democratic-controlled congress will provide the oversight and accountability that the country desperately needs. I agree and, certainly, I hope Krugman's many readers in the great state of New Jersey will listen to him. And, of course, Krugman's not alone. All of progressive Washington is fervently hoping to see some Democratic chairpersons haul some scumbugs up to testify and issue some subpoenas.

There is, I think, a potential fly in this ointment. Past administrations have been quite aggressive in seeking to maintain executive branch secrecy, and absolutely everything we know about the Bush administration suggests that they would be much more aggressive about this. In particular, team Bush adds to the natural reluctance of any administration to comply with opposition party oversight efforts (see, e.g., Bill Clinton), an elaborate constitutional theory of presidential omnipotence, a strong temperamental disposition in favor of secrecy, and the notion that everything it does falls under cover of prosecuting an endless quasi-declared quasi-war. It seems to me that the odds are good that faced with aggressive investigative efforts they'll respond with a strategy of total noncompliance -- simply refusing to hand over documents or make officials available for testimony -- pleading the need for wartime secrecy and seeking to provoke a constitutional crisis.