Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) defended the Bush administration’s refusal to allow Karl Rove and other top White House aides to testify before Congress under oath, in public, and with a recorded transcript, claiming Bush had a “right to executive privilege.”
LOTT: The question is are the Democrats in the Senate interested in information or confrontation. In my mind, I think if the president would agree for his close advisers in the White House to testify before Congress under oath, he’d be making a huge mistake. There is a thing called executive privilege.
A vigorous defender of executive privilege today, Lott — like Tony Snow — has flip-flopped on executive privilege. Lott led the charge against President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky saga, seeking out everything from tapes to sworn testimony from the White House. In March 1998, Lott appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press and lambasted the Clinton White House for invoking executive privilege:
LOTT: I think they’ve made a mistake by [invoking executive privilege]. I think it will damage the credibility. It looks like they are hiding something, so I think they shouldn’t have done it. I think it’s an improper use, and the courts will have to decide whether or not that’s a proper use. And it may wind up in the Supreme Court, like it did in the Watergate matter.
As Think Progress has noted, Clinton was far more transparent than Bush when Congress requested that his aides testify, allowing 31 of his top aides to appear in sworn testimony in front of Congress compared to Bush’s one.
Lott was exactly right — invoking executive privilege makes the Bush White House “look like they are hiding something.”
UPDATE: More at Media Matters.