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Frank Church, and other giants in the earth

By Owen Paine on Saturday February 18, 2006 12:40 PM

Back in '75,a Democrat-controlled Senate set up a committee to investigate the darker side of the whole cold war carnival; and this was done with the Republicans still clinging to the White House, after the convulsive moments of the prior summer and fall, when the deepest, most persistent five o'clock shadow in American political history was finally forced -- well, not quite finally -- from the nation's morning mirror.

A possible parallel strikes one, eh? Maybe you're thinking we need something of that sort again -- some congressional committee, either house or senate, to take stock of the long war on  mad turbans, now by my count past its 30th birthday.

Now I understand the urge to dream here. As a for-instance, the Church investigations -- among other attempts to clip off some of the more hideously malformed branches of the imperial presidency-- led to the creation of the recently much traduced FISA court. Dear ole Frank Church's white hat outfit produced revelations that all bore fruit in legislation limiting executive power when the donks returned to the White House in' 77.

But as nice as this all seems, try not to project it onto today's conjuncture. The mirage of a Dem-controlled house forming a Church-like committee is nonsense -- pure unvarnishable nonsense, so long as the donks have a dominant core of  fearless resolutes still committed to fighting this terror war against the mad turbans until... well, until when? The next Millennium, maybe.

Church and his senate posse make a bad analogy. Those donkey guys had made a separate peace. For them the cold war was over well before they formed their committee.

In fact there is a far better possible parallel, also from '75, than Church and company: the infamous Rockefeller commission, a star chamber set up by Gerry Ford to whitewash a generation of domestic government crime.

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