Jay Carney Defended Investigations Into Events Like Benghazi–Back When He Was a Journalist


Press conference screen cap

During today's press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney waved off reporters' questions about Benghazi, instead accusing House Republicans of encouraging the "rapid politicization of everything" and turning the Benghazi investigation into a "political circus." 

Once upon a time, Carney saw such "political circuses" as necessary. In a 2007 column, Carney (then a journalist) called Benghazi-like investigations a check on "expanded presidential powers." 

Without further ado, I give you, "Scandal, Power And the President," written in 2007 by Massimo Calabresi and TIME Washington Bureau Chief Jay Carney: 

In Washington, scandals metastasize, growing and changing until we can't remember what they were about in the beginning. A bungled burglary became a cancer on the presidency, forcing Richard Nixon to resign in disgrace. A money-losing Arkansas real estate deal led to Monica, a blue dress and Bill Clinton's impeachment. Already, the furor over the dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys has shifted focus from the crass but essentially routine exercise of political patronage to the essential project of George W. Bush's presidency: its deliberate and aggressive efforts to expand and protect Executive power.

Which is why divining the true motives behind the dismissals is only part of the battle under way in Washington. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have spent six years expanding presidential powers at the expense of Congress and the judiciary, from authorizing domestic wiretapping to limiting habeas corpus and changing bills through signing statements. Democrats, in control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in 12 years, are determined to reclaim what they can. And the U.S. Attorneys case gives them powerful new ammunition.

Just getting Karl Rove and other top White House officials to testify could be as important as anything they might say, since it would set a precedent of sorts as Democrats push to investigate internal White House deliberations on everything from Iraq-war contracting to the use of prewar intelligence. Bush is resisting, offering to give only limited interviews with lawmakers with no transcript. Anything more than that, he says, would be an infringement on presidential privilege.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales remains a likely casualty, but the history of past scandals suggests his resignation would not be enough to end the current one. Hearings will be held, subpoenas issued, new investigations launched. And when it's over, we'll be hard-pressed to remember how it began.

It would appear more than just Carney's job title has changed. Then again: Back in 2007, a Republican was president and Democrats controlled Congress.