Morning Political Note: Jan. 28

Tout le Washington has decided that the normal rule applies here — "Documents that are famous for not being released eventually will have to be released" — and that Bush and Cheney are subjecting themselves to futile pain now because ultimate disclosure is inevitable. It's not clear what Walker and Cheney discussed in their recent conversation, or how seriously the White House has considered finding some other way to put out the material without compromising on the principle.

But as it stands now, Cheney made it clear Sunday that, for now, he doesn't see any overwhelming political imperative to back down and let the GAO have the documents. Still, all the questions to Cheney and others about the "political" imperative to turn the stuff over miss one very important point about Bush and Cheney that one overlooks at one's peril: these two guys have a highly principled and dogmatic view of the importance of the primacy of a strong executive branch, and they will take political hits galore in order to try and restore it.

As Time points out, the White House clearly is responding to Hill skittishness (and perhaps polling data) in going on the offensive, both substantively and politically, to show concern over Enron. From the invocation of the president's mother-in-law's failed stock investment, to the GOP's strategy of never failing to begin every Enron answer expressing concern for the workers, to Friday's announcement that the government is reviewing all Enron and Andersen contracts — this White House is engaging on all fronts to ward off Enron demons.

The wily Walker of the GAO has got kind of a hidden stiletto, which turns him from Wally Cox to Ray Liotta when he wields it. Look what he said to the New York Times : "Walker … responded this evening in an interview that it was now 'highly likely' that he would file a lawsuit against the Bush administration if Mr. Cheney did not turn over the documents by the end of this week. Of the vice president's assertion that the agency was overstepping its bounds, Mr. Walker, the comptroller general of the United States, replied, 'Talk is cheap.'"

"An administration official said today that it was likely that any court fight over the documents would take years, and that the White House was convinced it had a strong case."

Trent Lott looked mighty uncomfortable, at least to us, on Face the Nation Sunday in talking about this stuff, and we still aren't clear on why he and Senator Nickles last week made it sound like they thought a compromise was afoot shortly after they lunched with the VP. And/but check this out from the New York Times : "During the weekend, Mr. Fleischer said, Mr. Cheney previewed for the group the position he would take on the Sunday morning talk shows, which was to refuse once again to turn over documents demanded by Congress as part of an inquiry into workings of the administration's energy task force, including records of a meeting that Mr. Cheney had with Mr. Lay. No one disagreed with his position, Mr. Fleischer said."

USA Today makes this their lead story, even though they don't offer any new news. ( http://www.usatoday.com/hlead.htm

CNN is heavily promoting a King/Cheney interview which will air tonight at 8 p.m., where this is sure to come up some more.

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