The Magazine

Reno Evil, Freeh No Evil?

The Clinton administration has appointed John Danforth to investigate Waco. Isn't that Congress's responsibility?

Sep 20, 1999, Vol. 5, No. 01 • By DAVID FRUM
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

But governments do not go of themselves, and Madison knew it. "The aim of every political constitution," he wrote in Federalist 57, "is or ought to be first to obtain for rulers, men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue the common good of society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous, whilst they continue to hold their public trust."

The harm done to American society by the Clinton administration's bad character was a political wrong. It can only be fixed politically, with the tools of politics. If a space shuttle crashes or a water purification plant backs up, those are technical problems that require the sort of expert evaluation that somebody from outside the political system can provide. But when 80 people die because a gullible attorney general is manipulated by her subordinates, and when evidence appears that this same gullible attorney general has continued to be deceived for years, that is a problem that no expert can fix. At least one of the people entrusted with America's police forces has proved unworthy of that trust, and ultimately the job of figuring out who that person is belongs not to an outside commissioner, no matter how distinguished, but to the electors, and thus the representatives who speak for them.

David Frum is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD and the author of a forthcoming history of life in the 1970s, How We Got Here (Basic).