As both parties urge aging lawmakers to hang on for one more term, “Memory Pills” Roberts quips, “ ‘I have my track shoes on,’ …, still feisty at 70, who said he intends to seek another term.”
Track shoes may not be the best good luck charm, I don’t think that they did much for Jim Ryun. Indeed, they suggest not someone running toward re-election, but running from some secret.
I’m still waiting for someone to clarify what medicine Senator Roberts was shaking around on Meet the Press. Hunting around on Google suggests that the only prescription drugs that are referred to as “memory pills” are treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. That’s a serious and progressive illness that affects memory and cognitive function. A Senator being treated for that condition has a real obligation to discuss it with the public.
I called Senator Roberts’ office for comment after the MtP event, but predictably got no response.
Given that Roberts is apparently yielding his seat on the Intelligence committee and the Armed Services committee, I have to wonder if he or government doctors are confident in his ability to continue handling classified materials. The move may just be a bargain to get a seat with more pork-related opportunities as he gears up for re-election. It may also be a bow to medical reality.
In either event, Roberts’ exit from those two committees is a good sign for the still incomplete reports on misuse of intelligence by the Bush administration, and for inquiries and oversight on the illegal NSA wiretapping. For him to be overseeing investigations into how bogus intelligence was used to justify our disastrous invasion of Iraq would require him to investigate himself. His committee was supposed to be vetting that information, but instead he served as a conduit for misinformation. On the NSA wiretapping, he was one of the few people in the world briefed on the program before the story was broken in the New York Times a year ago. His decision not to ask more questions or demand more oversight has to be a part of any inquiry into the genesis and evolution of that program and its infringement on citizens’ rights.
In the course of investigating how that program could have escaped more intense scrutiny, it became clear just how much of the work of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has to reside in the memory of the leadership. At some of the briefings, the members of Congress were unable to even take notes, and certainly couldn’t bring staff. If Roberts’ memory is indeed fading, it’s astonishing that he retained such a sensitive post as long as he did.
If it isn’t fading, what was he talking about when he answered a question about the wiretapping, and whether FISA should have been amended, by telling Tim Russert:
I have some memory pills, I think everybody here ought to take a memory pill every morning on the recollection of, you know, what really went on, because that’s not my recollection. My recollection was that we just sat there with the people who did the briefing, I’m not going to say who, and they said, “Do we need to change this law?” … And don’t tell me that isn’t there, because I’ve just been there. OK?
Nothing would be sweeter than to see Governor Sebelius take that seat from him in 2008.