U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, who's as (R) as they come and who keeps homes in Ennis and Arlington when he ain't doing Big Business' bidding in D.C., has a pretty lousy rep among lefties on a number of issues; they don't call him "Smokey Joe" because he's against companies filling the air with noxious fumes, which comes in handy when yer the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee under George Dubya. There's not a thing Bush doesn't do this guy doesn't like. At least, till this week.
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Over the last few days, the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee has been hearing the tale of Justin Berry, the teenager seduced into performing sexual acts over the Internet, which led to his eventual molestation. Berry and Dallas-based New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald, who broke Terry's story in a case that amounts to journalistic heroism, testified yesterday about the dangers of Internet sexual predators and how the U.S. Department of Justice hasn't done enough to stop, apprehend and punish them.
According to this piece in Salon today, when Justice refused to send any senior officials, among them Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, to yesterday's hearings to explain or defend its practices, the Bushie "apologist" Barton lost his patience with the administration's arrogance. As Michael Scherer reports:
"After hearing Berry's story on Tuesday, members of Congress vowed to take up his case later in the week, when officials from the Justice Department are scheduled to testify. At the time, chairman Barton still counted himself a defender of the Justice Department and its leader, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. 'The attorney general has been very cooperative and we are getting cooperation,' Barton said. But by Thursday, Congress experienced firsthand the incompetence that had caused Berry to lose faith...'We are questioning the judgment of the Justice Department of the United States of America, which seems to think it can thumb its nose at the Congress of the United States,' Barton said. 'And that will not happen. I am going to tell the attorney general straight.'"
Go get 'em, Smokey Joe. Cough, cough. --Robert Wilonsky