In the House, the Democrats' Grand Inquisitor is Rep. Henry Waxman of California, the zealously partisan chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Waxman's political mandate from Speaker Nancy Pelosi: Go after every administration official you can, on any pretext you can, to build a list of election-year accusations that can help our party in 2008.
Last week, Waxman was grilling Lurita Alexis Doan, the head of the General Services Administration, who triggered a Hatch Act investigation by asking political appointees at a briefing in January how they could "help our candidates." Her record as a waste fighter in the government-building agency that has saved taxpayers money was irrelevant to Waxman, who focused on an inadvertent remark, a harmless mistake.
But to Waxman, who looked the other way during a reign of scandals in the Clinton administration, this was a firing offense. "I would urge you to resign," he told her last week at a hearing where Doan said she had never sought any "personal or partisan political gain" at GSA.
Meantime, Democrats on the House and Senate judiciary committees were pursuing a political inquisition of their own to find out why the White House dismissed eight U.S. attorneys at the end of their terms -- which the president has every right to do.
Subpoenas have been issued to require the testimony of two of Bush's former aides, former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former White House political director Sara Taylor. Unable to drive Attorney General Alberto Gonzales from office, since no one has proved he did anything unethical or illegal, Democrats are now going after Bush's closest aides, who have not been accused of any wrongdoing, either.
Is this what voters wanted Democrats to do when they put them back in power? The Democrats' sinking job-approval polls, lower than Bush's scores, suggest otherwise. And they may be hearing from those voters next year.
Last week, elections tracker Stu Rothenberg told his newsletter clients that Republican campaign strategists now "have about half a dozen seats they know the party should never have lost ... and eight of the nine most vulnerable House seats currently are held by Democrats.
"While it is now safe to say that Democrats will retain the House next year, small gains for either party are possible," he said.