As a historian in the House, Fred Beuttler puts current events in perspective





Historians do not do breaking news. Historians do not do the latest scandal scoops, election-night projections, or instant updates of Washington's winners and losers. So it is no surprise that the media's demand for historians is scant. But every now and then, when the breaking political news from Capitol Hill is in dire need of historical context, journalists and politicians alike go looking for Fred Beuttler.

In May 2006, as news unfolded about the controversy over an FBI raid on the House offices of William Jefferson, a Louisiana congressman later to be convicted on corruption charges, several reporters and congressional observers sought guidance from Beuttler, the House's deputy historian. By then, both the House speaker, J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), and the minority leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), had signed a rare joint letter criticizing the raid authorized by the Bush administration -- the executive branch's first break-in of a congressional office in the nation's history.

Why were congressional figures in both parties getting so hot and bothered about it? Beuttler was asked....

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