Bob Barr

Earlier this month, Forbes columnist and respected conservative commentator Ralph Benko penned an article calling for a “national conversation” following the Department of Homeland Security’s purchase of 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition. As Benko notes, this is enough ammunition to sustain a decades-long war -- not overseas, but here on American soil. Although the notion the government would use this ammo to wage a war against American citizens may be far-fetched, Benko is spot on about one thing: The Obama administration should, at the very least, be forced to explain why such a massive ammunition purchase is needed; especially at the very time the White House is closing its doors to citizens because of fiscal “belt tightening.”

Not surprisingly, this is a conversation in which the Obama Administration refuses to engage. “They refuse to let us know what is going on,” Congressman Tim Huelscamp (R-KA) told reporters in explaining his efforts to secure answers from the Administration regarding the massive ammunition purchase. This refusal came from the very same President who, during his first campaign in 2008, repeatedly condemned the Bush administration for its lack of transparency.

On taking office, Obama promised the “most transparent” administration in history; yet his record as President has been anything but transparent.

Frankly, it is time that Congress rediscovers and reasserts its long-neglected oversight responsibility to ensure our laws are complied with, and confirm that all public monies appropriated by the Congress to the executive branch are spent lawfully and properly. Congress must demand -- yes, demand -- this president and those working under him, testify openly and publicly about what they are doing and why.

What is needed are actions far more substantive than the political theater that for years has passed for congressional “oversight” – such as holding an occasional hearing to throw political stones at a president belonging to the “other” political party. “Oversight” of that sort is easy; true oversight on the other hand -- as contemplated by our Founders (and particularly James Madison, one of the primary authors of the Federalist Papers) -- is hard work. However, real oversight is absolutely essential if the powers enumerated to and exercised by each of the three branches of our government, are to be kept in check and on track.

Bob Barr

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 -2003 and as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986-1990.