Dems Are Asking: Will Issa Go Too Far?

Lurita Doan

12/6/2010 12:01:00 AM - Lurita Doan

Many within the White House seem fearful about the intentions of Darrell Issa. As the incoming Chairman of the House Committee for Oversight and Government Reform, Issa will have full power to open investigations into government operations and questionable programs. Media expert, Howard Kurtz, knows full well the power Issa will wield, and his article in the Daily Beast asks the question that is on the minds of many Democrats: Will Darrell Issa “go too far” as the incoming Chairman of the Committee of Oversight? A superb question, for the nation was given a clear example of excessive, mean-spirited, oftentimes petty use of oversight powers by Henry Waxman.

Democrats are wondering whether Issa will behave more responsibly and focus the committee’s attention on legitimate areas of concern and poorly performing government programs, rather than on punishing political adversaries for narrow political gains as did Henry Waxman. Having worked with both congressmen, I can say that Darrell Issa is an honest patriot that actually wants government to work more efficiently. Issa knows firsthand from the Waxman years the damage that can done by an irresponsible chairman.

Henry Waxman developed the playbook for many Democrat-led show trials during the Bush Administration. The pattern was always the same because it worked brilliantly and successfully trashed the reputations of many. The most common steps in the Waxman playbook are to leak information to the mainstream media, issue “invitations” to hearings based on the media coverage, refuse to meet with the government officials prior to the hearing, verbally attack family members of the witness, exclude the Minority members from meetings, hold hearings on a topic slightly different than what is cited in the “invitation’ so the witness isn’t fully prepared, have each Majority member spend the five minutes of Q&A making bombastic statements that use all but 30 seconds of the time allocated so that the witness is unable to completely rebut the accusations and, cite testimony and evidence as proof, which neither the witness nor the Minority committee members have had time or access to review. In short, Waxman perfected the modern day kangaroo court and served as its master of ceremonies.

Waxman didn’t care a fig about ferreting out poorly performing programs and wasteful spending. Indeed, many participants in his show trials tried, in vain, to provide Waxman with background data that he simply did not understand nor was interested in learning. Instead, Waxman’s focus was the propaganda value of the show trials he orchestrated.

Considerable effort was put into capturing C-Span and private video tapings which were then carefully edited by the Majority to control the public’s impression of the hearing. These edited segments, which omitted facts Waxman was eager to suppress, but advanced favorite Democratic attack lines, were then placed on You Tube. Thus, with some backhanded editing and misdirection, Democrat loyalists of Henry Waxman gained valuable free ads to use in their campaign commercials —all at taxpayer expense.

But it important to note that a Waxman oversight committee lynching, a true circus, also depended on a compliant victim, often too astounded at the brazen daring of ill-informed committee members, and often, under the illusion that the hearing was about finding out facts.

The compliant victim is often unwilling to fully expose the ignorance of congressmen, especially the chairman, whom the witness often believes deserves respect due to the office. And, the members, in turn, are counting on the civility of the witness to ensure that their ignorance will never be exposed. How can Americans tell when one of these kinds of show trials is occurring? Here’s another clue.

You will see a congressional staffer scuttling behind committee members with little slips of paper on which questions have been written. Remember, the members haven’t read the material, so the Majority staff often distributes comments, questions and talking points for the member to parrot. Like many Americans, Darrel Issa became appalled and disgusted with Henry Waxman’s dishonest kangaroo courts.

No doubt, too, as he now assumes the job as Majority Leader, Issa hopes to raise the bar and provide the nation with a more responsible example of how the Oversight Committee conducts itself under his leadership.

I expect great things from Issa’s committee and am hopeful that, at long last, we can watch a congressional hearing and take pride in our democracy in action. After all, aggressive oversight is important to protect the American taxpayer and ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent well. But, oversight which relies on bullying and manipulating facts is abusive, un-American, and shameful.

So that may be why the White House is nervous. Obama and his staff are likely worried that the same kangaroo court mentality that Henry Waxman used to unfairly bludgeon the Bush Administration will be continued by Darell Issa.

I understand the fear, but Obama can relax. Congressman Issa is a better man then Henry Waxman.