We have a policy at Talk Radio News Service, and it has served us well. We do not pay attention to the personal lives of politicians and policymakers. We care about what they do and how they conduct their public life. It allows us to respect people we do not usually agree with.
I admire and love the work of Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., even though we don’t agree on many issues. He has an exemplary personal/private life. Then there is the much-discussed Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee. He has a past that the Democrats love to tout. In my book, he is from Cleveland, Ohio, and I do not question the private lives of anyone from my home city of Cleveland. His public life is worth examining.
Chairman Issa has acted in ways that give most Americans pause as to the workings of Congress. We know him best for his recent forays into Benghazi and IRS nonprofit administrator Lois Lerner. Recently, Chairman Issa has focused on the order to “stand down” in Benghazi, but there is not proof that the military was told that.
This week he got into it with the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, a reconstituted Office of Political Affairs that President Obama had dumped in 2011. “Political Affairs” has been used in one form or another since the time of President Carter. After George W. Bush left office, a report was issued about the misuse of the White House Office of Political Affairs, and President Obama got rid of the office but developed a new office now named the White House Office of Political Strategy .No doubt, President Obama was urged to redevelop some type of political affairs office as many Democratic members of Congress and other supporters had privately accused the president of having a “tin ear” when it came to taking up the concerns of the “people who brought him to the dance.”
There have been concerns over many years and many administrations that having a political affairs office and political advisers violates the Hatch Act, a law on the books since 1939 that prohibits most employees of the Executive Branch of government from doing any work which that be considered political. The Hatch Act began because of Democratic violations of employees of the Work Progress Administration in the late 1930s from working on congressional elections.
Chairman Issa and his ranking member, Elijah Cummings, have not enjoyed a collegial relationship, and this week has been no exception. Things went from bad to worse last March when Chairman Issa cut off Cummings’ microphone after making a throat-cutting gesture, thereby preventing him making a statement on the Lois Lerner/IRS inquiry. This week, the relationship went from bad to worse, prompting Cummings to issue a blistering statement and press release:
“I strongly support the authority to issue subpoenas – when necessary – to require people to provide information to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities.
“But I cannot – and I will not – support the abuse of this very powerful authority when it serves no legitimate purpose, and when there is no evidence that a witness did anything wrong. These actions do not enhance our authority as a committee. They undermine it. They degrade it. And they make us weaker.
“Last Friday, Chairman Issa issued a unilateral subpoena to compel David Simas to testify here today. Mr. Simas is a senior adviser to the president. And everyone on this committee knows the doctrine of separation of powers. We do not simply haul in one of the president’s top advisers at will. There must be a valid reason, a predicate, a justification, some evidence that this official engaged in some type of inappropriate activity. That foundation simply does not exist here.”
Cummings also noted that Issa had issued subpoenas without any debate or vote of the committee and that it had reached a level of more than the three previous chairmen.
Accusing Issa of engaging in “shenanigans,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “Throwing out subpoenas like candy on Halloween has not served the functioning of that committee very well. It also has, I think, understandably caused a lot of people to – to tune him out. And I think that’s probably a source of some frustration to him.”
Clearly, the tin ear is now firmly on the head of Chairman Issa. His political fishing expeditions and lack of strategic dart throwing has his own party concerned.
It would be best if he’d treat members of the other party in a more collegial way and pick his battles more carefully, or he risks running a committee that will become a laughingstock for his own party.
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