What we learned the past two weeks was not just the outlines of the scandals surrounding Benghazi and the IRS’ abuse of political opponents of President Obama.
We also learned that the American people are paying very close attention, and that they are outraged. They want to know more, and the House GOP should deliver the knowledge they demand, and in an orderly, systematic fashion. The MSM may scoff and the president’s loyalists scream “partisanship,” but the lid is off the Chicago-style politics of intimidation and Americans are angry.
The Benghazi and IRS scandals will follow their own courses, but there are horror stories from every corner of the government. Recall Regional EPA Administrator Al Armendariz who was forced out after a tape of his argument on the need to “crucify” the regulated community? Or the Sacketts who prevailed 9-0 in their case against the EPA when it got to the Supreme Court, or the little Lutheran school Hosanna-Tabor, persecuted by the EEOC until the Supreme Court put a stop to that by another 9-0 vote? These three examples are all from within the first term of President Obama, as are all of the IRS abuses detailed yesterday and the many more lined up for expose.
I have spent 23 years representing clients before various federal agencies, and the vast majority of federal officials I have dealt with have been just like those I worked with during my time as a general counsel in two federal agencies, and as a staff lawyer the White House Counsel’s office and DOJ –superb public servants of the highest ethics and significant competence.
I continue that law practice before an alphabet soup of agencies, as do my partners, but things have changed, and they have changed at every level of the federal government. Indifference combined with arrogance and sometimes pure spite used to be very, very rare, but increasingly it seeps out of almost every agency, and the very good employees struggle to undo the work of the worst.
There are roughly 75 Fridays between now and the effective end of this Congress which comes with the elections of 2014. There are hundreds of federal departments, agencies, bureaus and commissions. The House GOP leadership should put together a master schedule of oversight hearings, one for almost every Friday stretching from now through to the end of this Congress, and publish the name and membership of that committee and the contact staffers for the committee which will be conducting the hearing, and ask the public to step forward with their stories of abuse at the hands of these agencies. Some agencies will no doubt emerge with stellar records and no headlines, but the weeks for which the various divisions of EPA are in the dock the stack of damning material will be high indeed.
What last week’s Benghazi hearing and this week’s IRS hearing showed us is that even MSM is obliged to cover those hearings which are scheduled and publicized. Take a look at the members who have appeared on my show in the past week and whose interviews we have transcribed. (Some of the interviews with other members could not be transcribed.) The list of interviewees is long and full of senior senators and representatives, and much more importantly, the audience for what they had to say was vast and engaged. People want to know their government is being called to account. It is up to the House GOP to do just that, and to do so in such a way that the aggrieved know when they will have a hearing and who is conducting it.
That is genuine oversight, and if yesterday’s chilling testimony and evidence showed anything, it is that such oversight is vitally necessary now.
The GOP must become the party of government reform and it must demand ethics at every level of the vast federal government even as it battles to pare that government back to a manageable size. The latter project cannot succeed with a Democratic Senate and President Obama blocking the way for the balance of his term.
But reform has its own momentum, and hearings generate attention and reform, as well as prosecutions when required. The House GOP knows what it has to do. Let’s see if it has the courage to do it.