The other day I wrote about Dennis Kucinich taking on the lies and bullshit of Darrel Issa, the incoming Republican Chairman of the very powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Today I was happy to see that Dennis took another step to fight Issa's plans for an endless partisan witch hunt.
To the jump...
Issa has committed to making the Clinton era witch hunts look reasonable in comparison to the partisan mega-obstruction and wastefulness that he has planned for the 112th Congress. Every wing-nut conspiracy theory will find a friend in Issa's pre-planned abuse of power. The Oversight Committee is going to be a battle zone. Everyday will be about legislative knife fights, procedural muggings, thuggery and blatant partisan abuse of power by Issa and his Red-Shirt Inquisition. Issa will make the Oversight Committee the most Partisan Committee in Congress. Once again, with a Democrat in the White House, the Republicans will pervert the extraordinary powers of the committee to pursue an endless stream of headline grabbing witch hunts.
Currently, the Chairman is Edolphus Towns—who represents the New York 10th Congressional District (think Brooklyn). He is a good man, but he is the wrong man to head the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee as we enter a period of intense and daily hand to hand combat. Towns is just too nice of a guy. He replaced a fighting Democrat (Henry Waxman) as Chairman of the Committee and one can tell just by reviewing the list of hearings over the last four years how Towns did not have Waxman's sense of justice and let the news cycle inform and drive his schedule of investigation.
The truth is that Towns is not a fighter and we need a fighter as the Ranking Democrat on the Committee. He is a guy with a safe seat who is willing to try and find common ground with everybody. He has run the Committee with the assumption that everybody on it views the responsibilities of Oversight the way he views them. He could not be more mistaken. His response to Issa's plans to use control of the powerful committee for partisan witch hunts has been merely to say that "...any attempt to use this committee as a political weapon are intolerable and he will lead a strong and unified resistance against any such effort."
Please Congressman Towns—be truthful—can you think of a single Republican who will take a stand against Issa? Could you name any Republican in Congress who would stand united with you to fight Issa's planned use of the Committee as a "political weapon"? Any Republican on the Committee? Crickets. Just who will constitute this "unified resistance" that Towns speaks about? Sadly, he just screams weakness.
Truth be told, Issa and the Republicans have already drunk his milkshake. As Ranking member of the Oversight Committee, Towns only offers impotent rage at the abuses that led to his pre-surrender before Issa's campaign of orchestrated abuse even gets off the ground. Somehow, I think we could do better.
That's why I was happy to hear today that Dennis Kucinich will challenge Townes to be the ranking member of the Oversight Committee. In his letter to his fellow Democrats, Kucinich explained why he was taking this step:
Perhaps the most crucial vote you will cast in the reorganization of the 112th Congress involves the Ranking Member position of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. This is because the presumptive Chair of the full Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, has already made wild and unsubstantiated charges which threaten to tum the principal oversight committee of the House into a witch hunt.
In just the past week, he has indicated a telling enthusiasm for a broad probe into the $700 billion American Reinvestment and Recovery Act program. He has equated it with "walking around money." As you know, that is political slang for money off the books and under the table. He made this unsubstantiated claim in the context of promising hundreds of investigative hearings into the present Administration, calling President Obama "one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times." I immediately sent Mr. Issa a letter (attached) calling for him to produce the evidence for such charges or to retract his statement.
Mr. Issa, through his eagerness to make unsubstantiated charges and to draw conclusions in advance of evidence, reveals a lack of restraint and basic fairness. This conduct in the Chairman of the Committee will degrade Congress' oversight credibility and undermine the institution of the House through a lack of restraint in the use of subpoena power.
We cannot simply stand by idly and hope that such a reckless approach to the use of the power of the Chair will not happen, especially since it is not only being promised, but demonstrated by the person who will hold the gavel.
It is a matter of the highest importance that any intemperate use of the power of the Chair be challenged at every turn. Accordingly, I have decided to step forward as a candidate for Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In that capacity, here is my pledge to you and our fellow members ofthe House:
- Zero tolerance for smears and innuendo. Every single statement by Chairman Issa which is lacking in respect for the process of oversight, every unsubstantiated allegation or any publically pronounced assumption which lacks basic fairness will be promptly challenged.
- I will encourage a team approach on the Committee which will tap the talents of all members to actively participate in responding to any abllse of process.
- All members will receive weekly updates of oversight activities to be able to provide input.
- Cooperation with Chairman Issa when, and only when, he proceeds in an even-handed manner which demonstrates basic fairness and respect for due process.
In the past two Congresses, the Domestic Policy Subcommittee, which I chaired, held over sixty hearings and heard testimony from hundreds of witnesses. We received testimony from Democratic and Republican administrations alike, proceeding in a deliberate and methodical manner, through thorough questioning of witnesses.
As Chairman, I worked closely with the Obama Administration. As a result of my advocacy and the multiple hearings that my Subcommittee held on foreclosure prevention, the Treasury Department created a $15 billion nationwide principle reduction program for "underwater" borrowers and now will allow flexibility in the use of federal foreclosure prevention funds by state housing agencies so that they' can hire foreclosure prevention counselors.
Aggressive and thorough oversight is never to be feared. It is a goal. Now, with the change in the leadership of the Committee, we must be ready to preserve that goal tirelessly, courageously and unstintingly. That is the only way we can defend the integrity of congressional oversight from becoming an abusive power.
I ask for your consideration and your vote for Ranking Member of the full Committee.
Dennis J. Kucinich
Chair, Domestic Policy Subcommittee
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Look, I know that Dennis Kucinich is a political figure surrounded with many myths, smears and smirks. He is one of those old school Democrat progressives from the urban cities of the midwest that Republicans and others love to poke fun at as a quick way to marginalize them, their ideas and the working folks they represent. On top of that Dennis is short and—like all folks regularly talking on the boob tube—he can be a bit goofy from time to time on the teevee. He ran for President twice and the dynamics of that just intensify the media desire to fix narrative in stone regardless if there is any basis in fact for them. So John McCain is a 'maverick' and Kucinich is a 'nut'. Turns out neither narrative was true (unless you flip it).
Kucinich is a fighter. He will make Issa's life difficult and call Darrel out on his bullshit hourly if need be. He will cooperate when Issa seeks cooperation and fight him when Issa slips on his red hood as the leader of the Inquisition.
America is filled with stories of people who had problems all their lives until that day when they found themselves in the right spot at the right time. Take Ulysses S. Grant as an example. Before the Civil War his life did not go well. And even during the first few years of the war he had many detractors who sought to push him to the sidelines. In Washington the blue dogs of the day tried to convince Lincoln that he needed to let Grant go. Lincoln responded "I can't spare this man, he fights."
As we look forward to the 112th Congress I sorta feel the same way about Dennis Kucinich. We can not spare this man—he fights. And the best place to put a fighter like Kucinich is as a check on a partisan scoundrel like Issa as the Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
There are many other Committees that Towns could Chair and he should have one of these Chairmanships. He has earned it, but he is a mismatch to the coming hourly partisan warfare Issa has planned for the next two years. To fight the coming investigations of everything Obama we need somebody who has been fighting the powerful all his life. We need Dennis.
Call your favorite Democrats in Congress and ask them to give Kucinich their vote. If we put enough pressure on, at the very least we should get Democrats on that Committee who know that they are a thin blue line holding back a shitload of crazy.