Monday, January 3, 2011

Some advice for a new chairman

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) is the incoming chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  The Committee's chief role is to monitor the workings of government (oversight) and fix what's broken (reform).  It doesn't enact the laws and regulations that govern us directly, but rather the laws and regulations that govern those who carry out the laws.  Those oldest of enemies, "waste, fraud and abuse" are its meat and drink.

Issa has let it be known he plans a very aggressive agenda, with an average of a hearing a day (thank goodness I'm no longer working on Capitol Hill!) and vigorous investigation of the executive branch.  He thinks he could possibly save $200 billion, all told.  Happy hunting.

While I appreciate his optimism and think a little additional oversight is a good thing (oversight lacks when both parties control Congress and the executive branch), it's clear that Issa really needs to step up his own performance when it comes to public statements.

Most notably, Issa called President Obama "one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times."  Now, this is utter nonsense (though arguably not much dumber than some of what was said about Obama's predecessor - it comes with the territory in these partisan times), but its the sort of thing politicians say all the time when they're hyperventilating on partisan talk radio and TV shows with some talking head urging them on.  The difference is, Mr. Issa, you're no longer the irrelevant backbencher who needed to say outrageous things in order to get the media to pay attention, but the Chairman of a congressional committee with subpoana authority.

Fortunately, Mr. Issa seems to get it, saying he regretted his language and trying to explain it in context of an administration that has (thanks to Congress mind you) a large amount of discretionary authority, the kind that Congress rotuinely gives the President in a crisis. 

For his sake and ours, I hope Issa grows in office, and focuses on his stated priorities:

1. Impact of regulation on job creation.
2. Fannie/Freddie & the Foreclosure Crisis
3. Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and the failure to identify origins of the financial crisis
4. Combating corruption in Afghanistan
5. WikiLeaks
6. FDA/Food & Drug Safety.

The lesson here is when you move from the minority to the majority, your demeanor and style need to change as well.

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