Thursday, January 6, 2011

Darrell Issa And The Napoleonic Code

"There will be a certain degree of gridlock as the president adjusts to the fact that he has been one of the most corrupt presidents of modern times."

Nevermind the fact that Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) for some reason believes President Obama will simply "adjust" to the fact that he's actually a modern day Al Capone. This line--spoken with such conviction on the radio show of a man famous for squeezing out the very worst (read: best) inflammatory statements from his guests only to have them subsequently dial these statements back and then apologize to him for their apparent lack of backbone--reveals quite a bit when trying to predict the impact of Issa's planned hearings on administration activity. Issa is quick to remind us all that elections have consequences and that one of those consequences is the transfer of the power of subpoena. This power, now in his possession, forms a critical duty of the legislative branch: a powerful check on the power of the executive branch. It should be wielded vigorously and where appropriate to ensure the service of justice on behalf of the law and the taxpayers.

It can also be severely abused.

And much like this most famous abuse of congressional inquiry, it seems the individual responsible for determining the scope, target, and tenor of these hearings has already arrived at the conclusion that these hearings will undoubtedly yield evidence of guilt.

Today, the House GOP held a ceremonial reading of the (whitewashed) Constitution in an effort to enlighten those Democrat lawmakers who strayed so far from the founding principles of our country when they increased banks' capital holdings requirements, or something. As I'm sure the rest of you thought "constitution" was what you felt below your tummy when your fiber-to-cheese ratio plummets, I'll enlighten you to the merits of the 6th amendment, which secures the right of the accused to be judged by an impartial jury, among other critical civil rights. Congressional hearings aren't criminal prosecutions of course, but their investigations ought to be guided by the principles of American justice enshrined in the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th amendments as well as the principle of "innocent until proven guilty." But when Darrell Issa--the man in charge of directing these congressional inquiries into the administration's activities within the realms of foreign affairs, health care, justice, and financial regulation--is already so sure of his ability to deliver a "conviction" that would irreparably tarnish the administration's purported ethical conduct, how can the American public be assured that these hearings won't turn into a witch hunt that seeks the damning information it merely assumes exists? The point of hearings is to use the tools of inquiry and investigation as a means to achieving the important goal of effective oversight. But what happens when the chairman of the top congressional oversight committee fails to find evidence that proves that which he already believes? What happens with Issa's fishing yields no dinner? Will he back down, admit defeat, and acknowledge that this administration is committed to transparency and ethics? Or will he press even further and further as a man possessed, determined to vindicate his pre-conceived opinions?

I wonder, had the jury and judge who heard Issa's grand theft auto case, or his unregistered handgun case, adopted the same pre-conceived notion of guilt that Issa is exhibiting, would we even be talking about a Chairman Issa today?

I'm not sure if that thought will cross the good congressman's mind today as he is much too busy embracing regulatory capture while staring longingly at his office art.

Step into the rain:

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