Bilateral Commentary

Party before Country?

Author:  Dr. Anthony Bryson

This above caricature is of Utah Congressman, Jason Chaffetz.  Mr. Chaffetz is a Republican and the Chair of the House Oversight Committee.  He is the shining example of everything that is wrong with our political system, and why our discourse is failing.  This is the face of hypocrisy and political hackery.  This is the face of abusing one’s position of power.

Mr. Chaffetz will tell you that he is only interested in open conversation and representing the interests of all Americans, but his actions say otherwise.  He accused people in attendance at his recent town hall of being from out of state, claiming law enforcement fed him this information.  Even after a great level of fact checking in regards to this claim, proving it to be false, Mr. Chaffetz did not stop from continuing to forward this weak narrative. 

In a NPR interview Chaffetz goes on to say he doesn’t mind criticism, but then states the crowd’s reactions at his town hall were over the top and filled with undue anger, considering them attempts to intimidate and bully.  Mr. Chaffetz should spend a little time watching the C-SPAN broadcasts of the kangaroo court he claims to be an Oversite Committee.  He might come away with a little understanding of the anger and distain for the job he is doing and exactly why the majority of the public is not happy with the performance or behavior of his Committee.

The House Oversight Committee has a sometimes complex job.  Their mission, as identified on their own website, is to “work with our colleagues in the minority to exercise effective oversight over the federal government and will work proactively to investigate and expose waste, fraud, and abuse.”  Their mission statement, while extremely long and wordy, states, “We exist to secure two fundamental principles. First, Americans have a right to know that the money Washington takes from them is well spent. And second, Americans deserve an efficient, effective government that works for them. Our duty on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee is to protect these rights.”

Someone need remind Mr. Chaffetz of something else mentioned in the Oversight Committee’s mission statement.  It also says, “Our solemn responsibility is to hold government accountable to taxpayers, because taxpayers have a right to know what they get from their government. We will work tirelessly, in partnership with citizen-watchdogs, to deliver the facts to the American people and bring genuine reform to the federal bureaucracy.”  When a large group of citizens, regardless of their tone of communication, demands that your Committee take action into the investigation of those in the Executive, the wrong answer is to suggest you wait for evidence to come forward, not when there is a very public dossier of information suggesting wrong doing on part of that very executive.  You also don’t double down on the stupid and try to suggest that you are trying to be fair, not on the heels of a series of investigations in the happenings in Benghazi, many of which were considered political witch hunts to do nothing more than damage the electability of a particular candidate for President, Ms. Hillary Clinton.  These investigations were kicked off by Mr. Chaffetz’s own Oversight Committee, and the seven that followed (The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; The House Committee on Foreign Affairs; The House Committee on the Judiciary; The House Committee on Armed Services; The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; The House Select Committee on Benghazi), have all come to the conclusion that there was no criminal wrong doing and just allowed for loud criticism to be leveled at the Obama Administration. 

The job of this committee is to investigate possible wrong doing and make recommendations for action by other departments.  This is how government works.  There are checks and balances in place which prevent any one branch of government, or department thereof, from having the power to play judge, jury, and executioner.  Mr. Chaffetz does not believe this to be true.  He believes that he has the right to say what should and should not be investigated and only his interpretation of what is considered evidence is enough to sway his position.  Mr. Chaffetz believes he has the right to not only play judge, jury, and executioner, but also decide what cases make appearances in his kangaroo court.

Mr. Chaffetz also claims he looks for bipartisan support, but only if that support complies with his view of issues.  The Ranking Member on the House Oversight Committee, Democrat Elijah Cummings, lashed out at the Chairman’s behaviors, claiming that Chaffetz prefers to launch “fishing expeditions into whistle blowers” instead of investigating important matters, like the connections between a hostile foreign government and Executive branch of our government.  This is yet another example of Republicans looking past the criminal behavior of their own and instead wanting to permanently silence those who have the integrity to step forward and expose the wrong-doing in the first place.  Mr. Cummings submitted a written request that the House Oversight Committee, the Committee of which he is the ranking member, to investigate Donald Trump’s financial arrangements for potential conflicts of interest, prior to Mr. Trump being sworn into office.  Mr. Chaffetz displayed the height of arrogance and ignorance of the importance of this request, and the execution of his office, when he denied the request, saying the evidence was not strong enough to conduct an investigation.  Color me jaded, but Mr. Chaffetz doesn’t understand the very role he provides.  Aren’t investigations the process by which evidence is discovered?

The refusal of the Chairman of the Oversight Committee to conduct an investigation into something as damaging as Russian influence with the current administration is frustrating to this citizen.  This is extremely annoying considering Mr. Chaffetz is on the record as stating House Republicans were preparing for “years of investigations into Hillary Clinton.”  How much credibility does it bring to an individual’s office when they are charged with providing oversight, and will provide oversight only of those on the other team?  When Mr. Chaffetz refuses to do his job, and provide oversight to those in positions of power, even those on his team, he does damage to not only our government, but also our democracy.  At a time when we are divided, we need our government to show leadership and put country before party.  That is where the problems lay.  Party is now more important to these people than the country they are supposed to represent.  And they wonder why the people are angry?

Dr. Bryson is an adjunct faculty member at Fielding Graduate University, teaching classes in media and political psychologies.  He is the author of the book, The Trump Card: The Long Game of Discrediting Media and Influencing Elections.

Illustration courtesy of DonkeyHotey (DonkeyHotey/flickr)