Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Oversight

Firedoglake quotes Brazile's subscription-only commentary:
The progressive blogosphere is on fire right now. Web loggers are pumped up about the effort by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) to censure President Bush for breaking the law on domestic surveillance and taking matters into his own hands.... The message from the left-leaning blogosphere is clear: Democrats should understand the real issue. The point is not censure or impeachment; it is Congress’ lack of oversight and its failure to hold anyone accountable for major mistakes or missteps. And especially, it’s about clearly misleading the American public.
I got to sit down with Nancy Boyda, who is running against Jim Ryun in the Kansas Second. I raised the issue of oversight, and she made the point that until Washington changes, "you can't put enough oversight on to it."

We need more oversight. It isn't just the NSA surveillance, it's the Republican War on Science, it's the lack of skepticism about pre-war intelligence that turned out to be wrong, it's the failure of the House Ethics Committee to censure any of the members of Congress tied to and even convicted of corruption. It's making sure that money allocated to Iraqi reconstruction doesn't get embezzled or lost.

People don't trust government and they shouldn't. Unfortunately, our founding fathers didn't envision an age of partisan politics, they imagined that the three branches of government would compete, and in their competition would hold the nation to the straight and narrow. Partisanship means that a Republican White House and a Republican Congress share an interest that can outweigh the interest each branch has in preserving its own prerogatives.

As Congressman Moore told me:
There's something to be said for divided government, where one party doesn't have total control. When one party controls the House, the Senate and the Presidency. If they stick together they can jam through anything they want to. And our system really has been built for the last two hundred years on checks and balances, and there's been no check right now, and no balance.
We need to return to that, not because I want my side to win (however you demark "my side"), but because this is how America wins. Reconstruction aid lost in Iraq is instability left to take root, and it's dead soldiers. Biologists kept from doing their jobs monitoring the effects of gas wells on wildlife are hunting grounds lost to a new generation of hunters, and historic vistas destroyed. Failure to take a stand on domestic spying, on torture, or on extrajudicial detentions weakens our hand in pressing China, Myanmar or Sudan on human rights, consigning another generation in those and many other nations to lives in fear.

Congress exists for three purposes: to allocate funds, to make the laws, and to oversee how the funds are spent and laws applied. This Congress has had no problem allocating funds, nor any trouble legislating on matters that don't concern them (e.g., the Schiavo intervention). Oversight has fallen by the wayside, and they've essentially allowed the executive branch to operate on trust. That isn't how it's supposed to be. We aren't supposed to trust the government, and the Congress is supposed to be a vehicle for checking how the government operates.

Send a new team to Congress.