Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), one of the most effective federal legislators in a generation, announced he will retire at the end of this term. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a frequent sparring partner of Waxman, issued a nice statement honoring his fellow Californian’s “long and distinguished career.”
“While I didn’t always agree with Chairman Waxman on matters of both policy and oversight tactics, his tenure helming the Committee set important precedents and innovated new investigative tools such as the use of subpoenas for closed-door depositions.
“A number issues [Waxman] doggedly began to follow during his two years as Chairman such as the use of the White House Office of Political Affairs to advance partisan political agendas with taxpayer funds, the over-classification and pseudo-classification of information to hide embarrassing government blunders, and the problematic use of non-official e-mail accounts for official government business remain on the Committee’s agenda today.”
It is, to be sure, a nice gesture when a member from one party extends best wishes to a member from the other party.
But there’s something about Issa’s praise for Waxman’s investigations that seems odd.
In his press release, note that Issa expressed admiration for some specific efforts launched by Waxman during his two-year tenure as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, including the “use of the White House Office of Political Affairs to advance partisan political agendas with taxpayer funds” and “the problematic use of non-official e-mail accounts for official government business.”
Issa’s not wrong about the merit of Waxman’s efforts during the final two years of the Bush/Cheney presidency, but I was following the Oversight Committee pretty closely at the time and I recall a Republican member of the panel expressing outrage that Waxman would dare launch these investigations.
I believe the member’s name was Darrell Issa.
On the former, Bush’s Office of Political Affairs, as led by Karl Rove, engaged in alleged misconduct over and over again. Investigators later reported that Bush’s political office, in one of the era’s lesser-appreciated scandals, engaged in “a systematic misuse of federal resources.”
When Waxman began looking into this in 2007, Issa not only opposed congressional subpoenas intended to get to the bottom of the story, the Republican also rejected the very idea that there was anything untoward about a White House political office using taxpayer money for partisan purposes since Congress does the same thing. “It’s a little bit of hubris that one body can’t do something without the other body pretending that we don’t do what we do,” he said at the time.
And yet, now Issa is praising Waxman for launching the investigation Issa opposed.
As for using non-official e-mail accounts for official government business, when Waxman began looking into this in 2008, Issa could barely contain his disgust, accusing the committee of becoming a “Peeping Tom.”
“Mr. Chairman,” Issa said at the time to Waxman, “I think what you are doing is going to prove in retrospect to be shameful.”
So much for that idea.