The fall of Rome
Makes Kerry's "sanitized" campaign look pretty good, doesn't it, Matt?
And the cost? Republicans in the Clinton years spent more than $35 million investigating the administration. The total amount of taxpayer funds spent, when independent counsels are taken into account, was more than $150 million. Included in that number was $2.2 million to investigate former HUD secretary Henry Cisneros for lying about improper payments he made to a mistress. In contrast, today's Congress spent barely half a million dollars investigating the outright fraud and government bungling that followed Hurricane Katrina, the largest natural disaster in American history.
"Oversight is one of the most important functions of Congress -- perhaps more important than legislating," says Rep. Henry Waxman. "And the Republicans have completely failed at it. I think they decided that they were going to be good Republicans first and good legislators second."
As the ranking minority member of the Government Reform Committee, Waxman has earned a reputation as the chief Democratic muckraker, obsessively cranking out reports on official misconduct and incompetence. Among them is a lengthy document detailing all of the wrongdoing by the Bush administration that should have been investigated -- and would have been, in any other era. The litany of fishy behavior left uninvestigated in the Bush years includes the manipulation of intelligence on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees, the leak of Valerie Plame's CIA status, the award of Halliburton contracts, the White House response to Katrina, secret NSA wiretaps, Dick Cheney's energy task force, the withholding of Medicare cost estimates, the administration's politicization of science, contract abuses at Homeland Security and lobbyist influence at the EPA.
Waxman notes that the failure to investigate these issues has actually hurt the president, leaving potentially fatal flaws in his policies unexamined even by those in his own party. Without proper congressional oversight, small disasters like the misuse of Iraq intelligence have turned into huge, festering, unsolvable fiascoes like the Iraq occupation. Republicans in Congress who stonewalled investigations of the administration "thought they were doing Bush a favor," says Waxman. "But they did him the biggest disservice of all."
Congress has repeatedly refused to look at any aspect of the war. In 2003, Republicans refused to allow a vote on a bill introduced by Waxman that would have established an independent commission to review the false claims Bush made in asking Congress to declare war on Iraq. That same year, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Porter Goss, refused to hold hearings on whether the administration had forged evidence of the nuclear threat allegedly posed by Iraq. A year later the chair of the Government Reform Committee, Tom Davis, refused to hold hearings on new evidence casting doubt on the "nuclear tubes" cited by the Bush administration before the war. Sen. Pat Roberts, who pledged to issue a Senate Intelligence Committee report after the 2004 election on whether the Bush administration had misled the public before the invasion, changed his mind after the president won re-election. "I think it would be a monumental waste of time to re-plow this ground any further," Roberts said.
Sensenbrenner has done his bit to squelch any debate over Iraq. He refused a request by John Conyers and more than fifty other Democrats for hearings on the famed "Downing Street Memo," the internal British document that stated that Bush had "fixed" the intelligence about the war, and he was one of three committee chairs who rejected requests for hearings on the abuse of Iraqi detainees. Despite an international uproar over Abu Ghraib, Congress spent only twelve hours on hearings on the issue. During the Clinton administration, by contrast, the Republican Congress spent 140 hours investigating the president's alleged misuse of his Christmas-card greeting list.