In 1995, Republicans surprised the Democrats – capturing the US House and Senate, first time since 1952. Adding eight Senate seats and 54 House seats, Republicans – under aggressive House Speaker Newt Gingrich – began the most intensive congressional investigations of a Democrat administration in history. We are there again – primetime for investigations.
As Staff Director and Chief Counsel for the US House Oversight’s largest subcommittee – the one investigating Clinton’s Justice, Defense, State, NASA and other agencies – my job was to set strategy, get buy-in, assure investigations were well-targeted, substantive, and produced results for taxpayers.
The main objective was not “gotcha game” or impeachment, although Clinton’s Attorney General, Janet Reno, was eventually held in contempt, criminal referrals to her was made for other administration conduct, and another committee – and in time the entire House – did pursue an issue that resulted in Bill Clinton’s House impeachment. Our job was simpler – find the glaring failures and fix them.
The focus of oversight at Justice was – not surprisingly – DOJ, FBI, and ATF failures, internal conflicts, half-truths, political acts, and cover-ups. We found them, by the dozens, and excuses for them.
We conducted months-long investigations into the avoidable tragedy at Waco, acts taken for political reasons, laws left unenforced, and behaviors aimed at covering up these missteps.
We investigated the Clinton Administration’s missteps that allowed what we thought, at the time, was rampant drug abuse, overdoses, crime, border penetration, and failed international cooperation. Mid-1990s, we lost more than 8,000 young people to drug overdoses, trafficking grew. We thought this was a national tragedy. Last year, 2021, more than 100,000 young people overdosed and died, avoiadable.
To the credit of many mid-level and non-political leaders, such as DEA Administrators Constantine and Marshall, Coast Guard Commandants Kramek and Loy (plus former Commandant Yost), FBI Director Freeh, and others – the policies were corrected, drug-related metrics improved, and we made progress.
Notably, progress against drug abuse, drug crime (still the largest source nationally), drug trafficking, and greater international cooperation – including Plan Colombia, which stabilized the region and was later described by one Colombian Ambassador as “the greatest US foreign policy success since WWII” – was a product of intensive, unremitting, truth-seeking, and oversight by Congress.
At Defense, we dug into everything from strategic defense (i.e., why no ballistic missile defenses?) to defense inventory management (i.e.. why the waste), from political decisions undermining readiness (i.e., why social experimentation, where does that lead?) to program management (i.e., why cost overruns?), from threats to responses, investment to deterrence.
Ironically, many of these questions need asking now – and in a much bigger way, as China lays in 1000 ICBMs, Russia and North Korea threaten to use nuclear weapons, Iran looks to build them, and half the world is on fire. Same on waste, putting politics above readiness, social experimentation over winning wars, poor program management, horrific recruiting and retention, and wobbly leadership.
At State, the same can be said. Poor decisions, waste, blunders, bad priorities, indefensible actions in Afghanistan, appeasement of China, money given to the Taliban, fake peace with Iran, the list goes on and on. All this is an invitation for oversight, and for course correction.
At NASA, the world turns, and now we have no Shuttle program, no follow-on that is ready to pick up where Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury left off, are getting eclipsed by China, soon others. The private sector has picked up where leadership has stumbled elsewhere, and it seems everyone takes credit. Progress is being made, but not at a rate that any Apollo astronaut – and most Americans – wanted.
Meantime, we have a White House, President and Vice President, today – who strain the use of vocabulary. President Biden is in a state of visible, dangerous, mental decline, more prone to mistake where he is, what he is saying, and to whom than any president in history. His Vice President makes the notions of self-promotion, shallow understanding, and giggling over death and security seem acceptable. They are not.
So, the oversight Olympics are before us – a need for heavy lifting, fast-paced investigative and legal running, deep dives, and a serious focus on what counts, on issues like the economy, overspending, waste, public corruption, misuse and abuse of power, accelerating crime, border penetration, drug trafficking and overdoses, failed leadership across the board.
The time has come, once again, for accountability – and may we all pray, with a sense of seriousness of purpose, focus on reality, and commitment to the future – that we can get this right. This Congress has more than a chance to get it right. They have the moral, political, and geopolitical obligation to do so.
Unlike 1995, the world today is filled with palpable, inward-leaning, immediate threats, many abroad and originating abroad, but many at home, too. The world that this congressional oversight team surveys is perilous. Their work is critical if we are to get this Nation back on track. So, let us begin. That’s what this election was – in large measure – about, getting back on track. Let us do it.
We hope you've enjoyed this article. While you're here, we have a small favor to ask...
Support AMAC Action. Our 501 (C)(4) advances initiatives on Capitol Hill, in the state legislatures, and at the local level to protect American values, free speech, the exercise of religion, equality of opportunity, sanctity of life, and the rule of law.Donate Now