Friday, May 16, 2008

Four Years

WGME covers the Iraq war contracting story:

The piece is laudable in a number of respects--it manages to cram a lot of facts into five minutes. And it provides more context than I can remember any of the Maine papers giving readers.

But it does leave a couple of misleading impressions, if only due to time constraints:

1. Hearings aren't just a chance to shame corporate bigwigs on TV (as the voice over implies) or an opportunity for political theatre.

When done right, oversight committees use subpoena power and public testimony to uncover hidden truths and spur action.

In this case, aggressive investigation would have shed light on the scope and seriousness of the war contracting problem. (And it was deadly serious.) Contractors would have scrambled to reform their conduct and the Bush administration would have felt pressure to keep them in line. National outrage would have followed and--almost certainly--legislation.

But because Sen. Collins sat on her hands, none of that happened. Corrupt practices continued, the news trickled out slowly and our war effort suffered as a result.

2. The junior senator suggests that she chose legislative action over hearings, and the broadcast lets her get away with this characterization. But it's bunk: The bill Collins refers to just after 3:00 wasn't passed until late 2007--just a few months ago. (This fact is mentioned in the report's closing seconds, but it's easy to miss.)

Of course, the calls for hearings--even from Collins ally Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT)--stretched all the way back to 2003. And that's when there was a desperate need for action.

Waiting more than four years--till the President's approval ratings have tanked, at the beginning of your own reelection battle, when the worst damage has already been done--that's not leadership. It's not competence.

It's fecklesesness in the face of disaster.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And of course, why did she hold so many hearings about the Katrina aftermath instead of simply passing legislation to get people back in their homes? There are still thousands of New Orleaneans that haven't been able to return - where is Collins on that?

Were those hearings just theatre?