Memo to the White House: Lawyer Up and Don't Shred Documents
One of the consequences of the GOP takeover of the House will be a series of hearings by various committees to explore how the Obama team ran the executive branch over the last two years.
The media (with the notable exception of a few outlets) certainly never did its job as the fourth branch of government. Congress-run by Democrats-had a hands off and eyes averted approach to the actions of the White House. This will change in January when Republican take over the various committees (led by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee under Chairman Darrell Issa who recently pointed out an interest in investigating ACORN), call hearings, and issue subpoenas. Hallelujah!
Just to keep the Obama team on the straight and narrow, the GOP is expected to urge Obama officials not to shred documents. The Hill reports:
No one is accusing the Obama administration of destroying documents, but Republicans are expected to try to ensure that all records - on a range of issues - are kept intact.
Darrell West, a political scientist and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, said Republicans likely will formally ask the administration not to shred or delete any relevant documents that could be requested in a congressional probe.
"That'll happen right away, because they want to make sure that the documentary record is preserved so that they have something to investigate," said West.
I am sure there will be a surfeit of actions and policies to investigate. Issa and other committee chairmen will enjoy a target-rich environment. Take your pick: ACORN, the purported Sestak job offer, the financial regulation bill, laxity of immigration enforcement, the hijinks behind the passage of ObamaCare, and more to come.
But it is not only the right who is signaling to the Obama team what their course of action should be until the GOP formally takes over the House.
Democratic veterans have some advice for Obama officials, too: lawyer up.
Democratic strategists say President Barack Obama needs to act fast to make sure that one of the most tangible consequences of the Republican takeover of the House - an army of GOP committee chairman seeking confidential executive branch deliberations - doesn't swamp the day-to-day work of the White House.
Veterans of the contentious battles of the Clinton administration warn that the Obama White House is entirely unprepared for the level of scrutiny it is about to experience. "They've already been complaining that they're beleaguered by Congress," said one veteran Democratic strategist. "I don't think [White House aides] have the slightest idea what they're facing."
Legislative gridlock may be the least of the White House's worries over the next two years if its staff must respond to dozens of subpoenas seeking details on the implementation of the health care reform law, stimulus spending and the personnel issues that arise in every administration.
Lawyering up poses problems for Barack Obama as it will further belie the hypocrisy behind his campaign promise that his administration would be transparent. The GOP could make political hay if Barack Obama stonewalls or claims executive privilege to shield actions of his team from our representative's scrutiny. Some people suggest the Obama team could respond by burying the Republican with a blizzard of paper that will bring on the onset of snow blindness and thus slow the investigations.
Let the games begin.