It was a performance for the ages.
“You cannot have a one-sided investigation,” shouted Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the Ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “There is something absolutely wrong with that. And it’s absolutely un-American.”
His tirade–and it should be noted that while Cummings was yelling Issa remained composed and calm–was an instant made-for-YouTube moment, and I suspect that was exactly the point.
If anything, this moment personifies the entire reason why Cummings is the ranking member today.
People forget that the panel’s former chairman, Edolphus “Ed” Towns (D-NY), was in-line to be the leading Democrat on the Committee, but the Democratic Leadership pushed him out and Cummings was instilled (over the more senior Carolyn Maloney) for the sole purpose of obstructing the investigations led by incoming Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA).
After Towns was successfully shoved aside and Maloney passed-over, Cummings boasted to Politico that he was eager to take on Issa, saying, “I live in the neighborhood where The Wire was filmed…”
From the very beginning, it was clear that Cummings was put in that position to do everything possible to obstruct oversight over the Obama Administration.
When the Attorney General refused to turn over documents that could have shed light on the inner workings of the botched gun-operation known as Fast & Furious, Elijah Cummings was silent.
When then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice went on national television to mislead the American people about the terrorist attack that killed four innocent Americans in Benghazi, Elijah Cummings was silent.
When the IRS was caught targeting conservatives, and the Obama Administration tried to pass of the lie that the effort was limited to two employees in an office in Cincinnati, Cummings declared that the “case is solved.”
And then came today’s performance.
For the second time in less than a year, Lois Lerner, the former Director of Tax-Exempt Organizations at the IRS, asserted her 5th Amendment right to remain silent.
Right on cue, Cummings went Al Pacino (And Justice for All) on everyone, but his outrage doesn’t stem from the fact that, yet again, the person who can unlock the truth about what really happened at the IRS but refuses to speak; that would be too obvious and actually make sense.
Instead, Cummings directed his ire at the Committee’s chairman for adjourning the hearing and launched into a riveting display of righteous indignation.
“You cannot have a one-sided investigation…” – but wait a minute – whose fault is it that it’s one-sided?
Cummings already dismissed the investigation in May of 2013 and declared on national television that the Committee should “move on.”
He can’t really express outrage that he isn’t a part of an investigation he already forfeited his place in by saying the case was “solved?”
I’m sure the Committee would welcome the input and perspective of the Obama Administration, but the one person who has the most knowledge about the entire “targeting” program will only talk if she is granted immunity.
Now ask yourself: if you have nothing to hide, if no wrong-doing was committed, if there isn’t even a “smidgen of corruption” as President Obama famously declared in a Super Bowl Sunday interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, then why won’t Lerner talk without the protection of immunity?
During his outburst, Cummings asked, “What are we hiding?”
Wouldn’t it have been nice if he directed that question to the witness instead?
Kurt Bardella is a former Senior Advisor and Spokesperson for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and is the President of Endeavor Strategic Communications, a PR-firm that represents Issa for Congress.