I almost feel sorry for Darrell Issa, the California Congressman no one heard of before last Thursday’s meeting of the House Oversight Committee.
Not sorry enough to resist piling on the flaming ashes of his dignity. Not sorry enough to stop fighting his party’s ludicrous waste of my tax dollars agenda. (If the GOP has taught me anything, it’s that my money is mine in perpetuity—before, after and especially during the time any of it goes to visit Uncle Sammy.) And certainly not sorry enough to forgive the far right for inventing my least favorite Republican party game: Stick the Nose (and the ultrasound wand) in the Vagina.
But still … I feel for the man.
After more than a decade in office, Issa finally gets the juice to order himself up his very own Norma Desmond moment—a starring role in televised hearings that people without press passes will actually watch. Who knew he was nowhere near ready for his close-up?
These days even the lowliest intern in Washington knows that politics is all about optics. And however much the backlash over the all-male first panel seems like evidence to the contrary, so do Issa’s staffers. Someone saw to it that Issa had a female staff member sitting next to him, sure to appear on camera every time he leaned in to the mike. (If heads roll over this, why do I feel like hers will be the first to go?) Someone also made sure that the all-male line-up was neither all-white nor all-Christian. So care was taken. No one is pleading ignorance aforethought–no matter how much it seems like the wise thing to do.
The unfortunate truth is that the optics were exactly what the Issa camp ordered–a multicultural, multidenominational parade of patriarchal power, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the frat pack chatted up Coke bottles and pubic hair with Anita Hill.
What surprises me is that the Issa camp doesn’t seem to have seen the power–or expected that others would. I suppose to their minds–and eyes, apparently–the clergy were simply victims of an intrusive, religious freedom-denying state. (The panel’s title, remember, was the unsubtle “Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?”)
The problem for us and them is that they did it with a straight face.