Stannard: A crisis of trust

Editor’s note: This op-ed is by Bob Stannard of Manchester Center. It originally appeared in the Bennington Banner.

The good news is that Congress is doing something. The bad news is that it’s nothing of substance. Are they doing everything they possibly can to turn the economy around? Are they working hard to ensure that people won’t lose their homes and those that have might stand a prayer of getting them back? Are they working to reduce the national debt by taking a much closer look at military spending and/or government subsidies of corporations?

You wish. Last week your hard earned tax dollars went to passing legislation reaffirming that our national motto is “In God We Trust”; just like it says on our currency. This was good work, because like most of you, I had no idea that our national motto was under attack.

This important initiative came from Rep. J. Randy Forbes; R-Va., and chair of the Congressional Prayer Caucus. The big surprise here is not that we have a Republican fixated on yet another distraction but that we actually have a Congressional Prayer Caucus.

What is particularly interesting is that when the Republicans conquered the House in 2010, they immediately passed a rule disallowing symbolic resolutions, rightfully declaring them a waste of time and money. They were trying to head off having the Democrats putting forth a resolution honoring our troops. It’s not that the Republicans have a problem with honoring our troops, but they do have a problem with Democrats taking credit for doing so.

Now I know what you’re thinking. There must be something more important for our well-paid, fully healthcare-covered public officials to do than this, and you’d be right. Now that the heavy lifting of passing the national motto resolution has been successfully completed it’s off to more important matters: subpoenas.

On Thursday, Nov. 3, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted (not surprisingly) along party lines to subpoena the White House for documents pertaining to the failed Solyndra Corp. You may recall this was a solar company supported by President Obama that failed in spite of receiving $500 million in loans from the government. The Republican-controlled committee is convinced that there was some hanky-panky involved in this loan, and gosh darn it they’re going to force the White House to cooperate and come forward with information.

You may recall the last time a White House was subpoenaed. The Bush administration was subpoenaed for information regarding the administration’s response to global warming. The subpoena was issued only after stonewalling from President Bush, who refused any and all requests for information from Congress.

Unlike President Bush, President Obama has been cooperating with the House committee by turning over no less than 85,000 pages of documents. Using the force and threat of a subpoena on one who is currently cooperating seems a little partisan, don’t you think?

In a statement, Rep. Ed Markey; D-Mass, said:

In my 35 years in Congress, I have presided over the issuance of only one subpoena in the time I served as a committee chairman. It, too, concerned an environmental policy matter that began during the Bush administration. But unlike this subpoena, for every single internal White House email related to Solyndra, the one I issued was issued on a bipartisan basis, with my ranking Republican member, Jim Sensenbrenner, fully supporting my efforts to learn more about the Bush Administration’s response to global warming.

It was a bipartisan effort because we exhausted all other avenues for obtaining the information from the Bush administration first. That hasn’t happened here.

The Obama Administration has been cooperating with the committee and has said it would continue to do so. The White House just yesterday offered to share internal White House emails on all the issues that are being debated about the Solyndra loan guarantee.

By contrast, what my subpoena requested was just two documents. One of these had been attached to a single email that EPA sent, but that the White House never even opened. The Bush administration White House didn’t just refuse to provide them voluntarily – they refused to comply with the subpoena at all until the Select Committee scheduled a business meeting to consider a contempt motion.”

In his statement, Rep. Markey also offered this distinguishing difference:

“In stark contrast to today’s zeal for issuing subpoenas to the White House, yesterday Republicans were singing a very different tune. Over in the Natural Resources Committee, Republicans voted unanimously against my motion to subpoena the CEOs of BP, Transocean, Halliburton and Cameron who refused – that’s right – refused – to appear at a hearing before the committee.

“We weren’t asking for hundreds of thousands of pages of emails or documents. We just wanted the opportunity to question them about the environmental catastrophe that actually was the result of illegal activity.”

It’s pretty clear what’s wrong with our country today. Some of our leaders are more concerned with getting back in power than addressing the needs of our nation. Thus, we might as well reaffirm our national motto, “In God We Trust,” because we can by no means trust those behind such ridiculous, partisan maneuvers.

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  • Barry Kade

    As an atheist and believer in the First amendment, I have long been offended by the printing of “In God We Trust” on my currency. Thanks to the use of my debit card, I have forgotten about my long standing practice of using a Sharpie to block the offensive language out. Thanks for reminding me Congress.

  • timothy k price

    When politicians frame the issues and manipulate the limits of what is and what isn’t important, it is a God send to have a gifted free person step up to the public microphone and tell it like it is. The politicians may not get it but the people do.

  • Alex Barnham

    What offends me the most is seeing the World Trade Centers in free-fall.

    What also offends me is hearing about hundreds of thousands of people dead due to weapons, cigarettes, obesity, and starvation.

    What also offends me is petty foolishness and no one seems to be able to fix it.

    The most powerful nation on earth seems to be suffering from mental fibrillation. Does abundance bring us to this point of insanity?