So you got me (Wally) tonight.
Jason Chaffetz is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He sits on the Oversight Committee and chairs its Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations.
This was the first hearing I've attended where he was the Chair. So I thought I'd grab grading him. Sometimes Kat does that but I know she had something she wanted to bring up about the Ranking Member, so I'm grabbing this instead.
I'm not an easy grader. I will give "A"s. But I don't just hand out praise -- especially to members of Congress who will now have the best health care for life because they were in Congress (even if for just one term -- even if they resign in disgrace) and they get paid good money.
But based on today's performance, I would give Chaffetz an A+, not an A, an A+.
And, in case you don't know, I'm a Democrat and he's a Republican. I'm not letting partisanship enter into my grading. I'm grading on the abilities he demonstrated today.
There are Democrats that I loosely know, via C.I., that I wouldn't hail as A+ or even A. I would give Carl Levin, in the Senate, an A+ for his work Chairing the Senate Armed Services Committee and I would give Bob Filner an A+ for his past work Chairing the House Veterans Affairs Committee (the House flipped in the 2010 elections so Filner is no longer the Chair).
A strong Chair is someone who follows the rules first and foremost. I wasn't concerned about the time limits because it was just the Chair and the Ranking Member (no other members of the Subcomittee bothered to attend).
Chaffetz first and foremost had the witnesses swear in. I think that needs to be done every time. Kat's shared her belief in the past on that as well (she thinks it too).
There's a VA doctor, for example, that every time he appears before the Senate or the House just lies and lies. And if that's harsh to you, you should hear a friend of ours that attends the hearings, an Iraq War veteran, who rips that doctor apart for his lies. If that doctor were under oath, I have to wonder if he'd be so eager to lie?
So I really do support the witnesses being put under oath.
My other big issue is I hate, HATE, witnesses who run out the clock. When Bush was in the White House, I would grit and grind my teeth every time Condi Rice was asked a question at a hearing we attended. She deliberately -- it happened all the time -- tried to play beat the clock and run it out so she wouldn't have to answer. It was like a student who didn't do the homework bluffing their way through an oral exam. (I'm sure Condi did the work. I'm not accusing her of being lazy, just of attempting to deceive Congress.)
This administration's best witness is Hillary Clinton. That's because she answers the questions. She knows how not to, she served in the Senate. She could easily avoid the questions. (Eric Holder certainly does, in my opinion.) But she'll answer at length while staying on the topic.
Other than her, I've not been impressed with the limited number of witnesses from the administration. (Limited? They refuse to let most of their people testify. It's not just that now-former White House Social Director, it's a lot more.)
Chaffetz asked a question. He was happy to let someone answer. But, for example, when Patrick Kennedy repeatedly attempted to avoid the question, Chaffetz cut him off and asked the question again.
And you really need to do that. In both houses of Congress. But especially in the House where they get so much less time to question (in the House, they just get five minutes).
The last main category would be preparation. Chaffetz was prepared. He came ready to ask questions about a Wartime Contracting Commission report, about a news article, about this and that, he was prepared. But not by rote. He could and did adapt throughout the questioning.
Other than that he's a Republican, I don't know anything about Chaffetz. I don't know what state he's from or anything like that. I don't know his record. I probably wouldn't agree with his record since we're on opposite sides of the fence. But if he approaches his job like he did the hearing, his constituents are very lucky. He took the job seriously, he showed up prepared and when witnesses thought they could snow him, he set them straight real damn quick.
And now here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"