The House Wrath and Forgiveness Committee paraded four more hapless Obamacare functionaries in for ritual humiliation on Wednesday. The committee is formally called Oversight and Government Reform, but the Republicans hurl so much wrath and the Democrats offer so much forgiveness that oversight and reform don’t even get out of bed on meeting day.
Chairman Darrell Issa of California and ranking member Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland nevertheless make the panel worth the price of admission. Words are barely necessary. Body language says it all.
As one talks, the other contorts his body in such a way to create as much distance as possible without actually getting up and moving. Issa holds his head still as his shoulders and torso shift away from Cummings. Eventually, he discovers that his head has to go where his body goes. Cummings tries to disguise the movement, but there’s a perceptible slant in the other direction when Issa talks. He’s the leaning tower of Maryland’s 7th District.
Cummings has the demeanor of a man who has seen every evil under the sun. The rings under his eyes are so pronounced he might have been present when the tablets came down from the mount. God cursed him by making him sit on this committee and encounter ever new levels of depravity, often committed by his own side. Cummings runs those big hands up and over his head and wonders whether it can get worse.
Issa usually finds a way. He’s more of a New Testament person, by way of California and show business. Issa is the supporting actor who believes he deserves top billing. God cursed him by constantly finding someone to challenge his view of himself. Issa gets ornery when that happens. As a result, he doesn’t always stay on point.
Democrats noticed his mood Wednesday and quickly started to bait him. It beats listening to four technology experts from the administration explain why — or for most people, not explain why — things are working.
Massachusetts’ John F. Tierney tweaks Issa for talking four minutes more than he allowed Cummings. Virginia’s Gerald E. Connolly builds a case that Issa and Co. smeared one of the witnesses by selectively leaking documents. Jim Cooper of Tennessee calls the hearing a kangaroo court. Pennsylvania’s Matt Cartwright says the Republicans are circulating a playbook on how to exploit the Obamacare problems for political gain. Tierney baits him a second time by walking a witness into testimony that Issa is telling untruths on national television.
Issa leaps to his own defense. He corrects, adds context, contradicts, pleads ignorance, complains that his words are being disparaged and mischaracterized.
The four guys from Obamacare — Obamacarriers? — must have wondered what the committee needed them for.