On July 25, 2014, an incredible statement was uttered by a Member of the United States House of Representatives. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) informed the other members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that We The People “…don’t have a right to know everything in a separation-of-powers government, my friend.” While that “my friend” was directed to one of the Republicans on the panel, she was, in fact, making this outlandish assertion to every citizen of the United States of America. This particular hearing had been called by Chairman Darrel Issa (R-CA) to discuss another outlandish assertion, one made by White House political affairs head David Simas, that the White House has “absolute immunity” – apparently the excuse offered for his twice failing to appear before the committee in exercising its Constitutionally-mandated role of oversight.
Oh really? Other than situations of National Security, top secret/classified information, this notion is news to me and to anyone who has an understanding of the form of government set up by our Founders and Drafters, why they constructed it such in the first place. Visitors from other nations have expressed marvel and delight at the ability to sit in the House gallery and witness first-hand the debates and votes taken on the record for this piece of legislation or that. “This could never happen in my country” has been uttered time and again by people from closed nations run by dictators, tyrants; they appreciate our wonderful system in which the business of the People is carried out in front of them. Or so we are informed when we learn about our country in grammar school; the reality of corrupt politics has made this less true over the years since the ink was drying on the parchment.
The truth is that government exists because of We The People. We fund it, we elect Representatives to take our collective place, we make them aware of just what it is we require government to do and not to do. This all goes toward the tradition, nay, the mandate that everything about all aspects of government save, as I said, National Security issues, shall be open to our inspection, our review, our disagreement. As I wrote in June when questioning Michelle Obama’s formative education due to the statements she was making to newly-minted citizens, I now question the same of Ms. Norton. Was she out the semester they taught Civics 101?
The rest of Norton’s statement was: “That is the difference between a parliamentary government and a separation-of-powers government.”
An odd manner of describing the comparison. It would have been more accurate for her to say our difference is between a Representative Republic and a monarchy, the form of government our Founders felt was so secretive and abusive they dissolved the bonds we had to it and created a new nation. In a Representative Republic, no man is above the law, not even the sitting president. Thus we are entitled to know any and all that is going on, since it is done on our behalf. Ms. Norton should re-read The Gettysburg Address, quite short so it shouldn’t take up too much of her time:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather, to be dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion –that we here highly resolve that these shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
As a matter of fact, my friend, we do indeed have a right to know everything.