This week I had the opportunity to speak to Tom Fitton, President of Judicial Watch, about a number of topics affecting both Maryland and the nation at large. We also spoke a little bit about Tom’s book, The Corruption Chronicles: Obama’s Big Secrecy, Big Corruption, and Big Government during our conversation.
monoblogue: The reason I wanted to talk to you – and I briefly got to talk to you at Turning the Tides, and got a copy of your book – what interested me in talking to you was your statement that you work as much in Maryland as you do any other state, based on all the petition drives and other political items we have – at the conference you talked about illegal immigration. Given that you’ve already been involved in our petition process, and knowing that the illegal immigration issue is off the table but that there will be more petitions on issues such as gun control – do you think you’ll be getting more involved in Maryland politics as time goes on?
Fitton: Well, some of these issues are off the table. Illegal immigration continues to be a debate on the law that was passed and upheld via referendum, (but) whether it’s legal or Constitutional I think is a question which could be further litigated. The Left in Maryland is upset with the use of the initiative process to challenge the legislation – some of which was very radical – that came out of the Maryland legislature and was signed by the Governor. They’re seeking to restrict the ability of Marylanders to have a say in their laws through this referendum process.
Obviously, with gun control most publicly on the agenda, that’s something the Left – if gun control is to be passed, there’s going to be heightened interest by the Left in restricting people’s ability to challenge and have a say on that law, or those gun restrictions.
monoblogue: Do you find Maryland is more of a “problem child” state than any other, or is it that it just so happens that it’s our turn in the cycle and maybe this time next year Illinois will be a problem, or New York, or what have you?
Fitton: Maryland doesn’t have any vibrant opposition; it’s a one-party state. That results in legislation and policies which aren’t as smart… in states where you have the vigorous back-and-forth between parties and philosophies, you get policies and legislation that is more commonsense and down the middle of the road. But Maryland seems to be a laboratory for the far left and, as a result, you get policies that are way out there, not only in terms of being bad policy, but even being good law in terms of being valid under the law.
monoblogue: So you’ll be more busy in our state than, say, an Alabama or Oklahoma – states that tend to be more conservative.
Fitton: Well, we are busy. In Maryland we’ve been extremely active, there’s been a lot of bad policy. I don’t want to attribute it to a political party, but certainly liberals are implementing their policies and the rule of law seems to be a secondary consideration in some of their implementations.
monoblogue: Yes, as you said at the conference, “bad policy is usually corrupt,” and Maryland does seem to take the cake – having lived here for several years I know this. You can also extrapolate that on a national level – you wrote The Corruption Chronicles, and that’s 350 pages of Obama’s misdeeds in just three years. (laughs) I don’t know if you’re going to write a second book on the second term, or do you think you have the point made already?
Fitton: Well, the book only touched the surface. We talked about the Clinton years’ corruption, corruption during the Bush years, and obviously the current crisis. This President represents a challenge to those of us who value Constitutional government and the rule of law; a challenge that we haven’t seen in recent memory.
monoblogue: True; like I said, you could write a second book for the second term – that’s not a problem. But I do want to point out that…
Fitton: Well, we could write a second book for the first term.
monoblogue: (laughs) That’s true.
Fitton: The government has grown by about a third, but oversight has actually decreased – Congress used to have five – well, you see this quoted in the book – five thousand oversight hearings a year, more or less, and now it’s down to about three thousand. So our government has increased by a third, but the oversight, at least Congressional oversight, has decreased by an even greater amount. Our government is really truly out of control in the sense that it’s not accountable to Congress and, frankly, if not for independent watchdogs like Judicial Watch and independent, enterprising media, you wonder what would be going on in Washington but for our activities given the lawlessness of so much of what the government’s doing.
monoblogue: Right. And I know from previously knowing a little bit about Judicial Watch (that) you guys are equal-opportunity; if a conservative President does something that you feel is unwise, you’re going to be on them, too. There were a few things you opposed President Bush on, so it’s not – you’re considered a conservative organization, but it’s very much a good-government organization.
Fitton: That’s right. And given the size of government, it’s always hard for it to be good. President Bush was, unfortunately, too much on the side of secrecy and lack of accountability. President Obama was elected, initially, in part as a reaction to that. And there’s good reason President Obama is always talking about transparency, because he understands the American people demanded it of their government. What we found is that his promises of transparency, his promotion of it, is completely at odds with actual policies.
monoblogue: Exactly, but that’s true of a lot of other things.
Fitton: That is true, but when it comes to issues of ethics, transparency, and accountability in government this administration presents challenges to us that we haven’t historically seen before, at least in recent times.
monoblogue: They don’t seem to be letting crises go to waste, that’s for sure. If you look at the problem as a whole, you oversee a large group that is obviously a watchdog, but maybe the better question – and something that could have been covered a little bit better in our brief time listening to you – is what can we do as a citizen about pointing out these things and getting the word out and helping to maybe rein in some of the excesses of government?
Fitton: Well, there are several things – obviously number one, if I can be provincial, is to support Judicial Watch. Secondly, you write letters to the editor to your media and elsewhere and alert your friends and family to these issues, about the importance of government accountability, transparency, and combating corruption, and you pressure Congress to do their job to oversee government activities and to make sure that they, themselves, in Congress are behaving appropriately, too. We see so many Congressional ethics scandals where the ethical transgressions are whisked away with a slap of the wrist – that’s got to end.
Whether you’re Democrat or Republican you care about these transparency and corruption issues; it’s most important that Democrats go after Democrat corruption or Republicans after Republican corruption, because, obviously, Republicans and Democrats have an interest in going after corruption in the other guy’s party, but they don’t look at the speck in their own eyes. It’s up to everyday Americans who are members of these parties and who have influence to say we’ve got to make sure we don’t have any corruption on our side of the table. We have to take partisanship out of policing corruption.
monoblogue: That sounds like a good plan, because many people I know, mostly Republicans but a few Democrats, they’re as interested in good government as I am. Yes, we disagree on the extent of government, but they would like to see clean government that’s efficient, does what it says it’s going to do, and is transparent. Unfortunately, it seems to me that the higher people are in power, the more they want to obfuscate.
Fitton: I agree, and we need the expectation – we have to have the understanding that we’re just not going to tolerate this anymore. Zero tolerance – I hate that phrase…
monoblogue: I do too.
Fitton: …but we have to have a much lower level of toleration for corruption in public office.
monoblogue: So, unfortunately, it seems like you have a neverending job taking care of the mess in both Annapolis and Washington. (laughs) And other state capitals, too.
Fitton: Well, it’s a – oversight and making sure our systems of government run well and are free of corruption certainly is an obligation to anyone who wants to be part of a society that purports to govern itself. I think it’s an obligation, and government has to be managed by its citizens, and be held accountable all the time. So we can never cease the vigilance; it’s the price of citizenship in some ways – citizenship properly understood in areas of making sure the government’s held to account if you really, truly believe in self-government.
monoblogue: We have to be as watchful as you are, is basically what you’re saying.
Fitton: Everyone needs to ask questions, demand accountability, demand information, and demand transparency. I think it comes with the territory for a republican form of government, with a small “r.”
monoblogue: Yes, with a small “r.” But I appreciate this, and it sounds like a good place to stop.
Fitton: Well, thanks Michael. I appreciate your interest in our work, and thanks for promoting it.
monoblogue: I appreciate the time.
While I have a guest in mind for next week, the arrangements haven’t been finalized. Stay tuned.