Faced with law-breaking Bush official, GOP plays the race card
In a hearing Wednesday examining the findings that Bush appointee Lurita Doan of the General Services Administration appeared to violate the Hatch Act by politicking in a federal workplace, several Republican Congressmen played the race card. On a number of occasions, Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led his colleagues in accusing their Democratic counterparts of targeting Doan because she was a black woman and a Republican.
"You're an African-American Republican so you've got a big bull's eye on you," Davis, the former chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said to Administrator Doan at one stage.
Doan was brought before the committee to testify on the Office of Special Counsel investigation that found she violated the Hatch Act during a Jan. 26, 2007 briefing given to GSA political appointees by White House staff from Karl Rove's office. In the briefing, a PowerPoint presentation was given that included slides on vulnerable Congressional districts in the 2008 election where Republicans believed they could regain seats. According to attendees, Doan asked at the end of the meeting how the GSA can "help 'our candidates' in the next elections."
Davis wasn't the only Republican member in the House hearing to make such an allegation.
"You're a Republican, a minority, and a woman, a GOP contributor, and they've targeted you, they're circling you to come after you," said Rep. John Mica (R-FL), who objected to the hearing at various occasions.
Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) also said, "I find that when an African-American is a Republican, somehow, she is treated differently by Congress."
One African-American Democratic congress member objected strongly to the Republican representatives' use of race in the proceedings.
"I am a female and I am an African-American, and I resent the fact that race and gender is always thrown into it," said Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA). "I do not feel that this committee, or the chairman of this committee would ever bring you in front of us because you're a woman, and you're black."
Doan compares critics to racist bullies
Doan for her part admitted that she didn't believe she was being targeted because she was a black woman.
"I believe this hearing has a completely different agenda that even I probably am not aware of and not experienced about, I think this is a political thing. I don't think this is a race thing," she said.
But Doan also started off her testimony in a prepared statement by comparing her critics to racist bullies she encountered in her youth.
"I grew up in Ninth Ward in New Orleans and being one of the first minority students in all white school taught me a lot about how to deal with unfairness, harassment, and hostile environments," she declared. "Quitting would be far worse that persevering the face of adversity."
The Committee's Chairman, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), pointed out at one stage that race had been raised first by Rep. Davis. He made note of the fact after Davis accused the Committee's Democrats of making the hearing focus on race.
"The race and gender issue didn't come from Mrs. Doan. It was interjected on the other side today by introducing a two year old e-mail that they had discovered from you that you sent to the administration...when you were looking to be the head of the Small Business Administration," Davis argued. "She has never brought this in to this context, this was brought up by the other side, and now they're trying to make it look like you're hiding behind it."
The e-mail in question, brought up by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), was used to contradict Doan's claim that she was interested only in public service, and not in partisan political position.
"I believe that the party has a unique opportunity to make about a 5% swing of the black votes to the GOP....small black business owners who represent the largest percentage of participants in the various [Small Business Administration] programs," Doan wrote in an e-mail to the White House's Al Hubbard prior to joining the Bush administration when she sought to be appointed head of the SBA. "As the SBA administrator I would have an unparalleled ability to serve as an articulate and passionate ambassador for the president's agenda and at same time be in a position to encourage both funding and votes to the GOP."
Cummings pointed out the contradiction with her earlier statements.
"You said earlier that you weren't interested in the political stuff, the partisan stuff," the African-American Democrat from Maryland said. "When we combine everything it leans more toward not pure truthfulness under oath, than truthfulness, and I'm sitting here, I'm trying to get where do you stand in all of this....where do the mistakes end, and the truth begin?"
Waxman calls on Doan to resign from her post
Waxman and his fellow Democrats concluded that the OSC's findings against Doan were accurate, and the Chairman called on her to resign at the end of the hearing.
"This is my opinion, but it's unusual for me to call for the resignation of a federal official," the California Democrat said. "But in your case, I don't see any other course of action that will protect the interests of your agency and the federal tax payer."
Davis and other committee Republicans objected to the manner and the findings of the Special Counsel's report.
"The OSC report is remarkably harsh and hyperbolic, and extremely short on support," Davis said in his opening statement. "The report cites no evidence. There are not footnotes, no exhibits. OSC says they 'interviewed over 20 individuals in attendance' at the Jennings presentation. But the report quotes testimony from zero attendees. Why didnít they talk to all attendees? How did they choose?"
He also accused the OSC of violating Doan's rights.
"Lurita Doan was not afforded basic due process rights, such as an opportunity to review the testimony submitted against her," he added.
One Republican, Rep. Shays, admitted that Doan had done some inappropriate things, but thought she only deserved a reprimand, not the level of scrutiny she had so far received.
"There are two things that happened that I think shouldn't have happened - a meeting shouldn't have happened," he said first, then adding, "A comment shouldn't have been made, 'how can we help our candidates.'"
For her own part, Doan showed no inclination to resign, at one point dismissing the investigation as "a game of political gotcha, with me as the 'gotchee.'" She said that her fate was in the hands of President Bush, who is reviewing the Special Counsel's report.
"He'll make a decision, and I'll live with it," she told the committee.