by Greg Walcher, E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow
As appearing in the Daily Sentinel

Fans of Aaron Sorkin’s classic TV series “The West Wing,” marveled at how realistic some of the strategy sessions seemed. In one episode, the president is being investigated by a special prosecutor for failing to disclose his debilitating disease. Strategists gather in Press Secretary CJ’s office to discuss subpoenas White House staffers have received, and how CJ should handle the bad press. They can’t discredit the prosecutor because he is too well respected on both sides of the aisle. CJ decides they need someone else to lead the investigation, saying, “We need a different enemy.” She proposes impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives!

She explains to the chief of staff why an even bigger investigation would solve the image problem. “We need to be investigated by someone perceived by the American people to be irresponsible, untrustworthy, partisan, ambitious and thirsty for the limelight.” It has become one of the most popular strategies in Washington, diverting attention from any major failing by focusing attention on “a different enemy.”
Last week, political observers were treated to a highly publicized congressional hearing about high gasoline prices, in which Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey) and members of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee blasted oil companies for “ripping off the American people.” The hearing was titled like a non-fiction best-seller, “Gouged at the Gas Station: Big Oil and America’s Pain at the Pump.” Except this was no best-seller. In fact, the hearing was little noticed in the media outside the Washington bubble, so embarrassing was the attempt to redirect public attention from the policies that have led to the highest gas prices in American history.