Hypocritical DeWine AWOL from Intelligence Committee

The television ads that Ohio Republican Mike DeWine has run against Democratic Senate opponent Sherrod Brown have not surprised Ohioans. After all, they were treated to a bombardment by the Swift Boat Liars before the 2004 presidential election, so seeing DeWine doctor a video of the burning World Trade Center towers in an ad depicting Brown with the photos of the 9/11 hijackers, must have seemed like a routine page from the GOP slime book -- in fact, that ad was produced for DeWine by the same people who made some of the infamous Swift Boat ads.

And, of course, DeWine's going to do everything he can to make himself look strong on defense -- "While they're fighting for us abroad, he's fighting for them at home," intones one ad -- and, in particular, he's castigated Brown at every turn for allegedly being opposed to a strong American intelligence capability.

What's important for Ohio voters to know is that, while DeWine talks a big game about being strong on terror and a champion of our intelligence services, he has a nasty habit of missing a huge number of meetings held by the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he is fortunate enough to hold -- but not often occupy -- one of 15 critical seats.

According to the Government Printing Office and c-span.org, DeWine has been absent from almost half of all public hearings in the Intelligence Committee, missing at least 48 of 101 meetings held since first receiving the coveted committee assignment in 1995. Indeed, DeWine's attendance ranks as among the worst of anyone on the Intelligence Committee, with only one other member missing more meetings.

DeWine's defenders would incorrectly assert that all of the important business on the Intelligence Committee takes place in closed sessions, so the public hearings that DeWine seems to dislike so much aren't that important. Not so, says people who know something about how the Senate and the Intelligence community operate.

"The public or the open hearings, while they are unclassified, still represent an important part of what the committees do," said Rand Beers, President of the National Security Network and former member of the National Security Council under Presidents Clinton and Bush. "That is because the director of the CIA and now the Director of National Intelligence appear before those committees and make public statements about either the general state of intelligence issues around the world or about particular issues that they may want to talk about -- and that is a way in which the public is in fact informed about the views of the intelligence community."

"Participation by members in those meetings, the asking of public questions for the illumination of the public is an important task. So to suggest that nothing happens there and that they're hardly worth attending is I think a misstatement."

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