Governing in Crisis is intended to help both policymakers and interested citizens, whatever their positions or political leanings, to better understand the important governance issues that seem to be arising all too frequently. It is offered in the hope that we will emerge from the COVID-19 crisis not only with our economy restored and with our basic values intact, but on a committed journey to an even better America.
The Role of Oversight in our Democracy - Deputy Staff Dir. & Chief Counsel Susanne Sachsman Grooms
The checks and balances built into our federal system of government deliberately create a level of ongoing tension between its three branches. Among the main checks on executive power are congressional investigations and oversight, designed to ensure that our government is operating effectively and efficiently and in ways that meet the needs of the American people. In recent years, tensions related to congressional oversight have become more pronounced and more public, as investigations have been resisted, subpoenas have been ignored, inspectors general have been removed from office, and the President has been impeached. Susan Sachsman Grooms, Deputy Staff Director and Chief Counsel for the Democratic Staff of the Committee on Oversight and Reform of the U.S. House of Representatives, discusses the authority of Congress to investigate and the need for oversight of the executive branch. She also discusses how higher levels of partisanship have impacted oversight and the relationship between Congress and the Presidency.
Maintaining Law and Order While Preserving our Democracy - Former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman
In the wake of nationwide protests following the killing of George Floyd, armed right-wing extremist groups have responded with counter demonstrations, resulting most recently in the deaths of two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Harry Litman, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania and national syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Times, critiques the president’s refusal to condemn right-wing violence and discusses actions taken by the administration that have eroded the rule of law. He also examines the tradition of peaceful transitions of power and the likelihood of election litigation during the 2020 general election.
The Rule of Law and the United State Department of Justice - former U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg
The separation of politics and criminal law enforcement has long been viewed as a critical feature of our American system of governance. Beginning with the 2016 presidential campaign and its cries of “lock her up” directed at the opposing candidate, there have been questions about the extent to which the current administration would respect that separation or, instead, would move the country away from its fundamental commitment to the rule of law. Those concerns have grown in intensity because of actions by the President and Attorney General in characterizing the Mueller report before its release to the public; seeking the reduction of criminal penalties, supporting the withdrawal of guilty pleas, and exercising pardon and commutation powers to benefit friends and allies of the President; the launching of an investigation with the apparent intent to impact the upcoming election; and the labeling of certain communities as “anarchist cities” as a step toward cutting back on federal financial support. Building on his extraordinary career in federal law enforcement, Chuck Rosenberg, who has held a series of high-ranking positions in the U.S. Department of Justice, including the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration, and who is a widely respected legal analyst, offers his perspectives on this important issue.
Ensuring that our Elections are Fair and Safe - Committee of Seventy Pres. & CEO David Thornburgh
David Thornburgh – the President and CEO of the Committee of Seventy, a good governance advocate, and perhaps Pennsylvania’s leading authority on elections and election reform – discusses these issues and offers practical guidance for those who will be voting in November. Sharing perspectives gained from his service as Chair of the Pennsylvania Redistricting Reform Commission and as Founder of Draw the Lines, he also looks ahead to offer insights into the redistricting processes that will follow the completion of the 2020 census.
Yes, the Truth Still Matters - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Executive Editor Emeritus David Shribman
As we move through a highly contentious campaign season, David Shribman, the Executive Editor Emeritus of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, examines democracy’s need for truthfulness from elected officials and accuracy from the media. Drawing upon his decades of work as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, as well as his extensive experience as an editor, Mr. Shribman reflects on the responsible practices that promote integrity in journalism. As one who has covered both Presidents and presidential campaigns, he also discusses the historical relationship between the press and the President and draws distinctions between various forms of “untruth” that have come from Presidents over time.
COVID, Classrooms and Community - Planning for a New School Year
Robert Scherrer, executive director of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, discusses the response of the 42 school districts within the boundaries of the intermediate unit as they develop in-person, hybrid, and remote learning opportunities for students and respond to challenges in public health, school funding, and access to technology.