Rep. Darrell Issa was
all over the airwaves last week, weighing in on Israel's
conflict with Hezbollah militants and the resulting
civilian casualties in Lebanon.
Last week, the Vista Republican joined a bipartisan
group of lawmakers who traveled to the region to assess
the situation. It was the only congressional delegation
cleared to visit Israel since the current conflict
erupted. The group met with American, Israeli and
Palestinian officials to discuss ways to end the fighting.
Issa is a third-generation American – his grandfather
came from a small Lebanese town south of Tripoli – who
speaks just a few words of Arabic and has only distant
cousins in Lebanon. But his ancestry has given him entree
into the delicate world of Middle East diplomacy.
He often travels to the Middle East to consult with the
region's leaders and to urge the constraint of terrorist
factions. He is one of four House members of Lebanese
Issa joined his Lebanese colleagues in an unsuccessful
effort to add language to a House-passed resolution that
supported Israel in its battle with Hezbollah militants.
The carefully worded language – designed not to offend
House leaders who staunchly support Israel – urged
restraint against civilian targets in Lebanon by
“condemning the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by Hamas
and Hezbollah, affirming the right of Israel to conduct
operations to secure the kidnapped soldiers” and “urging
all parties to protect innocent life and civilian
House leaders rejected it, and some said the language
might have been interpreted as a criticism of Israel.
“Attacks went beyond what they should have been,” Issa
said during an appearance on CNN after the congressional
delegation's visit to the region. “There have been some
mistakes made by the Israelis.”
He called on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to
promote no-fire zones in the regions of conflict.
“I don't think we'll get a cease-fire, but there has to
be some areas of comparative safety – an area where you
know if you exit it, you know you (enter) a combat zone.”
AS IF THE HEAT WEREN'T ENOUGH
Issa recently held a hearing into “Electricity Trouble
Spots for the Summer” – an inquiry designed to examine the
steps being taken to meet energy demands during the hotter
months, particularly in Southern California.
The hearing, which Issa convened in his capacity as a
subcommittee chairman of the House Government Reform
Committee, followed the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission's release last spring of a study that
pinpointed four regions vulnerable to electricity-supply
interruptions this season – Southern California, Long
Island, N.Y., Ontario, Canada, and southwest Connecticut.
Each area is managed by a so-called independent system
operator, or ISO, which is a federally regulated panel
that tries to ensure equal access to the power grid by
being a liaison between power plants and the utilities
that serve consumers. ISO representatives from California,
New York and New England were here for Issa's hearing.
New York ISO officials testified that two of the four
major transmission lines into New York City recently
failed and won't be back up until the middle of August.
California's ISO director testified that electricity
reserves are “especially tight” in Southern California.
The area – which has high electricity demands but little
generating capacity – relies on imports from other states
and is especially vulnerable to outages during the hotter
Issa concluded that the supplies and reliability of
electricity in the southern end of the state and in New
York were “critical,” then bluntly addressed the assembled
“From what I am hearing, I'm very concerned how you are
prepared to respond to the alignment of negative factors –
and these are not worst-case scenarios – to prevent the
lights from going out,” Issa told those testifying. “Your
policy to get them back on, and keep them on, cannot
simply be to beg people not to use power.”
Dana Wilkie is a Washington-based correspondent for Copley
News Service and a longtime observer of California
politics and social issues.