Dem Representative Susan Wismer, her party's nominee for Governor, is making a mistake by trying to get out of her participation in the coming EB-5/Northern Beef hearings in Pierre next month. She's reluctant to appear, according to news reports, because her opponent in the election, Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard, is likely to appear before the committee, creating what Wismer believes will be a distracting situation. She has requested that the Republican chairman of the committee appoint a proxy in her place. In her press release on the subject, Wismer stated, "if my campaign and membership on the committee creates a conflict, I’m more than willing to step aside during this meeting so South Dakotans can get answers without the meeting turning into political theater."
Kudos to Wismer for focusing on the committee's work and its search for explanations on how the fiasco occurred, but on balance I think she's making the wrong move. Her political aspirations aside, Wismer is still an elected official with all the knowledge and responsibilities that go with that position. I have no doubt that during her work on this matter, Wismer has learned some things that give her a particular set of insights that no proxy could possibly possess. It's Wismer's job to bring that knowledge to bear on the hearings regardless of the political repercussions that will be an inevitable part of this process. I'm confident that interested observors will be able to separate the essence of the hearings from the political dynamics they throw off.
As to the political part, Wismer's withdrawal from the committee would be doing voters a disservice because she's got a great opportunity to get some substantive media face time as the election approaches. Could there be a better way for voters to get the measure of her and Daugaard than in a face-to-face confrontation occurring during the routine work of government? I relish the chance to watch them doing what we hired them to do, along with all the comparisons and contrasts that go with it. Given her underdog status, Wismer should relish it too.
Besides all of which, this EB-5/Northern Beef debacle could use some theatrics to get its place on the public radar screen, where it belongs. About the only way I see that happening is by disclosure, disclosure, disclosure. Up to now, the mainstream media that I've seen have been satisfied to report, not investigate--or at least demand answers to basic questions about the fiasco. If theater is what it takes to get our crusading journalists into motion, then theater it needs to be. Wismer should be astute and attuned enough to understand all this if truth is what she seeks. She need not be repulsed by "political theater." She should welcome the spotlight . . . along with the possibility that it might do her campaign some good.