Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 9, 2010

ISSA INTENDS TO KEEP BUSY.... Rep. Darrell Issa (R), the right-wing Californian, has been chomping at the bit for two years to become the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and in the new year, he'll get his chance.

But before he takes the gavel, Issa appears to be launching "an apparent charm offensive," hoping to convince the political establishment that he's really not as crazy as he's appeared. Remember when he compared the White House job offer to Joe Sestak to "Watergate"? Issa says he no longer intends to look into it. Remember when he told Rush Limbaugh that President Obama is "one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times"? Issa says he no longer believes that.

So we should expect a kinder, gentler Darrel Issa in 2011? Don't count on it.

California Rep. Darrell Issa is already eyeing a massive expansion of oversight for next year, including hundreds of hearings; creating new subcommittees; and launching fresh investigations into the bank bailout, the stimulus and, potentially, health care reform.

Issa told POLITICO in an interview that he wants each of his seven subcommittees to hold "one or two hearings each week."

"I want seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks," Issa said.

Issa is also targeting some ambitious up-and-comers like Reps. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, Patrick McHenry of North Carolina and Jim Jordan of Ohio -- all aggressive partisans -- to chair some of his subcommittees.

He also wants to organize aggressive oversight beyond his committee and plans to refer inquiries to other House panels, drawing even more incoming GOP chairmen to the cause of investigating the executive branch.

It's the equivalent of a full-employment plan for D.C. lawyers. Issa will be handing out subpoenas like he's handing out candy on Halloween. When former President Bill Clinton, who knows a little something about GOP witch hunts, said in September Republicans would pursue "two years of unrelenting investigations," he knew what he was talking about.

To put it in perspective, the outgoing chairman, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), was pretty aggressive towards the end of the Bush/Cheney administration, holding 203 oversight hearings in two years. Issa intends to hold 280 oversight hearings in 2011 alone.

This would be less disconcerting if Issa were more responsible, but he's not. Just yesterday, the far-right Californian told ABC that the Obama administration "received $700 billion worth of walking around money in the stimulus and used it just that way.... I think his administration has a lot of explaining where the $700 billion went."

Of course, this is pretty nonsensical. The Recovery Act has been entirely transparent, with unprecedented levels of accountability -- there's even a website to account for every dollar spent. Despite its size, the stimulus has "strikingly few claims of fraud or abuse" precisely because the administration has been so assiduous on this. Issa makes it sound like no one knows where the money went -- but that's backwards.

Worse, this notion that the Recovery Act was made up of "walking around money" suggests Issa doesn't even pay attention to the subjects he claims to care about -- stimulus money is spent, not at the discretion of administration officials, but by a publicly available merit-based formula.

The problem isn't that Issa wants to hold the administration accountable; the problem is that Issa doesn't seem to realize the difference between legitimate areas of inquiry and partisan nonsense.

Steve Benen 10:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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Hows he gonna do that when government is shut down by his compadres?

Posted by: Kill Bill on November 9, 2010 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Issa's approach is part of the Republican's plan to keep Congress from accomplishing anything. Tying up the House and the Administration in endless hearings prevents action. The Republicans aren't really interested in smaller government. Their real agenda is ineffective government. The Bush Administration is the strongest evidence of this agenda.

Posted by: jpeckjr on November 9, 2010 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

you can't make this stuff up.

issa/GOP refuse any regulation (also called "oversight") of the financial system that nearly brought this country to ruins.

but some uppity black guy trying to give everyone health care?

Posted by: ahoy polloi on November 9, 2010 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Seven subcommittees twirlin on a branch eating lots of nuts on the Boehner ranch.

Posted by: Kill Bill on November 9, 2010 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Steve - You may want to link to the recovery.gov site - I Topeka-ed it, but every ease of use is good. I agree - incredibly transparent, and just the sort of site that mindless partisans will gloss over because all of the data makes their heads hurt. Much easier to just claim nothing is happening and start the sideshow.

This next two years is going to be very frustrating for those of us who prefer efficiency to showmanship...

- PonB

Posted by: PonB on November 9, 2010 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe Issa can do for the Admin what they couldn't do for themselves- get their message out! LOL.

Posted by: andyvillager on November 9, 2010 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

If I were Obama, I'd order everyone to make 438 copies of everything they have ever done. Store that in warehouses and then drive dump trucks to the Capitol Building and dump it on their lawn as soon as Issa announces his first hearing. You want full compliance? Here it is you fuck. 438 copies of every document we've ever created. Comply with that, you fuck. We will literally bury the Capitol building in paperwork. Nobody will even be able to enter the building because of all the paperwork in front of the building. Dump it all at once and it will take Issa two years just to look at it.

Posted by: fostert on November 9, 2010 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Issa is awful, but people like Iowa's own Steve King will be much more damaging. Crazy King is going to be leading the committee governing immigration policy:

Posted by: elisabeth on November 9, 2010 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

The Dems would do well to go on network and cable TV (even FOX) to complain about this gigantic waste of time and money, and point out how real problems are not getting solved, oversight into real issues is not being done.

The Rs will look absolutely ridiculous to reasonable Americans when all the hearings do is, well, point out how pointless the subject of each one is. The Rs do not know how to govern, just how to play politics very well.

Posted by: Hannah on November 9, 2010 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

This is against the grain but I actually think Issa is not going to be high-profile with these investigations. He's a lifer and he's already being called a RINO -- his safest course is to not be in the spotlight because then he'll have no choice but to either stand up to the TP or to sign on to their ridiculous career-destroying agenda. Wouldn't stop him from putting a huge but quiet administrative burden on the WH, though.

Posted by: ER on November 9, 2010 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

So, you're saying he will be Dan Burton on steroids, eh?

Yes, bring back Whitewater investigations.

Posted by: berttheclock on November 9, 2010 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

What's the estimated cost to tax payers of these hearings?

Posted by: mb on November 9, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't Issa a car thief?

Posted by: Cleo on November 9, 2010 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Of course hearings are a good thing, even if they are run by Issa. It gives the democrats cover to also run hearings about anything they want in the Senate.

It is much easier to complain without using any facts, but if Issa wants to bring out the crazies during sworn testimony, so what?

Posted by: tomj on November 9, 2010 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

*champing at the bit.

Posted by: paul on November 9, 2010 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

The investigations are a tool to provide fodder to the corporate media. Republicans are continuing to use "Cokie's Law" to great advantage."It doesn't matter if it is true or not. It's out there!"

Posted by: thebewilderness on November 9, 2010 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

He does know the difference between legitimate areas of inquiry and partisan nonsense. He, like the Republicans of the 90s, will attempt to use a relentless barrage of hearings and subpoenas to discredit and bring down a presidency.

Posted by: doyles on November 9, 2010 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

It's not like the Senate is going to be allowed to do any work either, so I'd like the Senate Dems to focus on getting a rule change that allows simple majorities and does away with the much abused filibuster rules. After that, they could usefully prepare for 2012 by investigating the crap out of the Bush years and the R's and K Street and deregulation of the oil & coal and finance industries and the like, not to mention hauling Issa before some committees to showcase Issa's business practices with respect to improving consumer protection.

Posted by: N.Wells on November 9, 2010 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, I heard Issa yesterday in a brief NPR segment going on about how incredibly important it was to keep the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 1%.

There was no mention of the fact that his estimated net worth was around 250 million. It seems pretty remarkable to me that one of the GOP's front men on extension of these tax cuts stands to profit handsomely (obscenely?) by increasing the deficit in this way.

Posted by: Jank_W on November 9, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

I like fostert's idea. Get some interns cranking. Obama ran on better govt, tranparency, etc. Fine. Every thing they want, give them. Bury the fuckers. Don't Make 438 copies. Make 2000 copies, and deliver them, ever day, to each senator and rep; to all the media outlets, etc. Deliver 10 copies to Fox news. Just bury the bastards with information.

IF they want climate hearings? FINE. SHOW UP. with - you know, Data. and information. LOTS. PILES OF IT.

Don't like it? Well then, stop whining.

Posted by: bigtuna on November 9, 2010 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Call me crazy, but this sounds like an "expansion of government."

What a maroon.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on November 9, 2010 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Every Dem on the committe and subs should have a "debt clock" ticking that shows how much the hearings are costing every second, and therefore adding to the deficit the Repubs are so concerned about.

Of course, every Dem should be pushing to investigate every criminal act of the Bush admin, but that would be asking too much.

Posted by: martin on November 9, 2010 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Bury the fuckers. Don't Make 438 copies. Make 2000 copies, and deliver them, ever day, to each senator and rep

That'd be a colossal waste of good copies. Issa and co. don't give a shit about paperwork. They won't spend one one-hundredth of a second looking at reports or data. This is a circus and is only meant to be a circus. Adding dump truck loads of copies would only add to the ambiance.

Posted by: AndThenThere'sThat on November 9, 2010 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Daryl: Panem Et Circenses!

Posted by: Kill Bill on November 9, 2010 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Issa is an Assa.

He thinks this will distract and entertain the people from other pressing matters.

But, guess what? His 'issues' are less than paper thin and without the semen stained blue dress to fascinate the news media, who will actually pay any attention to this?

If the media decide this is a big deal and blow it way out of proportion as terminally distracting, then whichever of the Democrats is called on to testify should just blow him out of the water with clear, concise and careful answers.

Posted by: jjm on November 9, 2010 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure Lisa Meyers of NBC will have Issa's number on speed dial, as she did with Burton, thereby, giving us "Breathless" reporting on why "Whitewater" was ever sooooo important. Only this time around, it will be "Breathless" reporting of anything Issa desires.

Posted by: berttheclock on November 9, 2010 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Actually on the stimulus, I say fine let them have their hearings... there's probably not anything to find there and they are going to look ridiculous trying to dig up something. That one is a no brainer to ultimately make Democrats look better. Same way with C\climate change hearings... sure let's have them, Republicans stated position is stupid and the more exposure it gets the stupider they look.

Where I have a problem is if he uses his power to harasss people doing their jobs or following stupid crap like birth certificates and the Sestack nonsense. But I suspect Issa will be strong out of the gate and then will get tired of looking like an idiot after awhile and just slack off... or maybe I'm just an optimist.

Posted by: c.red on November 9, 2010 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Seems to me Issa and his brother were arrested for car theft some years ago,could we find out more about that situation.
What is the status of the impeachment of Clarence Thomas for lying under oath in his testimony to be on the Supreme Court?
Have not heard anything about the Ensign situation either.

Posted by: JS on November 9, 2010 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

I agree. I think someone... with a popular political blog perhaps... should keep a running tally of how much these investigations cost the taxpayer. It will come in very handy in 2012.

Posted by: baconpizza on November 9, 2010 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

This idiot is my Congressman, and he posed for pictures in our local newspapers at the expansion of a major local highway, which was paid for by the Stimulus bill.

Posted by: Speed on November 9, 2010 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

"received $700 billion worth of walking around money in the stimulus and used it just that way.... I think his administration has a lot of explaining where the $700 billion went."

Actually, $290 billion of that was for tax cuts (which no Republican voted for).

Not that reality has anything to do with it.

Posted by: Stephen on November 9, 2010 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, let's not sell this guy out short. He has also said that his investigations will NOT be limited to Obama, but would also extend into the later Bush years. Sounds great, right? Wrong -- what that will do is conflate Bush with Obama ... in an attempt to argue that Obama sucks for the left because he isn't left enough and Obama sucks for moderates because he's just the same as Bush.

How's that for triangulation, boys and girls?

Posted by: EdgewaterJoe on November 9, 2010 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

You'd think this joke would be old by now. Repubs go around screaming for less g'ment, until they are in power. Then they want more government that accomplishes less.

Posted by: JoeW on November 9, 2010 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

It just gets worse and worse.

Issa is one of the biggest whiny-ass-titty-babies in Congress. He's absolutely incompetent and useless. He seems to think he's collecting a government salary solely to bring up obscure points of order during committee meetings.

You have to wonder if it's a stretch to think he represents a district made up of a majority of morons. Who else would vote the idiot in over and over.

Posted by: June on November 9, 2010 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

I don't remember all those hearings in the 90s hurting President Clinton's poll numbers. In fact, the longer the idiot Republicans went on with the hearings, the higher the polls seem to go.
If the Republicans wish to show how well stimulus funds were spent and how scientifically-based and accurate Global Warming really is, I say: Let 'em! At least the MSM will report on it, which is more than they would if the hearings were being held by Democrats. There may even be a few more enlightened voters in 2012 as a result.
So if the Republicans want to show that the Democratic policies are the correct ones, I'm all for it. It should save the DNC an awful lot of time and effort in 2012.

Posted by: Doug on November 9, 2010 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

Speed: I hope you wrote a letter to the editor about Issa's hypocrisy.

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