Political Animal


June 21, 2012 9:41 AM Issa As Ahab

By Ed Kilgore

Lord know where the FastnFuror is ultimately headed; perhaps towards a sort of cartoon Gotterdammerung, perhaps to a deal where House Republicans accept a few thousand documents from the Justice Department and declare victory.

The whole thing actually makes more sense as one man’s crazy pursuit finally achieving its obsessive goal. Whatever else is going on, from farce to expose of law enforcement excesses on up to a full-blown constitutional crisis, there’s no question Rep. Darrell Issa has managed to maneuver the U.S. House and a Cabinet secretary into his own private theater of the absurd. Salon’s Alex Seitz-Wald takes a good look at Franknfuror from that perspective:

California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, finally got his big trophy and moment in the cable news sun today when his committee voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, following nearly seven hours of testimony on the ATF’s botched “Fast and Furious” gun scandal.
The action, which came in spite of a last-minute move by the White House to claim executive privilege, now tees up the full GOP-controlled House to hold Holder in contempt, which it is expected to do soon. The vote is arguably a partisan witch hunt, but it’s also a long time coming and a rare big win for Issa, who entered his chairmanship with an extremely ambitious agenda that has largely fizzled….
Issa [has] often ended up shooting blanks…. His investigations into WikiLeaks, Fannie and Freddie, the FDA, and countless others have failed to expose any massive wrongdoing by the administration and after a year and half, he has little to show for them….
Other investigations bordered on fringe absurdism, like when he asked the Department of Justice to investigate ACORN more than a year after it went extinct. There was also the hearing he held probing the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, which famously included a panel featuring zero women….
So today’s vote is critical to Issa’s legacy, helping to salvage an otherwise disappointing tenure. And despite the contempt vote, Fast and Furious has proven a slog, taking over a year and half after being largely ignored by the non-Fox News media (Fox covered it plenty). Rush Limbaugh today to a caller frustrated by the slow pace of Issa’s investigation into Holder: “You could, on the other hand, credit Issa for delaying this until an election year when more people are paying attention, when it’ll have more impact.”

This kind of sums up how Congress winds up in situations like FastnFuror, and why so many Americans persistently hate the whole institution: who cares about Darrell Issa’s “legacy” as an investigative titan, other than Darrell Issa and his staff? Yet he’s in a position to use taxpayer resources to build monuments to himself from the flimsy raw material of administration misdeeds and right-wing fantasies. But would anyone really miss him and his investigations if he suddenly went back to California and entered a monastery for a few years of prayer and penitence? The people having fun with Franknfuror are going to believe what they’re going to believe regardless of hearings or evidence. Beyond that, it really is a sort of private production for the ego-gratification of House Republican leaders, and for Issa, a crowning Ahab moment.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • SYSPROG on June 21, 2012 9:50 AM:

    As a commentor on another site said
    'This is a pure election year political stunt, Issa demands documents of private, internal Executive decision making sessions that have nothing to do with his investigations and no administration would turn over. To have to turn over these records would be the equivalent of giving Congress the right to "bug" all Executive offices. President Obama has to invoke executive privilege, he has no choice.

    Then he plays it as if the Obama administration is shady and secretive and has something to hide. The right wing media picks up the story and runs with it.

    Just normal election year dirty tricks from the Republicans. They have been doing this every election since Richard Nixon.'

  • Josef K on June 21, 2012 9:59 AM:

    Recall what happened the original Ahab and his crew.

    Food for thought.

  • kev o on June 21, 2012 10:03 AM:

    Issa is an elected thug!

    The dear citizens of the greater San Diego area have now voted to a judgeship, a real-live Birther!

    What's in the water in San Diego County?

    As for Capt. Issa, his great white whale seems to be in the sights of his harpoon! His continued pursuit in this ill-begotten venture will surely leave our legislative institutions dead in the water! -Kevo

  • Patrick Star on June 21, 2012 10:05 AM:

    It's a witch hunt, pure and simple. No matter what Holder turns over, it will never be enough. And whatever he does turn over, will be picked clean to justify MORE subpoenas. And on and on and on, ad infinitum. The best way for Obama to get even is just claim executive privilege, a la Cheney, and basically tell Issa and his pack of jackals to go fuck themselves. The longer it drags out, the more scrutiny will fall on Issa and HIS role in F&F.

  • cm on June 21, 2012 10:12 AM:

    Just an election year stunt and of course such a proud moment for my state - ID-when our freshman congressman Raul Labrador was given the national stage to spout his own nonsense about Holder being either "a liar or grossly incompetent" Aren't there any guards watching the asylum these days????

  • dweb on June 21, 2012 10:14 AM:

    Don't "misunderestimate" the power of this stuff to rile up the GOP's base. Do a search on "Fast and Furious" and you will find a tsunami of "outrage" over the actions of an imperial presidency, denials of Bush Administration involvement in launching Fast and Furious and dark claims of conspiracy and secret agendas.

    Same sort of stuff with juvenile pranks like Romney's staff having their campaign bus circle an Obama talk in Ohio and honk the horn repeatedly. The troops LOVE that stuff. Kinda like the joy they got as kids throwing raw eggs at cars.

  • bluestatedon on June 21, 2012 10:16 AM:

    "The longer it drags out, the more scrutiny will fall on Issa and HIS role in F&F."

    I wish you were correct, but I think your optimisim is entirely unwarranted. The longer it drags out, the longer it drags out. While claiming executive privilege in this instance might be justified, it will in no way mean an early end to this clusterf*ck—all it does is justify the suspicions in the minds of the accusers. Which is exactly what claiming privilege did in the minds of Democrats and liberals when Nixon and Bush did it, something people on our side of the aisle seem to have forgotten.

  • berttheclock on June 21, 2012 10:29 AM:

    Yes, the useage of Executive Privilege does raise the suspicions of "What are they trying to hide".

    However, in a perfect world, perhaps, Issa could emulate Javert's jump into the Seine by taking a stroll along the Potomac.

  • Anonymous on June 21, 2012 10:40 AM:

    "Rush Limbaugh today to a caller frustrated by the slow pace of Issa’s investigation into Holder: “You could, on the other hand, credit Issa for delaying this until an election year when more people are paying attention, when it’ll have more impact.”"

    @SYSPROG has it right. Holder has produced thousands of documents, but withheld those concerning internal deliberations concerning Issa's witch hunt, offering a briefing instead.

    So, by a partisan vote, the House is going to hold Holder in contempt because the Executive Branch will claim executive privledge (like GWB did 6 times over real issues like politicizing US Attorneys). I hold the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in contempt. For a year and a half, they've done NO governing and played partisan politics 24-7. Issa, in particular, has conducted several dud-'investigations' aimed at trying to 'impact' the political landscape. I'd love it if Obama would say he had nothing but contempt for what the House has done (and not done i.e. 'jobs, jobs, jobs') for the whole of this term.

  • c u n d gulag on June 21, 2012 10:51 AM:

    "So today’s vote is critical to Issa’s legacy..."

    Jeez, I always figured there was a Clown Hall of Fame somewhere.

    It just never occurred to me that there's also one for "Demagogic Feckin' Idjits," too.

    And Issa's not hunting his White Whale, but a couple of Black ones.

  • jjm on June 21, 2012 10:54 AM:

    From the NYT this morning I understand that Obama invoked executive privilege on this largely to protect Holder from being pursued in federal court over this.

    Holder did produce, and he said it was a one-time only exception, memos of internal deliberations of his office on this matter. Now Issa wants the internal deliberations that took place after the ones he already received. I guess he wants to have Holder keep chasing his tail, or cease having internal deliberations??

    But all of this is to weaken Holder's apparent authority in going after Florida and Arizona's egregious voter suppression efforts. Pure and simple. Not just to embarrass Obama and offer red meat to gun-nut conspiracy theorists (Rachel Maddow had a very important segment on the gun=nut who inspired this witch hunt last evening), but to distract and disempower Holder when he takes on the one trick the GOP is counting on to win, voter fraud on their part.

  • Rick B on June 21, 2012 11:05 AM:

    The attack by Issa on Eric Holder is no surprise. Issa is, after all, the Southern California Congressman for the NRA supporting gun-running to the Sinaloa Cartel. He would happily lead the House in impeaching Obama, but he doesn't have the leadership platform that allows him to do that.

    But there is a history from the Bush administration of going after the President through the Attorney General. Of course that was the less-than-competent Alberto Gonzales. Eric Holder is not as hapless as Gonzales was, but Issa thinks he can get a scalp and count coup on the Obama administration. Issa has a history of competence that by comparison makes Alberto Gonzalez look extremely good.

    This is not about the fast and furious operation - which was clearly a failed operation. This contempt citation is about the documents from the Attorney General's office about their first response to Issa's committee where the low-level agents who ran the failed operation told their bosses that the policy was that ATF does not let guns walk.

    It later came out that the Attorney General's office had been given bad information by the supervisors who ran the failed operation which the AG's office then passed to Issa's committee. When the AG's office learned the letter was wrong they informed the committee it was wrong, corrected the information about the botched operation, and explained that the first letter was based on bad information.

    Now Issa can get election year media coverage by ignoring the second letter the AG's office sent correcting the information and apologizing for the errors in the first one.

    The Issa committee is totally ignoring the fact that the thousands of guns are being sold in the American Southwest from the 1700 gun shops. These guns are not illegal in the US but they are supplying the drug cartels in Mexico. Issa is doing his best to keep the flow of guns moving south because the NRA'a gun manufacturers are making a great deal of money supporting the carnage in Mexico. But it gets Issa headlines and TV face time, so he is glad to support the carnage.

  • SteveT on June 21, 2012 11:24 AM:

    c u n d gulag said:
    Jeez, I always figured there was a Clown Hall of Fame somewhere.

    There is a Clown Hall of Fame, in Baraboo, WI -- the longtime winter home of the Ringling Bros. circus.

    But the Clown Hall of Fame is for serious practitioners of an ancient craft. It isn't for bumbling amateurs like Issa, the FastenFuehrer.

  • emjayay on June 21, 2012 11:30 AM:

    According to last night's Maddow show: Behind all this is a wingnut conspiracy theory pushed by some old blogger who previously suggested throwing bricks through windows of Democratic government officials. His theory is that the Obama admin wants more gun violence in order to have a reason to trash the second amendment and take away everyone's guns. The lack of any anti-gun moves by Obama is seen by this guy and the head of the NRA as a big trick so he can get reelected and then, well, you know....

    So Fast and Furious, apparently started (not sure how far it went then) by Bush, ended up as Obama and Holder planned it to: losing guns, fostering violence, and the same guns being used to kill an American agent. So Obama can trash the second amendment and take away your guns.

  • boatboy_srq on June 21, 2012 11:43 AM:


    Corrections and mental healthcare were both outsourced in recent decades, and the "private contractors" handling the outsourcing are predictably God's Own Party wingnuts (Remember Blackwater? Same crew.). They'll only watch the asylum if some LIEberal tries to escape - after all, the others are only the Wingnuts that got caught.


    RE: Issa: I'm waiting until his own background starts getting the same national level of scrutiny that he wants to apply to the current WH. Issa belongs in Q, not Congress.

  • tcinaz on June 21, 2012 12:21 PM:

    I'm betting the real reason for claiming executive privilege for these internal discussions is nothing more than what people express in them about Issa. If he gets the originals, it won't help his witch hunt, but what he is called will drive the unhinged president-hater to further flights of spamming subpoenas.

  • J on June 21, 2012 1:22 PM:

    And we all know Issa voted to fund this operation.
    My favorite overheard quote of the day If contempt of Congess is a crime 90% of americans are guilty.

  • @the_dan on June 21, 2012 2:38 PM:

    At first I misread the title of this post as "Issa as Asshat"

  • TCinLA on June 21, 2012 2:42 PM:

    Darryl IssaAsshole's unending quest for a position of historical infamy as one of the top ten dumbest Republican Congresscritters to ever hold office in the 154 years the party has sent members to Congress is now achieved.

  • Anonymous on June 21, 2012 2:45 PM:

    Sysprog isn't quite right to say: Just normal election year dirty tricks from the Republicans. They have been doing this every election since Richard Nixon.'

    You're obviously young. There's a reason why my great-grand-uncle, who spent his life working for Harry Truman, told me 55 years ago that "the only 'good Republicans' are pushing up daisies." The Republican Party has always been like this. Go read Doris Kearns Goodwin's "No Ordinary Time" and see how they were acting toward FDR in the middle of the greatest war in history. Traitors, always and forever.

  • TCinLA on June 21, 2012 2:47 PM:

    Any Mouse above was me.

  • st john on June 21, 2012 3:23 PM:

    What I'd like to see is the behind the scenes investigation of Darrell Issa's "alleged" crimes. Why doesn't the WH or some of his Democratic colleagues release the "secret" files on the arson investigations and money-laundering or car theft allegations, or whatever people keep alluding to. I get tired of reading about Issa's past crimes. Let's see all the evidence, secret or not, and see how he responds. Otherwise, shut up about it. I think he sucks, but no one has ever actually held him accountable and he has never paid a price.

  • boatboy_srq on June 21, 2012 3:37 PM:

    @st john:

    Issa's criminal background, civil complaints and other asshattery are a matter of public record. The Los Angeles Times covered Issa's misdeeds in some detail. Summary is here:


    Teh Google. It really is your friend.

  • Alan Tomlinson on June 21, 2012 5:24 PM:

    Gotterdammerung is not a word in any language with which I am familiar. Götterdämmerung, also spelled, Goetterdaemmerung is a word in German. Using italics for a German word seems fine to me. Using italics for a word that doesn't exist, less so. If you're a writer, I feel that spelling counts.

    I now return you to your regular programming.


    Alan Tomlinson

  • schtick on June 21, 2012 6:45 PM:

    This is the reason why nothing should be off the table in dealing with the tealiban. Not only are they looking for ways to impeach/censure/or just plain try to destroy the dems, they make it up and the sheep believe it.
    The end result the tealiban is looking for is that the rich have all the money, all the toys, and all the strings while the rest of us pay taxes to them just so we can live in misery.