Darrell Issa, the incoming Republican chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has never been shy about criticizing the Obama Administration. He was particularly forceful on Fox News Sunday over the weekend, predicting a “constant battle over jobs and the economy,” and declaring Attorney General Eric Holder should either “stop hurting the Administration or leave.”
Issa came to Washington to do two things: chew bubble gum and cut wasteful spending. Now he’s all out of bubble gum. Instead, he’s got a fistful of subpoenas, and a fired-up Republican base waiting to see what he does with them.
He’s got a target-rich environment in an Administration he calls “one of the most corrupt” he’s ever seen. Issa used his Fox interview to make it clear he’s most interested in shutting down big-ticket fraud and abuse, saying the White House will “need more accountants” than lawyers. He pointed out that “ten percent of the deficit goes out in wasted money,” including $125 billion paid out to Medicare recipients who don’t exist.
Issa’s focus has apparently shifted away from matters like the Obama Administration’s attempt to interfere in the Pennsylvania Senate race by offering candidate Joe Sestak a job. (The attempt was unsuccessful, as Sestak went on to run a losing race against Republican Pat Toomey, while incumbent Arlen Specter vanished in an oily cloud of amoral self-interest.) Issa has previously characterized this as an “impeachable offense” if it could be traced back to the President. It’s already been traced back as far as Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, by the White House’s own admission. Back in June, CBS News quoted him declaring his intentions to “get the very information that today the White House is either shredding or not producing.”
On Sunday, he dismissed talk of impeaching the President, instead discussing his interest in investigating financial misdeeds. The Politico website quotes an Issa spokesman describing the lesson of the midterm election as “the American people will no longer tolerate a government that has institutionalized a culture of waste and abuse that acts carelessly with their tax-dollars.” A list of early investigation targets includes Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the impact of government regulation on job creation, corruption in Afghanistan, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, announced in a series of messages from Issa’s Twitter account.
The new Oversight and Government Reform chairman walks a difficult path. There’s no doubt this Administration, and the handiwork of the previous Congress, need plenty of oversight. However, Issa’s office can’t afford to look petty or vindictive. He’ll be called that anyway, of course, but he doesn’t want to add substance to the caricature, especially since much of the general public will just be getting to know him over the next few months. His emphasis on battling that “institutionalized culture of waste and abuse” will please a Tea Party that wants to see Republicans working seriously, and efficiently, to restrain an out-of-control federal government.
One notable exception to the Issa emphasis on fiscal oversight is Attorney General Eric Holder, whose continued presence in the Administration does not please the Chairman. Issa says Holder has been too slow to investigate matters such as WikiLeaks, ACORN, and Black Panther voter intimidation at the polls. Given that Holder outrageously dismissed the Black Panther case as “made up” last week, despite videotaped evidence, it doesn’t look as if his performance will improve any time soon.
Holder probably isn’t going anywhere… but, then again, neither is Darrell Issa, who lifts the broom of oversight and wades into the Aegean stable of a government that soils the hay with billions of wasted tax dollars. He says his comments about Administration “corruption” address the inevitable result of handing gigantic piles of bailout money to politicians. He’s right about that. There are no big, clean governments, and there never will be.
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