Here Come the Witch Hunts
by Charles Lemos, Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 09:23:03 PM EDT
Politico reports in detail today what I have already touched on in brief weeks ago. Rep. Darrel Issa and the Republicans are planning a wave of committee investigations targeting the White House and Democratic allies if they win back the majority and regain the power of subpoena.
Peter Daou states the obvious:
Republicans play hardball. Brazen hardball. Unscrupulous hardball. Yes, it’s couched in well-crafted soundbites about fighting “big government” and “judicial activism” and promoting “fiscal responsibility.” But in essence, it’s about no-prisoners political warfare. And when there’s a Democrat in the White House, it means total destruction of that presidency.
Nothing else will satisfy the GOP's lust for power than the wanton destruction of Obama's Presidency. From day one, this has been their game plan, obstruct, rant and rave, delay, obstruct some more, rant and rave, delay, repeat as necessary as to make the nation look ungovernable and the Administration as pathetic and dangerous if not criminal. Throw enough mud, maybe some will stick. And if nothing's there, invent something.
Starring in the role of chief inquisitor is California's Darrell Issa, the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Issa, we are told, would like Obama's cooperation. But it’s not essential.
"How acrimonious things get really depend on how willing the administration is in accepting our findings [and] responding to our questions," says Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for Rep. Issa who refers to his boss as "questioner-in-chief."
If this sounds like a re-run to you, it is. Issa will be reprising the role once played by Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana during the Clinton years. Also starring in a supporting role is Texas Rep. Lamar Smith.
Topic One: Sestak, Romanoff and Jobgate.
Most of the Clinton-era investigations — from Whitewater to Vince Foster to the Lewinsky scandal — targeted the president personally.
Most potential GOP probes of Obama, by contrast, seem to be aimed at the administration’s periphery or policies — with the ironic exception of the one that revolves around none other than Bill Clinton.
Issa has made no secret of his interest in getting to the bottom of muddled, mishandled White House attempts to force Democratic Senate candidates Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff from races in Pennsylvania and Colorado.
White Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina sent Romanoff an e-mail with several potential non-Senate job possibilities; Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel enlisted Clinton to dangle the possibility of several unpaid executive branch appointments to Sestak in exchange for allowing Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter to run unopposed. Sestak said no — and trounced Specter.
Topic Two: Bailouts/Fannie & Freddie
No investigation poses a more significant political danger to Obama than a no-holds-barred GOP probe into TARP, the AIG bailout, the Freddie-Fannie sinkhole and the administration’s de facto takeover of GM and Chrysler.
Reason One: Perhaps the only issue uniting all voters is a shared hatred of all bailouts — so few Democrats, even die-hard liberals, would be willing to stand in front of a bus to defend Obama against attacks.
Reason Two: One GOP aide described the bailouts as a “huge pool” from which to make document and e-mail requests — and issue subpoenas. The prospect of a massive and popular fishing expedition at the West Wing’s expense would delight the Republican base and create a political headache for the president’s team.
Issa seriously rattled Democrats earlier this summer by revealing the lengths he is willing to go to obtain information, asking Google executives if they would be willing to turn over Gmail messages pertaining to administration business.
“If he comes at them, the White House will then have to make up its mind: Will they let their lawyers take over, or will they let the political people run the show?” says Lanny Davis, who counsels Obama to turn over as much as possible as quickly as possible to avoid allegations of stonewalling.
“If Rahm Emanuel is still chief of staff, they will have a huge advantage. He’s been through this before, and he’ll push back against the lawyers,” added Davis.
Odd that people forget that the TARP passed in October 2008 when George W. Bush was still President.
Topic Three: Countrywide Mortgage and “Angelo’s List.”
Sen. Chris Dodd’s embarrassing placement on the company’s VIP mortgage list played a major role in the Connecticut Democrat’s involuntary retirement earlier this year.
Issa — using only the bully pulpit — has already forced Countrywide’s parent, Bank of America, to turn over reams of documents. If he becomes chairman, Issa will use the committee’s power to obtain more information on sweetheart deals, even if it involves GOP politicians, according to a person close to him.
“I think the White House is underestimating him,” says a top congressional Democratic aide. “What makes him so dangerous is that he’s willing to turn on Republicans, too.”
Topic Four: The New Black Panther Party.
Smith, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, has already pressed Holder to look into charges that members of the New Black Panther Party intimidated voters at a Philadelphia polling place in 2008.
The San Antonio-area conservative — whose first campaign was managed by Karl Rove — is already on record criticizing Holder for dropping the Justice Department case against three Panthers, including one who brandished a police-style baton.
“Congress, in furtherance of its oversight obligations [needs] to receive answers” on the Panther case, he wrote in late 2009.
“Congressman Smith thinks it’s far too early to discuss any possible investigations before the voters have spoken,” said a Smith spokesman, before adding:
“But, yes, we would definitely want answers about the Black Panther case.”
Topic Six: ACORN.
A whole host of Republicans — led by Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Steve King (R-Iowa) on the party’s right wing — have demanded an investigation into the defunct community organizing group’s ties to the Obama campaign.
Topic Seven: Minerals Management Service.
The juiciest Bush-era revelations about the agency’s shortcomings have already been aired, including the fact that some MMS employees allegedly had sexual relations with workers they were supposed to oversee.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has admitted MMS officials were asleep at the switch in monitoring BP’s Deepwater Horizon platform before it blew up. But Issa is bent on finding out which Obama administration officials were responsible for missing the warning signs and why clean-up and response efforts didn’t take place more quickly.
The New York Times recently profiled Rep. Darrell Issa who represents the California Forty-ninth Congressional District north of San Diego.
Born and reared in Cleveland, Mr. Issa, the grandson of Lebanese immigrants, describes himself as “a rotten young kid” — a period that apparently stretched well into his 20s. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge in 1972 (he was carrying an unlicensed pistol) and, with his brother William, was indicted on felony charges related to car thefts in 1972 and 1980. The charges were never pursued for lack of evidence, and Mr. Issa, who calls himself a victim of “guilt by association,” blames his brother. (Reached at his home in Ohio, William Issa took full responsibility). He had a “colorful youth,” Darrell Issa said of himself. “But if the newest thing they can point to is decades old, they’re missing the whole point.”
Mr. Issa moved to Vista, Calif., in 1985, where he built his car alarm company, Directed Electronics, into a colossus. He earned a nine-figure fortune that helped bankroll an unsuccessful run for the Senate in 1998. He was elected to the House in 2000, and his wealth — and safe district — have allowed Mr. Issa the freedom to speak out on issues that more vulnerable members would shy from; he gained national prominence as a major backer of the campaign to recall Gov. Gray Davis of California in 2003.
Democrats have seized on Mr. Issa’s recent remarks — including his hopes of getting power to subpoena the White House and a pledge that he wouldn’t use it “to have corporate America live in fear” — as evidence that a Republican majority would give big corporations a pass.
Mr. Issa says he is committed to investigating all manner of abuses, whether perpetrated by the public or private sectors.
“You can call me a pain,” Mr. Issa said. “I’ll accept that as a compliment.”
As per impeachment, only Tommy Tancredo, the former Colorado Congressman and now a candidate for Governor, has publicly called for the President to be impeached. But rest assured, others are sure to add their voices soon enough. As per Obama's crime, well, being elected suffices.
FDR often talked about the "grave dangers of rightist reaction" in this country. Then that rightist reaction was a small fringe largely confined to the pages of Human Events and certain corporatist interests centered around the Mellon, DuPont, Coors, and other wealthy families. Today that "rightist reaction" is much more prevalent and much better financed. We underestimate the lengths to which the right is prepared to go at our peril.