Does New Committee Chairman's Shady Past Mean Obama's Off the Hook?

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Darrell Issa has promised to launch hundreds of investigations into the Obama administration in his role as brand new chairman of the House Oversight Committee. But Issa--not to mention his handlers--wants to make clear that he's no Dan Barton. Barton held the oversight chairmanship during the Clinton administration, and in that capacity shot a pumpkin in his backyard to prove that Clinton aide Vince Foster's death was a murder, not a suicide. Issa says he'll  be focusing on transgressions committed in the White House, not controversies of Obama's past like "the birther question." That might be because Issa has his own past to deal with, The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza reports.

Issa has been accused, among other things, of stealing a car, carrying a concealed weapon, leaving the scene of an accident, firing an employee by showing him a gun, and burning down a building, as Lizza explains. The California congressman says he's innocent of all of these charges, and that, in several instances, it was his brother's fault. And he's tired of answering questions about them. "Everyone has a past," Issa told Lizza. So what about the here and now? The story has plenty of other less-than-flattering disclosures. For example: Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella openly disparages the press, calling some reporters "just lazy as hell," "embarrassing," and fairly easy to manipulate--and a handy tool for turning Issa into a national figure.

  • Republican Leaders Will Be Pissed, Politico's Richard E. Cohen predicts. "These outbursts of candor and the article’s attention on Issa, rather than on the new House majority, likely will not play well with GOP leaders. For months, they have emphasized the need for low-profile workmanship--especially on potentially volatile oversight issues. GOP leadership aides declined to comment. ... [I]t's a good bet that the recounting of Issa’s private-sector life will gain the attention of many of his critics, who hope to diminish his influence."
  • Why Issa Assumes Obama Is Corrupt  "Issa's backgroun," The New Republic's Jonathan Chait writes, "also provides a useful context for his deep suspicions of massive criminal behavior in the Obama administration. Ask yourself this: what kind of person would assume that everybody else is involved in routine criminal behavior?"
  • GOP Doesn't Mind a Little Grand Theft Auto, The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen notes. "Issa has twice sought statewide office in California, but his scandalous past derailed both bids. That past, apparently, does not bother House Republicans, who recently handed Issa broad oversight authority and subpoena power."
  • Laziness Is a Proud Tradition in Media, Politico's Ben Smith writes of the remarks in the piece about journalists, calling the trait "never good," but "also nothing new."
  • But Media Laziness Will Hurt Obama, Dave Weigel writes at Slate. "That's still an analysis of why Issa's investigations scare liberals, even though they don't expect them to expose real corruption. Investigations are news; subpoenas are news; Issa's office knows how to give this news to the right people, to amplify what they're doing."
  • Bardella's Comeuppance  "It's somewhat gratifying to imagine that [quoted spokesman] Bardella--who has some cogent points, even if they were grotesquely couched--might be less cocky after reading Lizza's article," Columbia Journalism Review's Joel Meares writes. "This is no pre-packaged grab for Drudge. And this is the opposite of lazy. This is the substantive media. And its verdict on his boss is one of the few embarrassing things about it."

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