Rep. Darrell Issa is the star investigator of Republicans' congressional investigations into the Obama administration's three scandals, and while Republicans want him to exude a quiet competence like Inspector Poirot, they're afraid he'll drift towards Ace Ventura. When Issa, the House oversight committee char, called White House spokesman Jay Carney a "paid liar," Republican leaders were worried, Politico's John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman report. After Issa made the "liar" comment Sunday, House GOP leaders discussed it several times this week. "When you make Jay Carney the issue, that's the problem," a senior House GOP leadership aide told Politico. "No one cares about Jay Carney." Issa hasn't been on TV since, although he does have another hearing today.
Republicans fear he could give Democrats "an opening to discredit the chairman," Politico reports, and "These criticisms have been delivered clearly to Issa." But in an interview, Issa denied it. "I didn’t hear anything," he said. What kind of opening? On Sunday, former Obama adviser David Plouffe tweeted, "Strong words from Mr. Grand Theft Auto and suspected arsonist/insurance swindler," a tweet whose origin and ripple effects were explored quite extensively by Politico's Glenn Thrush. Issa was arrested for stealing a car in the 1970s, but the charges were dropped. In the 1980s, his business burned down not long after Issa had increased his insurance from $100,000 to $462,000, and his insurance company found "suspicious burn patterns." The Ohio fire marshal did not determine the cause of the fire. No one was charged.
In the 1990s, then-House oversight committee chair Dan Burton became a character as he investigated Bill Clinton. In 1998, Burton said, "If I could prove 10 percent of what I believe happened [about Bill Clinton], he'd be gone. This guy's a scumbag. That's why I'm after him." But Slate's John Dickerson argues that Issa isn't blowing it like Burton. That's because the country is with Republicans in wanting to find out answers about the IRS scandal, and because it will help turnout Republicans in the 2014 midterm elections. (That did not work with Clinton's impeachment.)
Of course, there's plenty of evidence that Issa wants to be a star. His staff posts movie-style posters to hype his committee hearings. In 2011, he called Obama "one of the most corrupt" presidents in history, and in 2012, upgraded, saying he ran "the most corrupt government in history." Like Burton, he's made many allegations without yet delivering the facts to back them up. On Sunday, he quoted interviews with IRS employees, but wouldn't released the full transcripts. He told CNN, "As you know as late as last week the administration is still trying to say there's a few rogue agents in Cincinnati when in fact the indication is they were directly being ordered from Washington." Republican leaders, like everyone else, want Issa to prove that "fact."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.