Friday, June 18, 2010


Politico reports that GOP congressman Darrell Issa wants to double the size of his staff if Republicans take over the House following the 2010 midterms and he becomes chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The point of this?

Issa wants to be to the Obama administration what Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) was to the Clinton administration -- a subpoena machine in search of White House scandals.

David Weigel thinks that could be disastrous for Republicans:

Let me just repeat something a few conservatives who were active during the Clinton years have told me. If Republicans win the House, it will be because voters grew disgusted with the Democrats' priorities during a deep recession -- why spend so much time on health care, cap-and-trade and the rest of it instead of job creation?

... it's hard to imagine a scenario where an electorate, angry about the economy, hands Republicans the reins of power, and endorses a series of fishing expeditions about scandals that ("jobgate" aside) never got much traction outside of the Washington Times.

Weigel lists some scandals that have captivated the right ("what ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-Ill.) told members of the administration, why the DOJ didn't pursue a case against the New Black Panther Party, why an Americorps inspector general was fired, and precisely what was offered to some U.S. Senate candidates in order to get them out of their races"), and it's true -- America doesn't care about the administration's role in any of them. I'd say America doesn't even care about the Sestak story, aka "Jobgate."

But if Republicans are pursuing this stuff visibly and tirelessly, Americans might care just because it's on the news every night. That's the big story they'll be fed. They'll care about it because that's what's on offer.

But won't they care more about the economy? Sure. But remember the history of some recent scandals. The public didn't want Clinton impeached when economic times were good. When times were bad -- around '74, a period of inflation and the first energy crisis -- people were ready to see Nixon driven from office. And they were perfectly content to see him driven from office not because of the economy or the war, but because of a completely unrelated break-in and cover-up. I'd say that in a bad economy, Americans were happy to see Nixon become the repository of their anger for any reason whatsoever. I worry that the same thing could happen to Obama if we're really in an economic lost decade.

Weigel titles his post "Will Darrell Issa Wreck the GOP?" But not even the thoroughly unpopular Clinton impeachment wrecked the GOP -- sure, there were some losses at the polls in '98, but notice which party couldn't capitalize on peace and prosperity with a decisive victory in 2000, and which party emerged with control of all three branches of government.

Be afriad of Issa. Be very afraid. Be particularly afraid of him because David Broder and other Beltway mandarins will inevitably conclude that he's doing America a service.

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