A Confederacy of Dunces

You probably saw a news item about a hearing yesterday of the House Government Oversight Committee. The reason you saw it is that it ended with some shouting, which is a relatively rare occurrence on Capitol Hill, and therefore that became an irresistible piece of news. But what really mattered about that hearing wasn't Darrell Issa cutting off Elijah Cummings' mike, causing Cummings to get extremely angry. It was that the hearing was happening at all. I'm not sure if there's ever been an opposition party more thoroughly convinced of a president's corruption yet so utterly incapable of doing anything about what they see as his crimes. You might think that's because Barack Obama is not particularly corrupt, and that's part of the story. But the Republicans' buffoonery—and Issa's in particular—when it comes to making Obama pay for his alleged misdeeds seems to know no bounds.

If I were a Republican, I'd really be wondering right now whether Issa can tie his own shoes, much less whether he'll be able to take down the President of the United States. Just look at how this thing developed. On Sunday, Issa went on television and said that Lois Lerner, the former IRS official whom Republicans believe holds the key to showing how a lengthy application process for Tea Party groups seeking 501(c)(4) status was the linchpin of a White House conspiracy to destroy its enemies, would finally be testifying in front of his committee, answering all the biting and incisive questions Republicans have. Later that day, Lerner's attorney told reporters that he had no idea what Issa was talking about. Lerner had invoked her Fifth Amendment rights, and she was going to continue to do so; there would be no testimony. Yet Issa still maintained she would be answering questions, and when she was brought before the committee on Wednesday, he was apparently surprised that she invoked those rights and would not answer their questions.

There are a few explanations for how this happened. One is that Lerner's lawyer simply lied to Issa and his staff, telling them that she was ready to answer questions when he had no intention of letting her do so. This seems rather unlikely, particularly since he said publicly that she wouldn't testify. The second possibility is that there was some kind of misunderstanding somewhere along the way, leading Issa and his people to believe she would answer questions when she actually wouldn't. Again, this would seem to be contradicted by the fact that the lawyer said publicly she wouldn't testify. The third is that Issa sensed some weakness in her position and thought that if he got her under the hot lights, he might force a few answers out of her.

Not knowing anything about the internal deliberations, I can't say which of those three most resembles what happened, but given that from the outset this investigation has been an endless string of embarrassing pratfalls on Issa's part, I suspect it's the third. But what I wonder is, do they actually believe that they're just one hearing away from busting this whole thing wide open? Just how deluded are they?

Meanwhile, you have Republicans like Lindsey Graham telling anyone who'll listen that the reason for the crisis in Ukraine is...Benghazi! Yes, that must be it. If we can't actually use it to impeach Obama, at least we can blame it for everything that happens anywhere in the world that we don't like. Why is China still communist? Benghazi. Why did Oscar Pistorius shoot his girlfriend? Duh, Benghazi. Why did the women's hockey team lose the gold medal game to Canada? Obviously, the Canadians were emboldened by Benghazi.

And I think they genuinely believe that Benghazi is going to keep Hillary Clinton from the White House. Sure, their potential 2016 candidates may look like a collection of amateurs and extremists. But just you wait—once Americans hear the truth about Benghazi, she doesn't stand a chance!

Barack Obama has ridden a lot of ups and downs in his presidency, some of his own making and some that he could not have controlled. But he has been truly blessed in his enemies. They're such a bunch of incompetent clowns, he could strangle the Dalai Lama on the White House lawn in full view of the cameras and they wouldn't be able to pin it on him.

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