Rep. Darrell Issa, who as chair of the House Oversight Committee will be chief inquisitor in the new congress, has gotten some attention from his remark that Barack Obama is "one of the most corrupt presidents of modern times." And what kind of corruption has this corruption-hunter uncovered? Kickbacks to supporters? Shady contract deals? Suitcases full of cash from foreign dictators? Well, not really. "When you hand out $1 trillion in TARP just before this president came in, most of it unspent, $1 trillion nearly in stimulus, that this president asked for, plus this huge expansion in health care and government, it has a corrupting effect," Issa explained. So the "corruption" is that the government has spent money on things Issa didn't think it should have spent money on, and also enacted policies with which he disagrees.
As idiotic as that assertion may be, it actually raises something interesting: the Obama administration, in its first two years anyway, has been extraordinarily scandal-free, not only in terms of corruption but with regard to any kind of malfeasance at all. There haven't been any intern scandals, any selling-arms-to-terrorists scandals, any leaking-the-name-of-covert-CIA-operative scandals, really any kind of scandals at all. Over at Fox they've done their best to drum some up, but they've been dealing with pretty weak tea, like the New Black Panther Party.
Every administration has its scandals, and eventually this one will too. It just isn't possible to run a government with thousands of people dealing in power, influence, and money without it happening sooner or later. Some administrations are more corrupt than others, however. And while it's possible that the Obama administration is engaged in all manner of criminal conspiracies we just haven't discovered yet, so far it's been remarkably clean.
This might be a happy accident, the result of the fact that they've been too busy for any graft, or the result of a concerted effort. The fact that they've gotten through much of the stimulus spending without anything erupting has to be counted as an achievement -- it's not easy to hand out a couple hundred billion dollars all over the country without any kickbacks or theft, but they seem to have managed it.
So Rep. Issa may hurt himself by crying wolf -- if he already thinks Obama is "one of the most corrupt presidents of modern times," for no other reason than that he happens to be a Democrat, he may not have much credibility left when he claims to have found some actual corruption.
-- Paul Waldman