Darrell Issa, the Obama Administration's Best Friend

When Darrell Issa filled the chairmanship of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform after Republicans took back the House in the 2010 election, he promised that he was going to be a dogged pursuer of the Obama administration. But at this point, I'm genuinely curious about how Republicans feel about Issa. Conservatives sincerely believe that the Obama administration is riddled with corruption, starting with the villainous president and going all the way down to the intern who makes copies in the basement of the Commerce Department. Yet Issa has turned out to be a strikingly incompetent clown, screwing things up spectacularly every time he tries to embarrass the administration and being so transparently sleazy in the way he goes about his work that he never succeeds in pinning anything on Obama.

Think about all the times Republicans thought they had Obama dead to rights and Issa couldn't deliver the goods. There was Solyndra, "Fast and Furious," the IRS scandal, and of course the one that keeps on giving, Benghazi. Obviously, the fact that they haven't mounted a successful impeachment based on any of these is mostly because there just hasn't been any criminal behavior. But every time it looks like Issa is about to whip something into a lasting scandal, he does something like what he did yesterday. First, Issa (or presumably his staff) leaks to CBS News a "partial transcript" of a closed hearing revealing that, in the words of their report, "the project manager in charge of building the federal health care website was apparently kept in the dark about serious failures in the website's security. Those failures could lead to identity theft among buying insurance." Sounds awful! But you'll be shocked to learn that neither of those things is true. Steve Benen has the details:

I talked to a Democratic staffer this morning about the partial transcript and the aide said Issa's staff "basically sandbagged this witness with a document he had never seen before and then failed to inform him that it has nothing to do with parts of the website that launched on October 1. In fact, it relates to a function of the website that is not currently active and won't be until the spring of 2014. Rather than seeking out the truth, this press release tries to scare the public by capitalizing on confusion caused by the Chairman's own staff."

Oh. So, when Republicans and CBS suggest the project manager in charge of building the federal health care website was apparently kept in the dark about serious failures in the website's security, they're leaving out pretty much every relevant detail that points in a more accurate direction.

The Democratic staffer added that even when this part of the website is active, it "will not submit or share personally identifiable information," but rather, will only include "insurance information plan data."

We seem to go through this every time there's a brewing "scandal." Issa's staff releases a partial transcript of a hearing or interview, or some carefully selected documents or emails, intended togive the impression that the Obama administration has done something appalling, and within a day or two, Democrats on the oversight committee say, "Hold on—that's totally misleading!" Then the Democrats release more information, and it turns out the whole thing was a big nothingburger. In this case as in all the others, it isn't as though Issa couldn't have guessed that the more complete truth would come out, and come out quickly. So what is he thinking? That if he can produce a couple of seemingly damaging stories for the Obama administration, even if they're refuted the next day and he looks like he's trying to pull a con, then he's done his job? Who knows. He thinks he's Columbo, but he's actually Jerry Lewis.

If I were a Republican, I'd be asking when we could get someone in that position who actually knows what the hell he's doing.

You may also like