Our “Good Government Republican” writer and commenter Cynthia Ward had a lovely comment here today that I think belongs in a story, so I’m going to import it below. Sadly perhaps for her, or maybe not, I’m going to use it, in part, as an explanation of why I despise Rep. Darrell Issa, who this year climbed into our blogging jurisdiction arena as representative for southernmost OC.
Cynthia’s cri de couer against the Ronald Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment not to criticize other Republicans as opening the door to corruption reflects her partisan version of my own story from 2-1/2 weeks ago about the then-emerging FBI investigations regarding Sen. Ron Calderon. I wanted him and every other Democratic official and semi-official to know that, if push came to shove in an ethical matter that I didn’t have good reason to think was bogus, I would not “have their back.” I would call for due process to take its course. I see part of the service that I can do as a member of a political party is to make it harder for the people who are real bastards to take power. Cynthia, as I read her, feels the same about her own party.
But there’s an important corollary to being willing not to defend one’s own party when it’s wrong, which I also did in a policy matter yesterday. (Happily, my party has apparently listened.) That flip side of integrity in defense of one’s own party is this: have integrity when it comes to attacks on the other party. Don’t make things up; don’t “cry wolf”; don’t throw things at the wall to see what sticks.
I want the Republican Party (and third parties) to be able to present fair and cogent critiques of my party. We’re not gods, we have the capacity to make errors, and in a competitive political system we should be wary of the prospect that the other party will notice them and point them out. Similarly, the Republican Party should want the likes of me — and of the Grand Jury, by the way, County Supervisors — to be able to keep a close and suspicious eye on them, so that they will govern more honestly.
And that is why Darrell Issa — whose positions have often been ably represented here in the past by people such as Geoff Willis and Our Man Skallywag — drives me up a tree. He lies, he conceals, and he discredits. He makes it easy for the worst elements of my party to think that any attack on us can be brushed away as lacking credibility. And that’s why he has to go — seriously, Republicans, he has got to be relieved of his position — as the subpoena-power engorged head of the House Oversight Committee: he sucks.
Issa completely, definitively, outrageously, almost unimaginably sucks at his job, in a way that discredits even potentially legitimate criticism from the Republican Party. Some Democrats may be reading this in horror, because they know that keeping his mendacious and discrediting ass in the center chair actually helps our party. But as part of the same bipartisan faction, even if in the opposite party, as Cynthia, I have to tell you in all honesty: find someone honest who will do better in this job.
You tried it his way. It hasn’t worked. He’s dulling the public to the idea of scandal by being a transparently partisan liar. (By the way, we do thank him for making Sandra Fluke a rising star — she’s a delightful and articulate feminist spokesperson. But even that’s not worth putting up with his boneheadedness.) The “Fast and Furious” scandal went exactly nowhere. The Benghazi “scandal” — ooh, Susan Rice got insufficiently well-developed talking points! — has served primarily to make rational and institutional moderates viscerally afraid of the Republican Party being in power. And the IRS “scandal” — which has been sucking up way too much attention from well-meaning Republican partisans who want it to be significant and true — is circling the drain because … any guesses? … Issa has been lying.
Worse, he’s been covering it up — and he’s so bad at it that no amount of money will ever buy him even a taste of actual executive power. All it took to knock him silly was for a member of the Democratic Party to take the extraordinarily nasty step of … releasing raw witness-interview transcripts that showed Issa’s story to be politically motivated crap.
Rep. Elijah Cummings–ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee–made good on his promise to release more transcripts from the committee’s interviews with workers at the Cincinnati IRS. Despite protests from chairman Darrell Issa, Cummings made available Tuesday the full interview of the IRS Screening Group Manager, who handled groups applying for tax-exempt status.
“This interview transcript…debunks conspiracy theories about how the IRS first started reviewing these cases,” Cummings wrote in a letter to Issa. “Answering questions from Committee staff for more than five hours, this official—who identified himself as a ‘conservative Republican’—denied that he or anyone on his team was directed by the White House to take these actions or that they were politically motivated.”
The “conspiracy theories” Cummings mentions were disseminated by Issa himself. On May 14th, Issa said unequivocally, “This was the targeting of the president’s political enemies effectively and lies about it during the election year, so that it wasn’t discovered until afterwards.” But he had no evidence to support this claim.
When challenged by generally sympathetic reporter Candy Crowly, Issa had promised to release the full transcripts rather than just suggestive excerpts of them. He then reneged. So Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said, essentially “OK, buster, if you won’t then I will.”
Issa, calling the promise to release the transcripts “reckless,” attacked Cummings directly: “Your decision to make that declaration in a very public way was irresponsible and emblematic of your general aversion to conducting meaningful oversight of the administration.”
And now upon inspection we find out that those transcripts (PDF warning), which Issa had known about from the start, show that most of what Issa was flinging at the wall was … let’s call it “effluence.” All that stuff you heard about before? It was a made-up, political case that depended on your not knowing the full story. That contempt for the public, for good-government folks of both parties, discredits honest criticism. I have defended OC Republicans from Brother Vern this week as “not being stupid,” but let’s be frank: Issa is from San Diego county! I wasn’t talking about him.
Congress needs good, strong, government oversight committees. I’m not naive; I know that they will in part be political, designed in part to highlight and promote certain sides of certain issues. Let us leave such conflicts — like the (to my taste) politically stupid move of excluding Sandra Fluke from testifying as part of what without her turned out to be an all-male panel on the subject of political coverage of birth control, causing Rush Limbaugh to frantically roll his entire career into a paper cigar and light it on fire — to the political arena. (We’ll be fine fighting them out there.) But what I will not stand for — and what you moderates and independents and especially Republicans should not stand for — is for those investigations to be fundamentally dishonest. And that’s what we’ve gotten from Chairman Issa: crippling dishonesty.
This is a good place to, at long last, insert Cynthia’s brave and excellent comment:
I actually despise the 11th Commandment. It is the equivalent of protecting the funny uncle, it is disgraceful, and frankly it is what has the GOP is such a bad place today. When we refuse to speak ill of other Republicans, we fail to clean house. We fail to “protect the brand” if you will. As Republicans, we should be the FIRST to speak out against others of the party who give the GOP a bad name, because it sullies all conservatives.
Look at Anaheim. The face of Republican leadership for a decade now has been the “Masters of the Universe” funneling money into the pork troughs of their buddies, and leaving residential neighborhoods in disrepair and neglect. Now that the aftermath of Pringle’s failed policies are coming to light, we have a Republican majority doing all they can to stubbornly cling to his outdated patterns of governance. It is so bad, that the ONE true Conservative on that dais is being beaten up by the others, to make him go away or shut up.
Because the GOP (and I count myself in this criticism even though I am far from a Republican insider) has failed to grab these morons by the scruff of the neck and make it clear that their increasing greed and arrogance is entirely out of control, voters will clean house come November. The combination of District elections giving voters a genuine choice for the first time since Anaheim grew to the point of making at large elections no longer viable (decades), and the distaste for the current Republican offerings, might very well lead to losing some seats to liberals, and I am FURIOUS about that.
My Republican brethren will claim it is the fault of the ACLU and Los Amigos, and in the name of hanging on to those seats claim that we must block District elections for the greater good. The irony is that none of them bother seeing that the answer is to become the kind of leaders that voters do not WANT to exchange for someone else. Is that not obvious? Like abusive husbands whose wives are threatening to leave after someone finally pays attention to them, they stand between the woman and the front door, menacingly growling that nobody is leaving until they say they can leave….once upon a time that woman loved you enough to marry you, once upon a time someone picked you out of the crowd and chose you above all others, and somewhere the vision has been lost for keeping that relationship healthy.
Its time for the GOP to remove the stained wife-beater tank, shower, shave, and go buy some flowers.
I hope Irvine can learn from Anaheim, a treatise on what NOT to do with fellow electeds when differences arise, or that majority may slip there as it is almost certain to do in Anaheim.
As Republicans who refuse to stand up against the bullies that represent an increasing majority of Central Committee, (or those who own the Central Committee) it is our own damn fault that we are about to be thrown over for a bunch of liberals, Fix it, Now.
Yeah, what she said. Fix it, now. Start by prying Darrell Issa out of that committee chair and installing someone whom I and the public, whatever our political disagreements, can trust and respect. He is sullying respectable, “green-eyeshade,” conservatism.
The government given you a nice (albeit highly bipartisan) juicy NSA domestic surveillance scandal to work with. Do your job of keeping us honest. — “us” meaning both parties. On this one, we need each other’s help to do real, serious government oversight. Issa, at he has repeatedly proven, is not the man for the job.