Political bomb-thrower Darrell Issa got his due in a WaPo editorial yesterday, which held him to account for his characteristically over-the-top attack on the President, calling him “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.” When his charge fell flat, probably because no one, not even the President’s worst enemies, can cite even one instance of financial impropriety to enrich himself, Issa walked back and refocused his attack on the Administration, which he termed “one of the most corrupt administrations.” As the Post editorial said, “That is hardly more restrained or more responsible. It is in fact patently false.” The editorial continued:
Mr. Issa’s evidence for his assertion is – well, it would be an exaggeration to call it scant. “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,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
There can be disagreement over the wisdom of the Troubled Assets Relief Program, the fund proposed by President George W. Bush in 2008 to bail out financial institutions and, eventually, car companies during the financial crisis. But under Mr. Obama’s leadership, TARP has ended up costing the taxpayer far less than originally anticipated; last fall the Congressional Budget Office estimated its eventual total cost at $66 billion. Similarly, it’s fair to argue that the stimulus was misguided or ineffective. But evidence of corruption in its administration is negligible, impressively so given the enormous sums involved.
As the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa’s integrity, or lack of it, will come increasingly into focus. If he chooses to exercise his authority as a hack ideologue, rather than a fair-minded, responsible public servant, he will earn the contempt of his more thoughtful constituents. As the Post editorial concluded:
Mr. Issa is about to be entrusted with one of the most serious jobs in Congress, armed with subpoena power reaching across the federal government. Oversight is a critical congressional function, one that too often has been abandoned. But Mr. Issa’s repeated, inflammatory rhetoric is not commensurate with a responsible exercise of that role. One of the first things over which the congressman needs to exercise better oversight is his own loose talk.
Mr. Issa, who CBS News has called “the richest member of congress,” cut his political chops in a failed 1998 campaign for Senate, in which he reportedly blew $10 mill of his own dough. Apparently he hasn’t yet learned that political bullying, whether with money or authority, often backfires.