Not That You Asked

North County sends big power to Washington

One of our own, Darrell Issa, is now entering center stage in Washington, D.C. Issa is soon to be armed with subpoena power to carry out his choice of investigations into the underside of a capital where waste abounds, cover-ups fester, double talk reigns and officials routinely sidestep taking responsibility for things that go wrong.
Will the Republican from Vista make us proud? How much skepticism must we shed to believe that he’s not out so much to embarrass the administration as to help it govern the seemingly intractable mess into which our boisterous democracy has evolved?
Having survived the ignominy of venerating Randall “Duke” Cunningham, the former congressman from these parts turned felon, and an apparently unrepentant one at that, are we so steeled that Issa cannot embarrass us, whatever he might end up doing?
Resoundingly returned to Congress for a fifth term in November, the choice of 64 percent of the voters in Vista, Oceanside and the rest of the 49th District in the upper reaches of North County, Issa faces a clear choice now as he ascends to the chairmanship of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee: He can shed light on derelict agencies that fail to carry out their lawful responsibilities and reform them, or turn his high profile position into a platform for shrill partisan attacks on the White House and all it holds holy.
It could go either way.
In October, he showed just how shoot-from-the-hip partisan he could be when he went on conservative maven Rush Limbaugh’s radio show and called Barack Obama “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.” He soon backtracked, though, begging our indulgence for an “impromptu moment of foolishness” and noting that he does not think the president is “personally corrupt.”
One wonders if Limbaugh ever noted the quasi apology on any of his subsequent evidence-free anti-administration screeds that screeches over the airwaves parading as serious discussions of public affairs.
As chairman, Issa will have the power to haul just about anybody before his panel, government official or corporate executive, and examine in the most minute detail whether their deportment has inflicted wounds on the greater good. Again, he also has the power to turn every committee investigation into what one liberal called a “partisan witch hunt” — aimed at so undermining the administration’s credibility that Democrats will be at a loss to hold onto the presidency two years from now.
That’s politics, I suppose, and what power our Issa may hold to bring such change about.
He’s said he would about double the size of his committee staff, bringing it to around 70 or 80, and encourage all seven subcommittees to hold one or two hearings per week, 40 weeks a year, or as many as an unprecedented 560 per annum. He is also fighting to secure subpoena power for the executive branch’s own internal auditors, the inspectors general. Only one of the 74 inspectors has it now.
As a ranking minority member of the oversight panel, Issa already resisted Democrats’ attempts to bury probes into what happened to the money that bailed out too-big-to-fail insurer AIG and how Countrywide, a mortgagor at the heart of the housing scandal, might have made sweet deals with key Democratic lawmakers for housing of their own. He’s also dug deeply into the Securities and Exchange Commission’s narcolepsy (during his own GOP’s administration) in the face of compelling evidence of massive Wall Street fraud and, way before the Gulf oil spill, the laxity and diffidence of the federal agency that regulates such drilling.
Our congressman can do us proud by using his considerable newfound power to make the country a better place for us all. He can likewise cheer his base and his party by blaming every problem on the partisan blindness of his opponents … and you have to wonder what good Republican wouldn’t?