Among the many reasons that Americans hold the House of Representatives in low repute – at historically abysmal levels, in fact – is the blatantly partisan and ideological misconduct of so many committee chairs. Without any evident embarrassment these mighty politicians deny science, defy mathematics, and dismiss every fact that contradicts their prejudices. But bad as these chairs tend to be, none is quite as flamboyantly awful as Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the Government Oversight Committee, a special investigative panel whose latest effort to conjure scandal from nothingness at the Internal Revenue Service would provoke his removal by a responsible leadership.
As we have pointed out repeatedly in these pages, and as testimony by the IRS inspector general has since confirmed, it is now clear that right-wing groups were not targeted for exceptional scrutiny. Moreover, there was no political motive in the agency’s treatment of the Tea Party and associated groups seeking tax exemption (in many cases illegitimately).
It is now equally obvious that the behavior of Issa himself, with his attempts to skew his committee’s investigation and conceal testimony that exonerated the agency, represents the most serious wrongdoing in the supposed “IRS scandal.” But this isn’t the first time that the California Republican, who happens to be the wealthiest man in Congress, has misused the broad powers of his chairmanship. Actually, that is all he does – as he demonstrated in equally opportunistic and amateurish examinations of both the Benghazi tragedy and the “Fast and Furious” affair.
Issa’s stewardship of the House Government Reform Committee has failed even by the standards of the Republican congressional leadership, which must have hoped that he would have collected some Obama administration scalps by now. He delayed the Fast and Furious probe solely to extend it into the election year, blustered against Attorney General Eric Holder, and accomplished…nothing.
There is little hope that Speaker John Boehner, who has enough problems maintaining a semblance of authority and dignity, will question Issa’s fitness to chair this important committee. But still we are left wondering: What would become of Issa if he were subjected to the Republican style of investigation? What if the presumption of guilt, the preference for insinuation over evidence, the omission of exculpatory facts, and the promulgation of conspiratorial speculations that feature in all of Issa’s theatrical probes were applied to him?