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If GOP wins House, Obama’s ‘chief antagonist’ aims to be ‘subpoena machine’

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According to a Politico report, “Rep. Darrell Issa, the conservative firebrand whose specialty is lobbing corruption allegations at the Obama White House, is making plans to hire dozens of subpoena-wielding investigators if Republicans win the House this fall.”

The California Republican’s daily denunciations draw cheers from partisans and bookings from cable TV producers. He even bought his own earphone for live shots. But his bombastic style and attention-seeking investigations draw eye rolls from other quarters. Now, he’s making clear he won’t be so easy to shrug off if he becomes chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in 2011.

Issa has told Republican leadership that if he becomes chairman, he wants to roughly double his staff from 40 to between 70 and 80. And he is not subtle about what that means for President Barack Obama.

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Politico’s James Hohmann and Jake Sherman note, “At a recent speech to Pennsylvania Republicans here, he boasted about what would happen if the GOP wins 39 seats, and he gets the power to subpoena.”

“That will make all the difference in the world,” he told 400 applauding party members during a dinner at the chocolate-themed Hershey Lodge. “I won’t use it to have corporate America live in fear that we’re going to subpoena everything. I will use it to get the very information that today the White House is either shredding or not producing.”

In other words, Issa wants to be to the Obama administration what Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) was to the Clinton administration — a subpoena machine in search of White House scandals.

Admitting his headline regarding the Politico report is “a bit much” — but “thank you for clicking on it” — the Washington Post’s David Weigel asks, “Will Darrell Issa wreck the GOP?”

Let me just repeat something a few conservatives who were active during the Clinton years have told me. If Republicans win the House, it will be because voters grew disgusted with the Democrats’ priorities during a deep recession — why spend so much time on health care, cap-and-trade and the rest of it instead of job creation? Why not focus, as Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) likes to say, on “jobs, jobs, jobs”?

The Obama administration simply hasn’t been dogged by scandals the way that the Clinton administration was. Many conservatives believe that it should be. They point to the unresolved (but resolving in a Chicago courtroom right now) questions over what ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-Ill.) told members of the administration, why the DOJ didn’t pursue a case against the New Black Panther Party, why an Americorps inspector general was fired, and precisely what was offered to some U.S. Senate candidates in order to get them out of their races. Have these stories failed to take off only because Republicans don’t have subpoena power? Perhaps. But it’s hard to imagine a scenario where an electorate, angry about the economy, hands Republicans the reins of power, and endorses a series of fishing expeditions about scandals that (“jobgate” aside) never got much traction outside of the Washington Times.

Earlier this month, the Washington Post’s Perry Bacon Jr.reported, “Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the man who radically changed California politics by helping fund the 2003 recall effort that lead to the removal of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and the election of fellow Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, has become one of President Obama’s chief antagonists.”

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From his perch as the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa has spent the last 15 months constantly blasting the Obama administration on nearly every controversy and calling for countless investigations that the Democratic-controlled committee refuses to order.

But Issa is finally starting to hit some of his targets. He was one of the leading Republicans in pushing the White House to reveal more details about its discussions to persuade Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) to forgo a Senate primary run against Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) in return for a possible government job. Sestak won the primary, and now another Senate candidate challenging an incumbent Democrat, Andrew Romanoff in Colorado, has acknowledged having similar discussions with White House officials. Issa has suggested the White House violated the law and may have offered Sestak “a bribe” in the process, assertions that have not been proved.

He is also demanding the administration release details of Cabinet officials’ travel to events that might benefit Democratic candidates, continuing to cast Obama as embracing “politics as usual.”


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