A good point is raised here: It’s not just that Rep. Darrell Issa has turned the House Oversight Committee into a hyper-partisanized vehicle for an unending stream of witch hunts. He’s also just plain not very good at it.
It’s familiar territory for Issa, who tends to shoot first and ask questions later. From Benghazi to the IRS to Fast and Furious, almost every investigation he has helmed has blown up in his face.
Democrats can’t help but marvel and feel compelled to offer some advice. “Not that I want to be calling attention to it, but he totally wasted a huge opportunity and got nothing,” a Democratic staffer familiar with the oversight process, granted anonymity to speak candidly, said of Issa’s hearing last week. For one, the staffer noted, Issa failed to mention anything about a report that HealthCare.gov might not be ready by the administration’s Nov. 30 deadline. “From our perspective, they had so much that they could have asked, but nothing new was discovered.”
Is anything new ever discovered? For all the talk of oversight, the Issa-led committee has done precious little of it, or at least has almost nothing to show for it. We don’t know anything about the eff-ups in implementation of the HealthCare.gov website that we would not have known without Issa.
The Issa investigation of how the IRS investigated prospective tax-exempt political organizations shed no light on the subject, but instead actively misrepresented agency actions in a way that a better oversight committee might want to itself review. Part of this is due to Issa’s obsession with using the committee as partisan vehicle—for example, “Benghazi” as vehicle for harming Hillary Clinton, period, regardless of what any actual evidence might turn up.
A larger part of it, though, is that Issa is so enmeshed with conspiracy theorizing that the things he wishes to “investigate” are very often (Benghazi, cough) based on fringe theories and conspiratorial delusions. It’s small wonder when the committee then comes up with scant evidence of the conspiracy, but that never seems to temper Issa going forward.
From Ted Cruz’s new McCarthyism to Issa’s various and colorful explorations of other people’s fever dreams, the intellectual devolution of the party doesn’t just manifest itself in conspiracy-laced campaigns (see: Obama birtherism, “death panels”). They’re governing as conspiracy theorists as well.
ACORN continues to be regularly defunded in new legislation on the off chance that it still secretly exists, somewhere, as the malevolent secret pro-Obama force that various lunatics are convinced of. We had legislators beside themselves at the thought that a government agency might be buying too much ammunition, a concern lifted directly from conspiracy theories peddled before Obama had even taken office. Go to various strongly-Republican states and legislation meant to battle imaginary plots hatched by the U.N. or the menace of creeping sharia are, at this point, commonplace.
Like a remarkably large portion of his party and base, Darrell Issa suffers from being a conspiracy theorist. More specifically, Issa suffers from being a conspiracy theorist with enough actual power to accidentally disprove his own conspiracy theories, which must be among the more terrible things that can happen to a conspiracy theorist.
So far, though, there’s no sign that he’s taken any of this as a learning experience. He’s always convinced that everything the committee deals with is a likely conspiracy that leads directly to the door of the White House, and whether or not he’s doing that because he is a partisan hack who can think of no better use for the committee’s time or whether he really, truly believes that all bad things in the world emanate from that bad man in the Oval Office, the result is the same.
He’s bad at it, the committee he chairs has become a national running joke, and as much as we all love a good joke there is probably some actual oversight that ought to be going on that isn’t, thanks to Issa’s propensity to constantly break off his leash in order to go chase cars.