By Doug Porter
Today (November 1) is Congressman Darrell Issa’s sixty-third birthday.
He’s worked hard in recent years, using the powers of his office to deny Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke the opportunity to testify on birth control and failing to come up with even one conclusive investigation into the Obama administration despite promising the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform would hold investigative hearings “seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks.”
The Republican leadership denied Issa’s request for an extended tenure as committee chair in 2014, due primarily to a lack of results. This wasn’t such a big deal back in the days of the Bush administration when Issa used his perch to block investigation of 22 million missing White House emails. But with Barack Obama in the driver’s seat, the party expected results and got nothing but posturing designed to build the Issa brand.
One writer summed up Issa’s tenure as “the best Oversight chairman a Democratic administration could hope for.”
In four years at the helm of the House of Representative’s primary investigative body, Darrell Issa launched major investigations into the 2012 attack in Benghazi, the IRS’s alleged targeting of conservative organizations, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms’ failed “Fast and Furious” operation, the bankruptcy of solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, and the launch of Healthcare.gov. In pursuit of these scandals he was granted a budget of $25,678,100.
This figure does not account for the $14 million spent by the IRS answering voluminous and often duplicative subpoenas, the “millions” spent by the Department of Defense responding to inquiries about the attack in Benghazi, the budget of the Oversight Committee’s minority staff, nor the massive expenditure of resources by the dozens of other federal agencies that have come under the scrutiny of the Oversight Committee. By its conclusion Darrell Issa’s chairmanship could cost the U.S. Treasury well into the nine figures. From that astounding allocation of resources, Issa has unveiled no major corruption or gotten to the bottom of no significant scandal.
By mistaking bureaucratic incompetence for scandal, ineptitude for criminality, and general stupidity on the part of low- and mid-level government employees for political conspiracy, Issa all but guarantees that only the most fervent partisans will trust any information that emerges from his committee. In that way he is perhaps the best Oversight chairman a Democratic administration could hope for — one whose investigations can simply be disregarded as partisan witch hunts and whose influence waned with each misstep.
Issa’s legacy at the helm of the Oversight committee is best illustrated by this passage from a 2015 Los Angeles Times story:
For four years, Rep. Darrell Issa presided over one of the highest-profile oversight committees in Congress, becoming a fixture in the national news as he took the Obama administration to task for everything from bank bailouts to corruption in Afghanistan.
Only three months ago, the California congressman unveiled a portrait of himself to hang proudly in the committee hearing room.
“Click LIKE to thank Chairman Issa for his tireless commitment to transparency and for his dedicated service to the American people,” the oversight committee Facebook page suggested as the portrait was hung.
Just days after his successor took over at the helm in January, though, the new painting vanished from the hearing room. It now hangs in a private committee anteroom, beside a coat rack and a television screen.
Trump Before There Was Trump
After 15 years of being essentially unchallenged as the Congressman representing the 49th District, Darrel Issa is facing the first serious re-election campaign of his career.
As Presidential contender Donald Trump’s fortunes have ebbed and waned, so have Issa’s. Earlier this year the congressman introduced the candidate at a rally in San Diego. After initially campaigning for Sen. Marco Rubio, Issa switched sides in May calling Trump “the obvious choice.”
On the same day as the infamous 2005 video of Trump’s misogyny became public, Issa announced he was joining Trump’s national security advisory board.
Shortly after the Trump tape was released, Issa’s campaign circulated a mailer praising the president for signing a sexual assault victims bill the congressman co-sponsored. Obama called the move “shameless” and “the definition of chutzpah,” prompting Issa to issue a fiery statement of his own.
Now he’s saying he would have advised Hillary Clinton’s campaign, if only she’d asked.
Yeah, right. Here’s Laura Clawson from Daily Kos with a truth bomb:
Darrell Issa is desperate, and a desperate Darrell shows just how hilariously dishonest he’s willing to be. Less than two weeks after trying to tie himself to President Obama, Issa is now claiming he’d have done Hillary Clinton the same dubious favor he’s done Donald Trump by signing on as a campaign adviser…
…The “I would have said yes to Clinton, too,” excuse is a real convenient way to downplay his Trump ties, but how stupid does Issa think his district’s voters are? Mysteriously, the alleged nonpartisan side has only started coming out now that Issa is in a tight race, facing a serious threat from Democrat Doug Applegate. He did an especially great job keeping it hidden through his time grandstanding on the Oversight Committee, and he hasn’t let it slip in the years since.
UPDATE: Too bad, Darrell. Here’s an embrace from The Donald, whether you want it or not:
.@DarrellIssa is a very good man. Help him win his congressional seat in California.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 1, 2016
A Primary Surprise
The June primary for the 49th Congressional District wasn’t a particularly hard fought one. Pretty much everybody expected incumbent Issa to roll up a huge majority on his way to crushing a sacrificial Democrat come November.
From the Huffington Post:
Issa was taken by surprise when a former Marine colonel, Democrat Doug Applegate, had a strong primary turnout in June that propelled him onto the November ballot.
Applegate, 62, has never held political office before. He’d never even run for office before jumping into this race. Applegate is running as a progressive, one who’s for repealing Citizens United and wants to implement a carbon tax. He’s also a veteran who served in Iraq ― “a strategic blunder,” he says ― and a retired trial lawyer who decries the “racist, unjust” U.S. criminal and civil justice system.
Despite being an unknown, Applegate came within 5.3 points of Issa in California’s free-for-all primary system, where the top two vote-getters make it to the general election.
Now the contest for the 49th District is getting national attention. Big bucks are flowing in from both parties. TV commercials are being made.
— Col Doug Applegate (@ApplegateCA49) November 1, 2016
Nasty TV commercials, I should say.
Issa commercials all but call Applegate a wife beater, imply that the former Marine is unstable, and feature Rudy “9/11” Guiliani, along with San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore telling us we’ll be safer by returning the incumbent to Washington.
Applegate commercials focus on the Trump connection. From the Union-Tribune:
“On the day we saw the real Donald Trump, Darrell Issa decided to join Trump’s campaign” Applegate’s narrator says.
The DCCC’s ad uses a female narrator, a first by either party or campaign in the race.
“We all heard him, Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. Yet Congressman Darrell Issa still supports Trump,” the commercial’s narrator says.
Applegate’s campaign manager said they’re highlighting the differences between the candidates.
“Darrell Issa consistently puts his party above our country,” said Robert Dempsey, Applegate’s campaign manager. “He did it when he signed onto Trump’s campaign, and he did it when he voted against our nation’s first responders after 9/11.”
This Congressional race has garnered national attention, due in large part to how it fits into the “changing demographics” narrative of how the electorate will vote in the future.
Orange and Northern San Diego Counties are seeing an upsurge in the Latino population. Younger, low propensity voters became engaged in the electoral process through the campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
From the Washington Post:
Every factor that cuts against Trump’s Republican Party cuts deeper in California. Last week, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) barnstormed the state’s Central Valley to help incumbents who had won easily in 2014. This year, they will need to overcome more than 1 million new Democratic voter registrations — and a Trump candidacy that in one poll was cruising along with support from less than 30 percent of voters.
Four Republican-held seats in California are seen as competitive, in large part because of Latino votes. In a decade, demographic change in the rest of the country could affect dozens more seats now thought to be safely red.
In ads and on the stump, Applegate asks voters to consider Issa a fumbling congressman and an apologist for the top of his party’s ticket. He was, Applegate says, “Trump before there was Trump.” Issa’s years as House oversight committee chairman, which included the first investigation of the 2012 Benghazi, Libya, attack, are cited as proof that he has ignored the district.
Breaking Up is Hard to Do
It’s difficult to tell how this will end.
Are the media accounts about the presidential race tightening to be believed?
quite odd that journalists so openly discuss how campaign coverage is basically rigged in ensure a preferred storyline. (via WP) pic.twitter.com/FNivDrHx89
— Eric Boehlert (@EricBoehlert) November 1, 2016
Will Latino and younger voters actually show up at the polls? Is (mostly) Orange County coming out of the stone ages?
It’s tough to beat an incumbent. Issa has all the advantages when it comes to name recognition and seniority. We hope this will be Darrell Issa’s last birthday as a congressman. It would be a hell of a present for the country.
The San Diego Free Press has endorsed the candidacy of Doug Applegate.
For information on the November 2016 General Election, see our San Diego 2016 Progressive Voter Guide
To see what will be on your ballot, and for information about where, when and how to vote: Voters Edge
On This Day: 1512 – Michelangelo’s paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel were first exhibited to the public 1887 – Thirty-seven Black striking Louisiana sugar workers were murdered when Louisiana militia, aided by bands of “prominent citizens,” shot unarmed workers trying to get a dollar-per-day wage. Two strike leaders were lynched. 1994 – The Amazon.com domain name was registered.
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