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Issagate

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Señor Ugarte: "You despise me, don't you?"



Monsieur Rick: "If I gave you any thought, I probably would."*



(Casablanca, 1942)

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is himself a scandal. Desperate to be taken seriously, desperate for someone, anyone, to give him any thought, Issa has abused his power as chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Issagate.

In 2010 Darrell Issa strutted like a peacock with handfuls of subpoenas he intended to use against the Obama administration when the Republicans regained control of the House. There was no indication that anyone had done anything wrong, but Issa was going to investigate anyhow to see if he could cook up something. (Note: When it appeared that the Democrats would win back Congress in 2006, they fell all over themselves pledging not to conduct investigations.)

As many know, despite funding the Gray Davis recall to open a path for himself, Issa was unable to run for governor of California because of his past. There are serious allegations that he may have played a role in a fire that enabled him to collect on a recently increased fire insurance policy, and a couple of incidents of auto theft from which he managed to escape.

That Issa is a political arsonist, however, cannot be doubted.

His latest gambits, politicizing the tragic deaths of four Americans in Benghazi and the IRS flap, have backfired, as did all the other so-called investigations.

The investigator should now be investigated.

First, we were told that we would hear testimony from muzzled whistleblowers. Untrue. They were never muzzled. At the hearing, they complained that no one took notes when they testified. Then we were told that they had new information. Also untrue. Then we were told that they knew that Ambassador Chris Stevens could have been rescued by the military. Untrue again.

Then, just as Issa's case was turning to ashes, a new, hot piece of news was offered to rekindle it. Emails leaked to ABC News from someone (guess who?) on Issa's committee showed that the State Department (read, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) had had the initial talking points altered to protect itself.

Next, almost as if it were orchestrated (now, how could that be?), there were calls for a Select Committee to investigate. They were ready to fire up the entire D.C. establishment to parse every word of a statement prepared for Congress and delivered to the American public on the Sunday-morning gab fests by UN Ambassador Susan Rice.

Every interview she did included the qualification that the information was likely to change.

A few days later, it did. Never you mind. The president's brilliant campaign advisers said they should hide something, for three days, to bolster his reelection chances two months later. And, in case you did not notice, the sun rose in the west that day.

Yet the media, always in love with meaningless food fights, fell for it lock, stock and camera.

After all, these talking points are the most important matter for our elected representatives to spend their time on. Not that CO2 in the atmosphere has hit 400 ppm. Not that we still have millions who are unemployed. Not that Syria now looks as if Darrell Issa had just taken out insurance policies on buildings in Aleppo.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Select Committee. The leaked email was a lie. An utter fabrication. Altered by someone (guess whom?) to make the State Department (i.e., Hillary Clinton) look bad.

The committee then met with Ambassador Thomas Pickering, a career diplomat who co-authored the investigative report on Benghazi. He said there was never any scandal.

Now, who would deliberately alter emails? Somehow it brings to mind a burning building, but not the ones in Benghazi.

There should now be a complete investigation to answer the following questions:

  1. Who composed the altered document?
  2. Was he/she acting alone, or was it a conspiracy?
  3. Is there any link between the forger of this document and the person who forged the letter to Niger indicating that Saddam Hussein wanted to purchase yellowcake?
  4. Who thought of doing this?
  5. Who gave it to Jonathan Karl?
  6. What did Rep. Issa know, and when did he know it?
  7. Who is going to apologize to ABC News and the American people?
  8. Who is going to apologize to Hillary Clinton?
  9. Should the guilty party reimburse taxpayers for the money wasted by Congress?
  10. Why didn't ABC News corroborate its story before running with it?
  11. Who is going to get fired?
  12. Must Darrell Issa be stripped of his committee chairmanship?

Like Watergate, Issagate is fraud. We need to discover the responsible parties and hold them accountable.

Oh, I neglected to mention that Issa only allowed Ambassador Pickering to testify in a closed session. Surprised? After all his lies, Issa does not want the American people to hear the truth.

With his gambit going up in smoke, Issa attempts to cover up. Oh, and schedule more hearings.

(Pause for foreign language lesson: "We don't have all the facts," in Republicon-speak, translates into English as, "We have no evidence, and never had evidence, to support our lies." Resume.)

Fast-forward to the faux IRS flap. There is still not a single shred of evidence -- at least that survives more than a 24-hour news cycle -- that anyone did anything wrong, except perhaps allowing both right-wing and progressive organizations that are in fact engaging in politics to enjoy tax-exempt status and donor anonymity. But only a few of us are complaining about that, and those who are complaining don't count.

After releasing selected excerpts from his committee's investigation, Issa claimed there was evidence that the IRS agents were following orders from Washington, D.C. (read: the president and/or his campaign). When pressed to release the full transcripts, however, Issa claimed the full transcripts would destroy "the integrity" of the investigation.

Although ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) is humoring Issa by requesting specifics of what parts of the testimony Issa does not want the American people to hear, Cummings misses the real point that there is no "integrity" of the investigation from the outset. Issa assumed the conclusion of the investigation before it even began.

Issa reveals much more about Republicans than he realizes. Most of what he invents is projection of what he and his fellow right-wing travelers would do in the same situations.

  • Republicans would have covered up Benghazi, so they assumed that Secretary Clinton and/or President Obama would have done so as well. Who, pray tell, does Darrell Issa (or John McCain or Lindsey Graham) hold accountable for 9/11? How is it that Condoleeza Rice, who said the Aug. 6, 2001, President's Daily Brief entitled "Bin Laden Wants to Attack the US" was merely a historical piece, became Secretary of State, whereas as Susan Rice, who did nothing wrong except go with the CIA's version of events, qualified by noting they could change, was basically shouted down?
  • Republicans absolutely would have directed the IRS to go after Democratic-leaning groups, and they did so under Presidents George W. Bush and Richard M. Nixon. So they assumed that the president or his campaign team did the same. To them, it is natural behavior, and Issa is flabbergasted that it did not occur.

When, in his entire life, has the word "integrity" applied to anything that Darrell Issa has ever said or done?

*Señor Ugarte, it turned out, shot the German couriers and thus gained Rick's respect. So the comparison is not really apropos. By contrast, Darrell Issa is, and will remain, a quickly forgotten, pathetic figure in American history.