"Their paid liar, their spokesperson … he's still making up things about what happened and calling this a local rogue." — Darrell Issa on White House Spokesman Jay Carney.
"This is a problem that was in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters. We're getting to proving it." — Issa statement on IRS scandal before evidence.
Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is one of the most influential men on Capitol Hill, and both of the above quotes can rather alarmingly be attributed to him over the past few weeks. As chairman of the powerful Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa is Congress's watchdog tasked with flushing out government negligence, neutralizing wasteful spending, and uncovering criminal wrongdoing within government agencies.
Darrell Issa has taken an especially hardline tact over the recent IRS scandal that revealed members of the Cincinnati office purposefully targeted Tea Party groups applying for tax exemptions. Issa has attempted to craft a narrative about President Obama as a dirty political machinist who orchestrated the corrupt operation right out of the oval office. As hearings and interviews on the Hill have revealed, Issa is wrong.
There is no evidence to suggest that the IRS members in question targeted conservative political groups upon orders from the White House, or anywhere in D.C. for that matter. In fact, the IRS manager responsible for the targeting revealed that he considers himself to be a Republican. It has been clear for a while now that this is no Watergate scandal.
Instead of moving on or maneuvering to broaden the issue, Congressman Issa's narrow obsession with tying the IRS wrongdoing back to President Obama is threatening to be his own undoing. He has been confrontational, accusatory, and unable to accept that President Obama did not order the IRS to target Tea Party groups in order to give himself an advantage.
On numerous occasions Issa has refused to release full transcripts of committee interviews to the public, engaging in a back and forth struggle of memorandums with Ranking Member Elijah Cummings about whose oversight is the purest.
What is causing Darrell Issa's rampage against the president? The reasons are purely political. Instead of approaching the situation the way a committee chair should — by seeing the problem, eliciting answers, and organizing a new legislative plan based on factual evidence — Representative Issa likely feels this is his moment to tarnish the president's legacy and undermine Obamacare, a measure closely tied to the IRS.
Democrats are pushing hard against Issa's charges. With no evidence of White House involvement, Congressman Issa seems to have overplayed his hand. Rather than going all in to smear President Obama, Issa would be wise to claim a victory through exposure, take his remaining political chips, and move to the next table (or issue that needs oversight). He now has the opportunity to call out the IRS for wrongdoing and indirectly link it to a lack of leadership from Obama and other Democrats.
The GOP devoted much of the last five years attempting to deny President Obama a second term, an endeavor that backfired at the polls. Rather than engaging in political witch-hunts, Darrell Issa should prosecute the IRS case at face value and claim a victory. House leadership must reign in the Oversight Committee's Issa-led tirade before the Republican caucus gets backed into a hopeless corner.