Monday, January 31, 2011

An Important Question-- Maybe An Existential Question-- For America: Can Issa Be Trusted?


I thought I'd follow up on yesterday's tweet (above) with a more detailed explanation. As we pointed out, it's worth being very suspicious about who exactly Rep. Darrell Issa is and how he-- a low grade car thief, gun-totin' thug and arsonist-for-profit-- wound up as the richest man in Congress. Right-wingers have been warning that Issa is a kind of Manchurian candidate for Arab terrorism. That may be a stretch... but that he's a danger to American democracy isn't, not by a long shot. This weekend Eric Lipton in the NY Times pointed to a development that shows why giving actual power to a deranged, irresponsible sociopath like Issa-- whether he's a conscious agent for our destruction or not-- is antithetical to a thriving democracy. Issa just took over the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and he's demanding "the names of hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens, business executives, journalists and others who have requested copies of federal government documents in recent years."
[H]is extraordinary request worries some civil libertarians. It “just seems sort of creepy that one person in the government could track who is looking into what and what kinds of questions they are asking,” said David Cuillier, a University of Arizona journalism professor and chairman of the Freedom of Information Committee at the Society of Professional Journalists. “It is an easy way to target people who he might think are up to no good.”

One of America's most intrepid and well-respected investigative reporters, Russ Baker, asks if Issa's mug is the new face of Big Brother. He calls Issa's demand "an ominous development that is likely to pass almost unnoticed" and warns that "it’s hard to accept that at face value, without at least considering the corporate interests that backed the GOP takeover in November, and Issa’s ascension to this powerful position."
The very short Times article doesn’t get into the extent to which Issa and his allies are indebted to corporations that have a strong interest in finding out about inquiries that could affect their interests. Like reporters nosing around into the military-industrial complex, or trying to find out about stalled prosecutions of egregious polluters.

If, indeed, Issa is just super concerned about openness in government, that’s fine. But it’s not clear that a member of Congress-- and a highly politicized, partisan one at that-- ought to be the one to receive such sensitive information.

Can Issa be trusted? Well, consider this New York Magazine summary of a New Yorker dig into Issa:
The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza has taken a long look into the often shady past of California congressman Darrell Issa, the House Oversight Committee chairman who intends to unleash a flurry of investigations on the Obama administration. Issa has, “among other things, been indicted for stealing a car, arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, and accused by former associates of burning down a building.” “Everyone has a past,” Issa tells Lizza. This is true. But not everyone has fired an employee by “plac[ing] a box on the table, and open[ing] it to reveal a gun.”

Is Baker being paranoid to think Issa could possibly put the interests of GOP corporate donors ahead of a value like, say, democracy? Absolutely not and the best source of all is... Darrell Issa himself. Last year, asked what he’d do if GOP took the House, he told 400 applauding party members and Republican donors during a dinner at the chocolate-themed Hershey Lodge, "That will make all the difference in the world. 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." And I'd guess Paul Krugman doesn't trust Issa much either. He ran this tangentially-related post this morning in the NY Times: Inquiry And Intimidation. I think he's talking about Issa here; the McCarthy line is a dead giveaway.
I haven’t seen this reported elsewhere-- but Republicans in Congress are planning to investigate the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, looking for evidence of corruption and wrongdoing.

It’s absurd, of course: a tiny commission with a small budget didn’t offer much scope for corruption.

But what this is really about is intimidation-- in much the same way that investigations of climate scientists are about intimidation.

What the GOP wants is to make people afraid even to do research that produces conclusions they don’t like. And they don’t stop at trying to undermine the research-- they go after the researchers personally. The goal is to create an environment in which analysts and academics are afraid to look into things like financial-industry malfeasance or climate change, for fear that some subcommittee will either dig up or invent dirt about their private lives.

McCarthy had nothing on these guys.

Labels: , , ,


At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Wor Ried said...

I wonder if the investigations of those who filed requests for information will include the "suspect's" warrantlessly-tapped phone calls, all on-line social media and even all the comments they've posted.

If not now, soon.


Post a Comment

<< Home