Darrell Issa's newest IRS scandal revelation: Darrell Issa is bad at investigating scandals

House Oversight Committee chairman has finally exposed something. It's not what he intended

Published March 5, 2014 6:48PM (EST)

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA)         (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

Darrell Issa had one job -- use his position as chairman of the House Oversight Committee to keep the media fixated on a series of open-ended investigations into frivolous Obama administration scandals, like in the good old Clinton days -- and he has totally botched it. When Issa took over the committee in 2011, he essentially promised the right that he'd take down the Obama administration. Between the FDA, WikiLeaks, Fannie Mae, Solyndra and Fast and Furious, he'd surely find something impeachment-worthy. But none of those really panned out. Next came Benghazi, which will live on forever in conservative lore as the most scandalous scandal of all time, but which suffers from the fact that no one outside the conservative bubble can figure out what the "political scandal" part of the attack is supposed to be.

Issa got the outright gift, last year, of the political press deciding to package three largely unrelated news stories -- the Justice Department gaining access to the phone logs of journalists, the IRS maybe-sorta applying excessive scrutiny to certain mostly conservative groups, and Benghazi ... having happened, I guess -- as a sort of trifecta of "Obama scandals." This was his opportunity! Issa pounced on the IRS scandal, as usual promising earth-shattering revelations. He chose ... poorly.

This is where he's at, today: He called former IRS official Lois Lerner back before the committee so that she could plead the Fifth again and he could, I dunno, hold a press conference about how evil the IRS is. Lerner took the Fifth. Issa adjourned the committee. Then, Oversight Committee ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings attempted to speak, and Issa decided it would be a smart move to cut Cummings' mic. He did the little throat-cut move and everything.

This seems like the behavior of a man who knows he is not meeting the high expectations he made sure everyone had for his performance. So, after this, Issa met the press, and he quietly asked conservatives to revise those expectations:

A reporter than asked Issa if he was still "confident" the investigation would "get to the bottom of this."

"It may well be we have gotten to the bottom of it," Issa said. "At this point, roads lead to Ms. Lerner. The witness who to took the Fifth. That becomes -- she becomes one of the key characters at this point. Had she been willing to explain those emails which were provided through separate subpoenas, then we could have perhaps brought this to a close. Without that, it may dead end with Ms. Lerner."

Issa would like you to believe that he definitely could've taken down the president, probably, if it weren't for that damned Lerner and her cunning "not incriminating herself" trick. Better luck next scandal, Darrell.

By Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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