The Character Deficit
By Steve McCann
By Steve McCann
|Issa has eye on subpoena team
By: James Hohmann and Jake Sherman
June 18, 2010 04:35 AM EDT
|HERSHEY, Pa.— Rep. Darrell Issa, the conservative firebrand whose specialty is lobbing corruption allegations at the Obama White House, is making plans to hire dozens of subpoena-wielding investigators if Republicans win the House this fall.
The California Republican’s daily denunciations draw cheers from partisans and bookings from cable TV producers. He even bought his own earphone for live shots. But his bombastic style and attention-seeking investigations draw eye rolls from other quarters. Now, he’s making clear he won’t be so easy to shrug off if he becomes chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in 2011.
Issa has told Republican leadership that if he becomes chairman, he wants to roughly double his staff from 40 to between 70 and 80. And he is not subtle about what that means for President Barack Obama.
At a recent speech to Pennsylvania Republicans here, he boasted about what would happen if the GOP wins 39 seats, and he gets the power to subpoena.
“That will make all the difference in the world,” he told 400 applauding party members during a dinner at the chocolate-themed Hershey Lodge. “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.”
In other words, Issa wants to be to the Obama administration what Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) was to the Clinton administration — a subpoena machine in search of White House scandals.
Even if Republicans don’t take the House, Issa has other ambitions. Those close to him say he is eyeing a potential run for a leadership post, even though he’s a two-time loser for Republican policy chairman.
Issa also is trying to build his national brand, traveling to Pennsylvania for a summer Republican meeting. He basked in praise for his role in creating “Job-gate,” a mini scandal that forced the White House to admit that former President Bill Clinton tried to coax Rep. Joe Sestak out of the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania by offering him an unpaid job.
After calling the White House “corrupt” and Obama’s presidency “failed,” Issa reiterated his claims that — despite a contrary assessment from most experts — the administration violated federal law with the Sestak imbroglio.
He also mentioned e-mail from White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina to Colorado U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff about three possible administration jobs as the administration apparently tried to steer him away from a primary challenge against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.
Many Democrats — and, truth be told, even a few Republicans in the House — regard Issa as something of a clownish figure, full of bluster and a perfect representative of an age of polarized, cable TV-driven politics. He once asked a reporter what planet he was on when he questioned one of Issa’s assertions.
But some Democratic operatives think colleagues are underestimating the threat: A clown with subpoena power is no laughing matter. Issa would have the ability to barrage the White House and executive agencies with document requests and demands for officials to appear under oath.
Lately, Democratic apparatchiks have started flooding reporters with thick files of old articles referring to run-ins with the law during Issa’s youth. Democrats also recently shopped a 12-year-old news story about Issa’s inconsistencies in discussing his military service during a 1998 campaign.
That’s actually good for Issa. With little policy work to get done, Republicans would focus on fighting and investigating Obama.
Issa is temperamentally suited for the role. He doesn’t mind making enemies, he’s in a very safe district and he craves publicity. With his slicked-back black hair, his BMW motorcycle and his net worth of more than $150 million, Issa fashions himself a rebel with a cause.
Issa already brought down a governor. Seven years ago, he financed and spearheaded the successful drive to collect petitions to recall then-California Gov. Gray Davis. He didn’t achieve his goal going in — to replace the Democrat — but he made a name for himself in the Golden State.
And it’s not like Issa would be unique in using the Oversight panel as a bully pulpit.
Most recently, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) held the Bush administration’s feet to the fire when he chaired the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He aggressively pressed the White House for information about U.S. attorney firings, demanded details about the use by Bush aides of private e-mail accounts, held a hearing on the disclosure of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity and published a report on administration officials’ misstatements about Iraq.
Waxman takes a somewhat wait-and-see approach with Issa, saying he hasn’t followed his work as closely since he left to chair the Energy and Commerce Committee. He praised Issa for being “involved in some serious oversight” with the current committee chairman, Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.).
However, Waxman criticized Issa’s recent request for administration travel statements. “That isn’t oversight, as far as I’m concerned,” he told POLITICO. “That’s a fishing expedition. We never did things like that.”
As the committee’s chairman from 1997 to 2002, Burton issued 1,052 subpoenas to the Clinton White House and various Democrats. And he took heat for calling Clinton “a scumbag” and for releasing audiotapes of former White House lawyer Webster Hubbell’s prison telephone conversations.
Burton, who is still on the committee, sees Issa as possibly continuing his work.
“When you go after bad guys who do bad things, you’re going to be criticized,” he said in an interview. “That comes with the territory. But I’ll take somebody like Darrell Issa to milquetoast any day.”
Issa’s accomplishments in the past year also include pressing embattled insurance giant American International Group to release records about payments to Goldman Sachs, uncovering irregularities at ACORN, publicizing pornographic-laden e-mails at the Securities and Exchange Commission and memorably scolding the chief executive of Toyota.
It’s tarring Obama, though, that endears him to tea partiers. Patti Weaver, who has organized rallies in Pittsburgh, said Issa is becoming one of the central characters in Washington that conservative activists admire. She groups him with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) — all rabble-rousers in their own right.
Yet, for all his cable news prowess and an aggressive press operation, Issa’s still not a celebrity within the Republican establishment. Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Rob Gleason introduced their guest speaker for the night as “Dan Issa.”
That didn’t bother press secretary Kurt Bardella. He updated his Facebook status after the speech: “Something tells me this is just the start of Issa’s outreach to the party and the country.”
Fantasy as Strategy
Posted By Alan W. Dowd On June 15, 2010 @ 12:26 am In FrontPage | 12 Comments
As required by law, President Barack Obama released his National Security Strategy (NSS) late last month. Regrettably, the document doesn’t address the nation’s security challenges particularly well and doesn’t offer much of a strategy. Instead, it glosses over some of the most serious threats, fails to present a real roadmap for navigating the world’s many danger zones, and offers diplomatic bromides and observations of the obvious.
Take, for example, the document’s discussion of the U.S.-Canada relationship. Although previous NSS documents didn’t devote large amounts of ink to Canada, they offered seasoned assessments of this priority partnership. Obama’s NSS, on the other hand, informs Americans that “Canada is our closest trading partner, a steadfast security ally and an important partner in regional and global efforts.” With a brief mention of NAFTA trade flows, the NSS declares, clumsily, “We must change the way we think about our shared borders, in order to secure and expedite the lawful and legitimate flow of people and goods while interdicting transnational threat (sic) that threaten our open societies.”
That’s about it—no description of what that change would entail, no vision of how to expand security cooperation or deepen trade, no discussion of how to deflect encroaching threats in the Arctic or Pacific.
But there’s more—or less, as it were.
Aside from references to America’s terrorist enemies, the NSS takes great pains to avoid labeling enemy regimes what they are. To be sure, there are vague mentions of “adversarial governments” and “states [that] endanger regional and global security by flouting international norms.” But regimes like North Korea and Iran are never called enemies, even though that’s undeniably what they are and what they desire to be.
North Korea, which during the Obama administration has detonated a nuclear weapon and torpedoed a South Korean ship operating in international waters, is mentioned in the blandest of terms. Iran is meekly called to task for not being “responsible.” Iran, it pays to recall, is arming insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan who are killing American troops; funneling aid and weapons to Hezbollah; and building a nuclear arsenal of its own, in violation of IAEA demands.
The NSS challenges the international community to present “a clear choice to Iran and North Korea” and threatens “greater isolation” for these twin rogues. This isn’t much of a strategy, and if it is a strategy, it’s not working. In fact, these regimes have already made their choice—emphatically and repeatedly. And the threat of greater isolation means nothing to a North Korea that has been isolated for the better part of 60 years or an Iran that has built bridges to Europe, Asia and South America. In this regard, it’s worth noting that Iran’s response to the latest round of largely voluntary  and hence toothless UN sanctions was to declare, “These sanctions are like used tissues which should be thrown in the trash.”
Speaking of the UN, Obama’s NSS talks about the need for a stronger UN, one that is “capable of fulfilling its founding purpose” and ensuring the “rules of the road” are followed. Of course, North Korea and Iran don’t follow those rules. And the UN is simply unable—perhaps systemically unable—to make them follow the rules, as Obama should know after 17 months of watching the UN do absolutely nothing to constrain Iran or punish North Korea. These 17 months follow decades of UN failure, the only exceptions being the Gulf War of 1990-91 and what might soon be called the first Korean War (more on this below).
Yet Obama’s NSS declares, “When nations breach agreed international norms, the countries who espouse those norms must be convinced to band together to enforce them…Strengthening the legitimacy and authority of international law and institutions, especially the UN, will require a constant struggle to improve performance.”
At best, this is fuzzy and flimsy undergraduate poli-sci rhetoric masquerading as strategy. At worst, it fails to grasp reality. Speaking of which, Obama’s NSS has the audacity to say “we need to be clear-eyed about the strengths and shortcomings of international institutions.”
One of those countless shortcomings is that the UN never does what it promises to do—whether the U.S. plays nice and genuflects at the altars of soft power, as during the Obama administration, or plays hard ball, as during the Bush administration. The Washington Post has noticed : “How could an administration that first tried reaching out to Iran and then spent months working with its allies end up with less international unity than when George W. Bush was president?”
Moving on, Obama’s NSS laments that “the advance of democracy and human rights has stalled in many parts of the world” and affirms that “the United States supports those who seek to exercise universal rights around the world”—but very quietly, as we learned last summer during the failed Twitter Revolution in Iran. The sad irony about Obama’s silence during the abortive democratic revolution in Iran was that it answered his own rhetorical question of a year before, albeit in a manner his supporters would never have imagined: “Will we stand for the human rights of…the blogger in Iran?” he asked during his 2008 speech in Berlin. The Iranian people know the answer.
These sorts of inconsistencies abound in Obama’s NSS. For example, even while it implicitly criticizes the Bush administration’s democracy-building project—the NSS sneers about “an endless campaign to impose our values”—it vows to “strengthen Pakistan’s democracy,” support Afghanistan’s democratic experiment and “foster” democracy in Iraq.
The NSS, to the president’s credit, declares that “for nearly a decade the nation has been at war with a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.” Most Americans agree with that characterization, but the Obama administration didn’t, at least not during its first year in office. In fact, this administration made a concerted effort to expunge the “war on terrorism” phraseology from official pronouncements, using the banal, bland and bureaucratic “overseas contingency operations” instead. Obama’s secretary of homeland security even went so far as to use the Orwellian phrase “man-caused disasters” rather than call terrorism by its name.
In keeping with that mindset, Obama’s NSS is quick to add, “This is not a global war against a tactic—terrorism—or a religion—Islam…We are at war with a specific network, al-Qaeda, and its terrorist affiliates who support efforts to attack the United States, our allies and partners.”
Obama’s NSS spends far too much time discussing the president’s domestic policy priorities, especially education and health care. These are important issues, but they are simply not matters of national security. Moreover, part the document’s discussion of education makes little sense. Specifically, the NSS promises to “restore U.S. leadership in higher education.” Yet a global survey of universities conducted by the London-based Q.S. Education Trust concludes that six of the top 10 universities on earth, 14 of the top 25 and 37 of the top 100 call America home. Harvard is number one.
That brings us to what can politely be called “eye-rollers” in the Obama NSS:
-It announces the pressing need to reduce the deficit, as if the Obama administration didn’t push federal spending and deficits to levels not seen since World War II.
-It calls for “effective border security and immigration enforcement” to “keep the country safe and deter unlawful entry.” Ask the people and governor of Arizona how farcical that statement is.
-It talks about the need to “promote security and stability in space…[and] maintain the advantages afforded to the United States by space.” One wonders how shutting down the shuttle’s replacement  achieves that.
-It tells us “there is no greater threat to the American people than weapons of mass destruction, particularly the danger posed by the pursuit of nuclear weapons by violent extremists and their proliferation to additional states.” Obama’s solution? The U.S. and other Western powers—none of whom have transferred nuclear weapons to violent extremists—are cutting their nuclear arsenals.
-It promises that “a world without nuclear weapons…will increase global security.” As a matter of fact, nukes have promoted global stability, enhanced U.S. security and prevented world war for 65 years. Remember, in the pre-nuclear age, we fought two world wars in the span of 20 years.
-It claims the foundation of “regional and global security will remain America’s relations with our allies, and our commitment to their security is unshakable.” Tell that to the Czechs and Poles, who exposed themselves to great risk by offering to host U.S. missile-defense assets, only to have the Obama administration jettison the NATO-endorsed plan; or the British, who weren’t consulted about the Obama administration’s decision to offload a handful of Gitmo detainees onto the British colony of Bermuda; or the Israelis, who are publicly shamed and privately lectured for defending themselves; or the fragile democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan, where America’s “unshakable” commitment has a timetable.
-It promises “a greater emphasis on exports,” yet this administration has done the very opposite in practice. It pays to recall that Obama has not called on Congress to approve free trade agreements with Colombia and South Korea—agreements that have languished since the Bush administration.
-It offers a number of implicit criticisms of the Bush administration, especially in relation to the war on terrorism and Obama’s definition of the rule of law. Striding up the high ground, Obama uses his NSS to promise “a commitment to pursue justice consistent with our Constitution.” “Our moral leadership is grounded principally in the power of our example,” the NSS declares. “Over the years, some methods employed in pursuit of our security have compromised our fidelity to the values that we promote.” Yet Obama’s drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which most Americans recognize as an essential element in the wider campaign against terror, are, in effect, executions  without trial. This is not to criticize the president’s drone war, but rather to point out the president’s messaging problem.
-It claims, “We succeeded in the post-World War II era by pursuing our interests within multilateral forums like the United Nations.” This is simply not true. Only once during the Cold War was the UN effective in promoting U.S. security interests in a direct way—during the Korean War—and then only because the Soviets were absent from the Security Council. They never made that mistake again. Indeed, the very thing that protects the U.S. from UN encroachment—veto authority—is what prevents the U.S. from pursuing its interests within the UN Security Council.
-Finally, it laments that “common purpose is at times lacking in our national security dialogue. This division places the United States at a strategic disadvantage. It sets back our ability to deal with difficult challenges and injects a sense of anxiety and polarization into our politics that can affect our policies and our posture around the world. It must be replaced by a renewed sense of civility and a commitment to embrace our common purpose as Americans.”
Many of us said very similar things when the Bush administration begged for unity as Iraq unraveled, when congressmen and senators who once supported the war walked away, when newspapers outed classified programs that had kept the country safe from another 9/11, when the anti-war left made the president the enemy and smeared battlefield commanders as betrayers , when would-be presidents declared the surge a failure  even before it had taken hold.
Unlike Obama’s supporters, some of whom wanted Bush to fail, I hope this commander-in-chief succeeds at protecting America. I hope he wins what really is a war on terrorism, faces down the thugocracies in North Korea and Iran, and stands up to China and Russia. But sadly, this NSS misses the mark.
Alan W. Dowd writes on defense and security issues.
June 11th, 2010
By Bob Unruh, WND
Rahm and Obama most likely broke some law
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and one of his top aides, Jim Messina, have been referred to the government’s Office of Special Counsel for an investigation into whether they violated the Hatch Act by offering administration jobs to two political candidates in exchange for dropping out of their races.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, wrote in letters to William Reukauf, the acting U.S. special counsel, that the statements by the White House and the two candidates involved – Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., and former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff – are “prima facie” evidence of violations.
The act prohibits “the use of official authority or influence by federal employees for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election,” Issa’s letters dated yesterday – one referring Emanuel and one referring Messina – explained.
“In the White House’s June 3, 2010, public statement, Mr. [Robert] Gibbs claimed that clearing the field for a candidate preferred by the White House was not problematic because ‘there was no offer of a job.’ There is evidence to the contrary,” wrote Issa.
Sarah Palin on Obama’s Top Advisors:
“It sounds like the inner circle he has around him are some Chicago thugs… And, that’s not doing our country that much good.”
Obama’s Summer of Corruption
Posted By Michelle Malkin On June 9, 2010 @ 12:03 am In FrontPage |
In Chicago politics, there’s an old term for the publicly subsidized pay-offs and positions meted out to the corruptocrats’ friends and special interests: boodle.
In the age of Obama, Hope and Change is all about the boodle. So it was with the stimulus. And the massive national service expansion. And the health care bill. And the financial reform bill. And the blossoming job-trading scandals engulfing the White House.
There’s always been an ageless, interdependent relationship between Windy City politicos and “goo-goos” (the cynical Chicago term for good government reformers). Chicago-style “reform” has always entailed the redistribution of wealth and power under the guise of public service. And it has inevitably led to more corruption.
In March 2010, this column first took note of allegations by Democrats Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff that the White House had offered them jobs in exchange for dropping their respective bids against Obama-favored incumbent Sens. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania and Michael Bennet in Colorado. White House legal counsel Bob “The Fixer” Bauer’s attempt to bury questions about the Sestak affair with a Memorial Day weekend document dump failed. So has the attempt to make Rahm Emanuel-enlisted former president Bill Clinton the sole scapegoat.
Bauer’s memo mentions “efforts” (plural, not singular) to woo Sestak. But the White House refuses to divulge what offers besides Clinton’s were extended to Sestak. Moreover, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs has now denied that Team Obama was involved in the one Clinton offer that has been publicized — an unpaid appointment on an intelligence board for which Sestak was ineligible.
After months of silence, Romanoff finally stepped forward last week to acknowledge that the White House had dangled several positions before him, too. He released e-mails detailing not one, not two, but three different paid positions offered by White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina — whose boss, Emanuel, was subpoenaed this week by impeached former Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois to testify in his Senate pay-for-play corruption trial.
So, can I say “I told you so” now?
In July 2009, when “Culture of Corruption” was first released, liberal critics scoffed:
How could you possibly write a 400-page book about Barack Obama’s rotten administration when he’s only been in office six months?!
When I proceeded to rattle off case after case of Chicago-style back-scratching, transparency-trampling and crooked special interest-dealing in the new White House, liberal critics such as “The View’s” Joy Behar interjected:
B-b-b-but what about Bush? Why don’t you write a book about Bush? Wha-’bout-Bush? Wha-’bout-Bush? Wha-’bout-Bush?
When I pointed out that I had reported extensively on cronyism in the Bush era (see Harriet Miers, FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security), and when I further pointed out that while the Bush-bashing market overflowed, there remained a massive vacuum of critical analysis of Obama, liberal critics sputtered:
So what? Doesn’t every administration have corruption?
When I patiently explained that no other administration in modern American history had set itself up as loftily as the Hope and Change reformers had done, or when I cited endless examples of Obama’s broken promises on everything from lobbyists to transparency to Washington business as usual, liberal critics changed the subject again:
RACIST FASCIST EVIL FOX NEWS RIGHT-WING HATE MONGER!
Two major job-trading scandals plus the start of the Blago trial this past week — on top of a year’s worth of uninhibited White House wheeling and dealing, broken transparency pledges, Justice Department stonewalling and brass knuckle-bullying of political opponents — have finally turned the once-derided thesis of my book “Culture of Corruption” into conventional wisdom.
Obama sold America a Chicago-tainted bill of goods. A nation of slow learners is finally figuring it out.
Michelle Malkin is the author of “Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies” (Regnery 2010). Her e-mail address is email@example.com
June 8th, 2010
By Patrick Buchanan, WND
On this matter of offering federal jobs to potential candidates to induce them not to run against Senate Democratic incumbents, this White House is drifting dangerously close to the falls.
Colorado’s Andrew Romanoff has now confirmed that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina trolled three federal jobs in front of him, if he would desist and not run against incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet.
And Romanoff has produced an e-mail where Messina presents the three-job menu, one of which might be his if he passed up the Senate run. Two were with the Agency for International Development. The third was director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.
All three are juicy plums.
Romanoff and Messina both say no hard offer was made. And Robert Gibbs has assured the press the president had no idea Messina was talking to Romanoff about federal jobs that only Obama can fill.
But if Obama knew nothing of the Messina-Romanoff talks, who did? For Messina cannot appoint anyone to anything. Has Messina’s boss, Rahm Emanuel, been given the franchise to offer a dessert tray of federal jobs to people he wants to keep out of Democratic primaries?
An independent investigation needs to be conducted to determine whether Chicago-style politics has been introduced into the West Wing.