Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) just put the wood to his counterpart in, and chairman of, the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). The feud between Cummings and Issa has been quite amazing to watch , as they tussle over transcripts of interviews conducted by the committee while investigating the allegedly politically motivated IRS targeting of Tea Party groups. Cummings has been threatening to release full transcripts of the interviews because Issa’s cherry-picking of interview snippets is now becoming the stuff of legend. After giving Issa an ultimatum of last Friday to release full transcripts, Cummings pushed the deadline to Monday, which expired, and hence Cummings dropped a bombshell on Issa’s rhetoric.
The transcript released by Cummings quotes an IRS official whose name was redacted as saying he was a “conservative Republican” who had no knowledge of coordination coming from Washington. He was asked whether he believed the White House had partaken or coordinated in a special screening of Tea Partiers and his answer was, “I have no reason to believe that.” It’s easy to see from reading the transcripts why Issa would be so careful about what to release and what not to, because the real bombshell in this transcript isn’t that the White House didn’t have any involvement, it’s that the official being interviewed essentially took credit or blame — however you want to classify it — for starting the screening process. According to the interview subject, he and another IRS employee singled out a Tea Party group and then did so with all Tea Party groups’ applications that came in afterward to maintain consistency.
I have this strange feeling though, that even though this transcript really does seem to put the “scandal” to bed in terms of who was behind the targeting, that Issa won’t care. He won’t stop releasing the transcripts piecemeal . After all, we found out a couple of weeks ago that Republicans altered White House emails on Benghazi, and Issa still hasn’t let that manufactured scandal go. Issa doesn’t really have to admit his wrongdoing after all…he knows his media outlets won’t cover Cummings releasing the full transcripts, and even if they do the spin will be so fantastic that it’ll somehow cast Cummings as the one obfuscating the truth for political reasons.
Ultimately therein lies the dangerous truth — America is really a nation of two distinct experiences. On the one hand, you have the right-wing mainstream media outlets like Fox News and Koch Brothers’ owned radio stations pumping out conservative talk media into the airwaves. On the other hand, you have traditional media outlets. What’s the likelihood of a Fox viewer even seeing this story, much less reading the IRS officials’ own words with their own two eyes? The conservative experience of this IRS story is that the the evil dictator Obama secretly forced the IRS to screen Tea Party groups as a means of ending all conservative thought everywhere.
Forget that the IRS officials at the center of the story have so far all either been Republicans or at the very least Bush appointees. Forget that time and again Issa’s claims of White House involvement have been based on obviously cherry-picked information or just outright lies. To the conservatives on Main Street, they’re not going to get the unfiltered truth. This now makes two “scandals” — Benghazi and now this IRS Tea Party targeting scandal — that have completely and totally fizzled out under Issa’s grip. Add “Fast and Furious” to that and what you have is the picture of a desperate clown dressed as a congressman trying to take down a government he just knows is corrupt, he just can’t find any of that damned “evidence” people keep insisting he come up with.
Then again, if anyone knows about corruption, it’d be the richest guy with the longest rap sheet in Congress, wouldn’t it?
Honestly though, there’s a rather significant part of me — the part that follows politics — that wants Issa to continue to be tone-deaf. There’s an even larger part of me that wants Issa to ignore the fact that his entire investigation just went up in smoke thanks to Cummings’ move. The truth is that Issa needs to go, for the good of the country. He’s like Newt Gingrich in 1998, obsessed with malfeasance he feels should make him the good guy and the president the bad guy. But the problem for Issa is that unlike Gingrich, he doesn’t have any evidence. At least Gingrich had evidence eventually that Clinton lied about the Lewinsky affair. Issa doesn’t even have a shred of evidence that the Obama White House was behind the IRS targeting, but who needs proof when you’re self-immolating?
If Issa’s going to go, he needs to be the one who kills his own political career. He’ll do that by forcing the issue on one of these scandals that very clearly doesn’t go all the way to the top. He’ll do just that by banging the impeachment drum. Issa’s in a very red district — my own — but even he won’t be free from voter scorn if he wastes even more millions of taxpayer dollars in political crusades propped up by cherry-picked interviews…especially if Elijah Cummings is always right behind him, exposing the whole story.