If President Barack Obama needed any more incentive to go all out for Democrats this fall, here it is: Republicans are planning a wave of committee investigations targeting the White House and Democratic allies if they win back the majority.
Everything from the microscopic — the New Black Panther party — to the massive –- think bailouts — is on the GOP to-do list, according to a half-dozen Republican aides interviewed by POLITICO.
And a handful of aggressive would-be committee chairmen — led by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas) — are quietly gearing up for a possible season of subpoenas not seen since the Clinton wars of the late 1990s.
Issa would like Obama’s cooperation, says Kurt Bardella, spokesman for the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. But it’s not essential.
“How acrimonious things get really depend on how willing the administration is in accepting our findings [and] responding to our questions,” adds Bardella, who refers to his boss as “questioner-in-chief.’
Sestak, Romanoff and Jobgate. Most of the Clinton-era investigations — from Whitewater to Vince Foster to the Lewinsky scandal — targeted the president personally.
Most potential GOP probes of Obama, by contrast, seem to be aimed at the administration’s periphery or policies — with the ironic exception of the one that revolves around none other than Bill Clinton.
Bailouts, Bailouts, Bailouts. No investigation poses a more significant political danger to Obama than a no-holds-barred GOP probe into TARP, the AIG bailout, the Freddie-Fannie sinkhole and the administration’s de facto takeover of GM and Chrysler.
Reason One: Perhaps the only issue uniting all voters is a shared hatred of all bailouts — so few Democrats, even die-hard liberals, would be willing to stand in front of a bus to defend Obama against attacks.
Reason Two: One GOP aide described the bailouts as a “huge pool” from which to make document and e-mail requests — and issue subpoenas. The prospect of a massive and popular fishing expedition at the West Wing’s expense would delight the Republican base and create a political headache for the president’s team...
Countrywide Mortgage and “Angelo’s List.” Sen. Chris Dodd’s embarrassing placement on the company’s VIP mortgage list played a major role in the Connecticut Democrat’s involuntary retirement earlier this year.
Issa — using only the bully pulpit — has already forced Countrywide’s parent, Bank of America, to turn over reams of documents. If he becomes chairman, Issa will use the committee’s power to obtain more information on sweetheart deals, even if it involves GOP politicians, according to a person close to him.
“I think the White House is underestimating him,” says a top congressional Democratic aide. “What makes him so dangerous is that he’s willing to turn on Republicans, too.”
The bailout inquiries are the most potent for the Republicans because they will further their aim of conflating all government spending with bailouts. One thing we can be sure of: this will not result in the American people being educated about the dangers of corporatism, so I hope that liberals don't get it in their heads that this is a righteous cause. In other hands it might be. In these hands it will make things worse.
And then there is the pure lizard brain, red meat scandals a la Vince Foster and Monica. With Obama it isn't about hippie sex and feminazis as it was with Clinton. It's about race:
The New Black Panther Party. Smith, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, has already pressed Holder to look into charges that members of the New Black Panther Party intimidated voters at a Philadelphia polling place in 2008.
The San Antonio-area conservative — whose first campaign was managed by Karl Rove — is already on record criticizing Holder for dropping the Justice Department case against three Panthers, including one who brandished a police-style baton...
ACORN. A whole host of Republicans — led by Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Steve King (R-Iowa) on the party’s right wing — have demanded an investigation into the defunct community organizing group’s ties to the Obama campaign.
Related: Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), who stands a chance of leap-frogging Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), the ranking GOPer on the House Financial Services Committee — is pushing for a large-scale investigation of the Community Reinvestment Act.
And then there's just the pure titillation factor:
Minerals Management Service. The juiciest Bush-era revelations about the agency’s shortcomings have already been aired, including the fact that some MMS employees allegedly had sexual relations with workers they were supposed to oversee.There's nothing they like more than televised hearings featuring somebody describing a sex act. (They should make a rule that all the congressmen have to keep their hands on their desks at all times when this is going on)
A lot of this will go nowhere. But they are all very much aware of the possibilities that something will stick. They didn't know about Monica until Linda Tripp mouthed off to Lucianne Goldberg. Anything can happen with these investigations.
And, as I said, the over arching point is to tar the administration with a flurry of accusations, which ends up making people suspicious and exhausted even if they don't believe the charges.
And keep in mind that they impeached Clinton during a once in a generation economic boom. People tend to be very forgiving when their pockets are bulging with cash. At times like these, not so much.