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The Real GOP Pledge: A Perpetual Obama Witch Hunt

September 30, 2010

Last week, would-be House Speaker John Boehner unveiled the GOP Pledge to America to dismal reviews from, among others, himself. "We can't have that serious conversation [about policy] until we lay out the size of the problem," Boehner said of the Pledge, adding, "Let's not get to the potential solutions." But on one point, Boehner made clear today, Republicans are deadly serious about what they plan to do should they regain a Congressional majority. That is, the same Republican Party that decried the "criminalization of politics" in every scandal from Iran-Contra, Plamegate and Tom Delay to the U.S. attorneys purge and the Bush regime of detainee torture is promising nothing but for the Obama administration.
As Politico detailed today, 'Minority Leader Boehner's real GOP Pledge to America is a perpetual witch hunt of the Obama administration:

House Minority Leader John Boehner threw his full support behind Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) plan to bombard the Obama administration with subpoenas if Republicans take back the House in November.
"I think Congress has an appropriate role under the Constitution to provide oversight of the executive branch. And I would pledge that it's going to happen," he told reporters Wednesday.

Which means that the only certainty following a Republican victory in November is endless hearings, perpetual investigations and a torrent of subpoenas for the Obama White House.
In preparation for the partisan probes and incendiary investigations to come, Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman-in-waiting of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has promised to double the size of his staff. And as Politico also reported in August, Congressmen Issa and Lamar Smith (R-TX) to lead a new Republican majority into perpetual investigations of the White House. It's no wonder that Clinton veteran Lanny Davis lamented, "I actually think it will be even worse than what happened to Bill Clinton because of the animosity they already feel for President Obama." In its preview of the potential "season of subpoenas", Politico explained:

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...
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.'

No doubt, now that their party stands on the brink of recapturing the House, GOP leaders including Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) have made a campaign pledge to lead exactly the kind of witch hunt they once pretended to decry. And to be sure, with their talk of subpoenas, investigations and even impeachment, that Republicans are making American voters a promise, not a threat.
Despite his own checkered past, Rep. Issa has emerged, in the words of the New York Times, as President Obama's "Annoyer-in-Chief." And fresh off his inquisition in the Sestak no-pay-for-no-play non-scandal he deemed "Obama's Watergate", Issa this summer made clear he plans to ramp up the GOP's efforts to protect its friends and target its enemies. As to a Republican takeover of the House in November, Issa warned:

"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."

As for Michele Bachmann, a Republican inquisition isn't merely a plank in the GOP platform for the fall, it's the entire agenda. In an interview in July, the head of the new Congressional Tea Party caucus vowed perpetual investigations of the Obama administration:

"Oh, I think that's all we should do. I think that all we should do is issue subpoenas and have one hearing after another, and expose all the nonsense that has gone on."

If that sounds like it flies in the face of decades of Republican talking points, it should. Ever since President George H.W. Bush bemoaned the Iran-Contra investigation as "a profoundly troubling development in the political and legal climate of our country: the criminalization of policy differences," that canard has been Republicans' tried if untrue defense. From the Scooter Libby and Tom Delay scandals to the travesties of the Bush administration's prosecutors' purge and program of detainee torture, GOP politicians and pundits alike warned of "the criminalization of politics" or even "criminalizing conservatism." As Missouri Senator Kit Bond put it last year:

"We don't criminally prosecute people we disagree with when we change office."

Not that is, unless the office is that of President and is occupied by a Democrat.
As for John Boehner, Darrell Issa and a new Republican majority, criminalizing politics is all they will do. And as the Daily Beast reported today, they'll have help in the form of Clinton nemesis David Bossie, who's back to tell "today's GOP should hogtie the Democrats."
And that's one GOP pledge to America you can count on.

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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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