Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Darrell Issa

If the GOP takes back the House in November, that is a name you're going to be hearing a LOT. Rep. Issa (R-CA) is the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Issa has been making a nuisance of himself even in his place in the minority. If he becomes Chairman of the committee, he will have the power to subpoena members of the Obama administration, as Chris Matthews has been pointing out nearly daily on Hardball. The GOP-led House spent a bunch of time on trumped up scandals and other stuff during the Clinton administration, and I can only imagine it will be worse this time around. Silly season is officially upon us, and it will not be pretty.

In case you think this is all conjecture, I present Michelle Bachmann, of my fair state:

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

Yep, it's going to be fun.


  1. Well, you're probably too young to remember, but I must confess that 1997-98 was EXTREMELY fun from a political junkie perspective. I mean, getting to see the live spectacle not just of impeachment, but an actual Senate trial with the Chief Justice presiding! Sure, the government didn't get much done otherwise, but from a libertarian perspective, that's not such a bad thing. . . .

  2. Twice the Republicans couldn't beat Clinton at the ballot box so they tried to get rid of him with an infidelity trial. That sounds like an American version of a coup to me. The difference between us and much of the rest of the world used to be that we respected the results of the elections.

  3. I don't think "infidelity trial" is accurate. Clinton lied *under oath* in a sexual harassment lawsuit. One can impugn the motives of the accuser, but having defended employment discrimination lawsuits before, I can tell you that you can always impugn the motives of the plaintiff, but to no avail.

    Should Paula Jones' lawsuit have been delayed until after Clinton left office? Probably -- that was a colossally stupid decision by the Supreme Court to let discovery proceed.

    But that was the ruling of the Court, and so what you seem to be arguing is that the President is above the law.

    Seriously, I have trouble understanding why so many smart people continue to treat the Clinton matter as being just about an affair, as opposed to perjury and obstruction of justice.

  4. Let's dig up some dirt on our enemy and hope he lies about it under oath. It's not just about Clinton. It has become a common political tactic to induce a politician to lie to cover up politically embarrassing but usually legal activity.

  5. It's not just "some dirt" -- it was a lawsuit, and one that apparently had some merit, considering that Clinton ultimately paid $700,000 to settle it. Of course, anyone can file a lawsuit, and judges are reluctant to punish those who file frivolous lawsuits, but there are potential penalties that can be levied in such circumstances.

    I'm not sure why you're so resistant to accepting the twin propositions that (1) the Republicans were out to get Clinton; and (2) what Clinton did was unlawful and worthy of investigation.

    The President, before he was President, may have violated federal law by sexually harassing Paula Jones. Do you know for certain that she was lying? You can't. (I don't know that she was telling the truth, either, but that's what the lawsuit is about.) Did the President have legal means to defend himself? Yes -- he hired a lawyer, the lawyer attempted to get the lawsuit dismissed, and failing that, delayed. That failed too. The plaintiff was therefore entitled by law to take his deposition. He lied in the deposition. You attempt to sweep this under the rug by saying it's lying about "politically embarrassing but usually legal activity."

    But the key point is whether that legal activity had relevance to the lawsuit, which of course was about unlawful (civil not criminal) activity. Perhaps the judge was wrong in thinking that the Lewinsky matter was relevant, since it seemed to be a consensual matter, not harassment. Then again, maybe a politician who's willing to have affairs with female subordinates might come to view them all as his playthings.

    It doesn't matter, because the process in place allowed Clinton to take a special appeal and ask for reversal of that ruling. He didn't choose to avail himself of that process. Instead, he lied.

    That the top law enforcement person is willing to lie under oath does violence to the law (just as, I might note, when the top Treasury official fails to pay all the income taxes he owes, but that's another story).

    Finally, note your first sentence: "hope he lies about it under oath." Clinton could have appealed to the appellate court; or he could have refused to answer and been held in contempt; or he could have settled the case (as he eventually did). Maybe it's because I'm a lawyer, but I just do not get the "everyone would lie about it under oath" defense.

  6. I think we can all agree that a) Clinton handled it badly and made the whole thing worse and that b) It was a politically motivated hit-job.

    As to your first comment, Tung, on several things doing nothing will feel a lot like doing something. Coming soon to a theater near you: No Alternative Minimum Tax "fix", no Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate adjustment (the "doc fix"), the estate tax back to 2001 levels, and the complete expiration of all the Bush tax cuts. Also, interestingly, the recommendations of the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board go into effect unless Congress acts to vote them down, in a nifty bit of legislative trickery.

    None of that will happen, of course, since congress can find time to extend tax cuts (especially for the well-off), even if they can't find time for immigration reform, state aid, unemployment insurance extension or pricing carbon.

  7. Interesting about the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board -- it seems to me that this set-up may constitute a legislative veto in violation of INS v. Chadha. (I think Chadha was another colossally dumb decision, with far greater impact than Clinton v. Jones.)

  8. Bullied Pulpit will tell you that I am pretty cynical but I assume everyone who is guilty lies under oath.

    Perjury charges seem very arbitrary to me but I'm no lawyer, so there may very well be reasons why one person who lies under oath is charged and another is not.

    When the burglar testifies that he didn't do it but still gets convicted, does the judge add a few years to the sentence for perjury?

    When a plantiff loses his case, is he subject to a perjury charge since the jury decided he wasn't telling the truth?

    Do you think the punishment for perjury should be more severe than the punishment you could get for what you are lying about?

  9. A criminal defendant who lies can be punished more harshly by the judge -- after all, the defendant could have remained silent.

    A plaintiff (or civil defendant) who lies under oath can be prosecuted for perjury, though it's not an easy crime to prove. But the plaintiff (or civil defendant) wouldn't automatically be prosecuted just because they lost the case.

    I don't think the punishment for perjury should necessarily be tied to the underlying wrong; if so, you could never punish perjury in civil cases, since those aren't "crimes." But I also think you continue to overlook the key point here: the President is the head of the Executive Branch, which means he is the boss of the Attorney General. Maybe it doesn't seem this way to you, but I find it . . . intolerable(?) . . . for the head of the Executive Branch, which *enforces* federal law, to have willfully lied under oath. It deprives the President -- and hence his Justice Department -- of the moral authority to prosecute other wrongdoers, especially for non-violent, technical crimes.