Wrong Again, Issa – the Bush and Reagan Administrations Were ‘Most Corrupt,’ And TARP Was Bush’s Bill, Not Obama’s

History will likely record that one of House Speaker John Boehner’s worst mistakes was his decision to allow California Rep. Darrell Issa to head the government oversight committee. It was Chairman Issa, after all, who called an all-male panel to discuss contraceptives earlier this year. The optics of this stupid move instantly became an undeniable symbol that Republicans were engaging in a war on women.

Issa, a one-time accused car thief and arsonist, is best-known in California as the guy who funded the initial effort to recall Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, in 2003, so that Issa himself could become governor, only to break down into sobs, with local news cameras rolling, when action star Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped in and bigfooted him out of the way.

More recently, in the weeks after Boehner appointed Issa to the chairmanship, Issa created a stir by predicting that the Obama administration would become the most corrupt government in history. This week, in an interview with Bloomberg news, Issa doubled down on his prediction:

ISSA: We are busy in Washington with a corrupt government, with a government that I said perhaps because of the money, the amount of TARP and stimulus funds, was going to be the most corrupt government history and it is proving to be just exactly that. This money going though the hands of political leaders is corrupting the process, whether it is Solyndra, GSA or a number of other scandals.

First of all, as Thomas Kent pointed out on our comments board, TARP was passed in October 2008 and signed into law by George W. Bush.

Secondly, Issa’s claim may be silly on the surface, but it’s important to recall that Republicans have a history of successfully trumping up unsubstantiated corruption charges against Democrats. Take, for example, the Clinton Wars. During the Clinton administration, the Republicans who controlled Congress lobbed one investigation after another at the Clintons — Whitewater, Travelgate, Filegate, etc. etc. — but in every case, they turned up nothing and no Clinton administration officials were charged with crimes related these bogus scandals. (Assistant Attorney General Webster Hubbell was convicted of embezzling from the law firm where he worked before joining the administration, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros pleaded guilty to misstating on a FBI form the amount of money he’d given his girlfriend.)

The only scandal that stuck was, of course, the Lewinsky matter, which had been engineered as a perjury trap for the president by Republican legal operatives known as “the elves,” among whom was Ann Coulter.

Over the past year, in particular, the entire Republican establishment, including Chairman Issa, has been doing its level best to shake, shake, shake the Etch-a-Sketch to make the eight years that their party ran all three branches of the government under Bush — eight years during which they embarked on one entirely unnecessary war in Iraq, bungled their invasion of Afghanistan, lost an American city and crashed the world economy — disappear down the memory hole.

But, for the record, if Issa is looking for the “most corrupt” administration, he need look no further than the more than 30 scandals during eight years of the administration of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, including:

  • Bush’s failure to heed the CIA’s warning in an August 2001 briefing that was headlined, “Bin Laden determined to strike US,” which Bush dismissed by telling his briefer, “All right, you’ve covered your ass now.” Bin Laden attacked less than a month later, on Sept. 11.
  • The campaign in 2002 and 2003 by Cheney, Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others to drive the nation into the invasion of Iraq based either on lies or their reliance on faulty intelligence (take your pick). The invasion ultimately cost the lives of over 4,000 U.S. service members and left tens of thousands of them maimed for life; resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 innocent Iraq children, women and men; and a mountain of debt created by Bush’s insistence on paying for his war by borrowing from China, to the tune of $800 billion, so far.
  • The torture scandals in which top Bush officials, including Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft — in defiance of Pres. Reagan’s 1984 U.N. Convention on Torture — decided to turn the United States into a torture state. They not only ordered that suspects in U.S. custody be tortured, these top Bush officials even wrote an instruction manual describing in detail the torture practices they had approved.
  • The Bush administration’s malfeasant ineptitude during the Hurricane Katrina disaster, as well as Bush’s refusal to cut short his politicking vacation during the aftermath of the storm, which resulted in the deaths 1,400 people and left 80 percent of the city of New Orleans under water.
  • The U.S. Attorney firing scandal, in which Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, an incompetent Bush crony, fired seven U.S. Attorneys for purely political reasons, apparently at the behest of Karl Rove, Bush’s political director.
  • The illegal deletion of tens of thousands of White House emails by the political shop headed by Karl Rove.

Over at Salon’s “Scandal Sheet,” they list 34 scandals that occurred during the Bush administration, many of which involved Republican colleagues of Rep. Issa in the House of Representative. Here are just 10 of these:

  1. The Bush Department of Justice’s “Doctor Detroit” bungled terrorism case, in which the DOJ completely botched the nation’s first post-9/11 terrorism trial, as seen when the convictions of three Detroit men allegedly linked to al-Qaida were overturned in September 2004.
  2. Cheney’s secret energy-policy task force, which appears to have been setting the administration’s sites on Iraq’s oil fields prior to the 9/11 attacks.
  3. The Indian gaming scandals in which Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a major Bush fundraiser with longstanding ties to top party operatives including Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed, and Michael Scanlon, a former aide to GOP House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, charged Indian tribes at least $82 million for access to Republican lawmakers.
  4. Various scandals around Halliburton, the company headed by Dick Cheney before he appointed himself U.S. vice president, including, in 2004, when Department of Defense auditors found $1.8 billion in Halliburton charges to the government were inadequately documented.
  5. The AIPAC spy scandalin which a Pentagon official, Larry Franklin, was accused of giving classified documents about Iran to Israel, possibly via the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a Washington lobbying group.
  6. The various alleged criminal activities of the aforementioned GOP Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
  7. The scandal around the attempt by Medicare Administrator Thomas Scully, who supposedly threatened to fire chief Medicare actuary Richard Foster to prevent him from revealing the true cost of Bush’s 2003 Medicare bill.
  8. The pundit pay-for-play scandal Department of Education paid conservative commentator Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote its educational law, No Child Left Behind.
  9. In July 2003, administration officials disclosed the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative working on counterterrorism efforts, to multiple journalists, and columnist Robert Novak made Plame’s identity public.
  10. Memogate,, Republican staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee illicitly accessed nearly 5,000 computer files containing confidential Democratic strategy memos about Bush’s judicial nominees.

And then there was the Reagan administration, which was nearly as scandal-plagued as Bush’s:

  • The Iran-Contra scandal, which came to light in 1986, in which Pres. Ronald Reagan, by his own admission, tried to trade weapons for hostages with the government of Iran, where, just five years earlier, hundreds of U.S. citizens had been held hostage for over a year.Fourteen Reagan officials were charged with crimes — including Secretary of Defense Caspar Weingberger — some were convicted and others, including Weinberger, were pardoned by Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush, who was himself implicated in the crimes — the details of which are in findings that were supposed to have become public in 2001 under the post-Watergate Presidential Records Act, but were sealed indefinitely as one of the first act of Bush’s son, George W., when he was appointed president by Republicans on the Supreme Court that year. For reasons that are obscure — perhaps an agreement with the Bush family not to unseal the papers until after Bush Sr. has died — Pres. Obama has chosen not to countermand Bush Jr.’s order and unseal the Reagan administration documents.
  • The Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rigging, in which HUD Secretary Samuel Pierce — no relation to former First Lady Barbara Pierce Bush — was found to have been rigging bids to benefit Reagan’s donors. Several top Reagan officials were convicted of crimes, including Secretary of the Interior James Watt and Treasurer of the United States Catalina Vasquez Villapando.
  • Lobbying scandals: After leaving the Reagan administration former Chief of Staff Michael Deaver was convicted of lying to a grand jury about his lobbying activities and former Press Secretary Lyn Nofziger was convicted for breaking lobbying laws, although his conviction was overturned.
  • The EPA scandals, in which more than 20 top Environmental Protection Agency officials were removed from office during Reagan’s first three years in office.
  • The software piracy scandal in Reagan’s Department of Justice known as the Inslaw affair, which successive Reagan attorneys general refused even to investigate.
  • The Savings & loan crisis, in which Reagan bungled a tax law revision that resulted in the bankrupting of 747 savings & loans and the subsequent government bailout to the tune of $125 billion, which would be $2.6 billion in today’s money.

3 Comments

  • Calgal
    April 27, 2012 - 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Jon-this is a well done and important posting. I’m hoping it gets the recognition it deserves.

  • KMCopeland
    November 15, 2012 - 9:59 am | Permalink

    Darrell Issa and Eric Cantor are two of the most cringe-inducing people in the political bestiary. I’m not sure what it is. But there’s something truly dark about them both.

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