On a day when Rep. Nancy Pelosi should have been celebrating the Supreme Court victory of the sweeping health care reform that she helped pass, the House minority leader instead found herself in the middle of another partisan whirlwind.
Last week, in response to a House committee’s vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for refusing to turn over documents relating to the Fast and Furious gun-trafficking scandal, the San Francisco Democrat called the vote a partisan gambit.
Specifically, she said Republicans were targeting Holder for opposing so-called "voter fraud" laws in states such as Florida — which she correctly portrayed as attempts to suppress Democratic-leaning voters at the polls.
Then Thursday, as the GOP-controlled House was voting to censure the attorney general, Pelosi led many of her colleagues as they walked off the House floor in protest.
The conservative response to Pelosi’s efforts was sadly predictable. South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy recommended that she visit a shrink. Rush Limbaugh declared, "We need a new planet called Stupider, and I need to put Nancy Pelosi on it as the mayor." San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders declared, "Nancy Pelosi is walking proof that so-called centrist Democrats live on the far-left fringe."
Tough words. But consider the career of Rep. Darrell Issa, who chairs the committee that held Holder in contempt, and you will realize who the real extremist is.
After a young adulthood notable for such tawdry escapades as separate arrests for allegedly stealing a car and carrying a concealed weapon, Issa made a fortune in the car-alarm business, which he eventually parlayed into a seat in the House of Representatives. When that bored him, he amused himself by instigating the 2003 recall of Gov. Gray Davis — Issa’s first, but not last, attempt to paralyze the government for partisan gain. When Republicans won the House majority in 2010, Issa declared that he would use his new power as chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to hound President Barack Obama, whom he dubbed "one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times."
Since then, Issa has rigorously pursued every possible partisan angle, from the Solyndra bankruptcy to a $730 million federal loan to a Michigan-based, Russian-owned steel company.
Many of these subjects — including Fast and Furious — are worthy subjects to investigate. But throughout his tenure, Issa has undermined other investigations for purely political reasons. Ranking Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings has spent more than a year trying to investigate banks that illegally foreclosed on the homes of military veterans. Issa has shot down every attempt to hold the nation’s banks to account.
Issa’s most notoriously partisan act came in February, when his committee was digging into whether Obama’s health care reforms would violate the right of lay Catholic groups to deny contraception coverage to female students. Issa denied a Democratic committee member’s main witness the right to speak at the hearing, leading to the spectacle of an army of priests and monsignors testifying about women’s sexual health. Democrats were forced to hold a separate hearing, at which a Georgetown law student named Sandra Fluke testified and was later called a "slut" by Limbaugh, Issa’s obstructionist peer.
Issa is a partisan back-bencher. But he holds the power of subpoena, and he isn’t ashamed to use it for venal reasons. Pelosi has called him on it, and she can be proud of her words and deeds.