The PR push for today's House Oversight hearing on the IRS scandal was an impressive exhibit of Darrell Issa's muscle. The most prominent "leak" went to Fox News' Carl Cameron yesterday, who informed Bill O'Reilly that something big was going to come out.
"Issa has not said to you, or anyone else, I don't think, that he can tie it into the White House," said O'Reilly.
"What he said to me today was, make sure we watch tomorrow's hearing, because he's going to present the evidence to prove it," said Cameron.
"To prove what?"
"That he can get it right, all the way up into the White House, before it was all revealed."
Today readers of USA Today could read an op-ed by Issa asking, "Was the targeting of Tea Party applicants directed from the White House or somewhere else outside the IRS?" And D.C. commuters could grab copies of the Washington Examiner, fronted by Susan Ferrechio's profile of Issa. It opens with Issa showing off a body armor plate, which leads Ferrechio to muse about the "fitting metaphor" for a man who "has drawn a barrage of hit pieces in the news media," some of which "were purportedly orchestrated by the White House press office."
It's true: The White House press office, publicly and privately, dumps on Issa's investigations and argues that they're going to come up short. The office is aided in this when Issa comes up short. That happened again today, when Issa actually bristled at the suggestion that he was promising to nail the White House.
"I've never said it was the president behind this," he said during the hearing. "I've never said he led it." His op-ed was merely asking the question.
What did Issa prove? His two new witnesses were Elizabeth Hofacre, a 14-year employee of the IRS based in the infamous Cincinnati office, and Carter Hull, a D.C. IRS staffer. The big revelation was that Hull took his concerns about the IRS's BOLO lists to—hold your breath—the chief counsel of the IRS, a White House appointee. And he did so in 2011!
One problem: Anyone reading the available IG research on the IRS investigation already knew about this. Two full months ago, the IG report mentioned that IRS "Rulings and Agreements office personnel held a meeting with Chief Counsel so that everyone would have the latest information," back in August 2011. So Issa didn't have anything new. He was repacking a revelation that didn't get a ton of attention in May because it seemed like a weak connection to the White House.
This happens a lot. A few weeks ago, in an interview with CNN, Issa managed to argue that "on his behalf, the IRS executed a delaying tactic against the very groups" President Obama was criticizing on the campaign trail, and argue in the same interview that "I’ve never said it came out of the office of the president or his campaign." Issa's trying to prove, retrospectively, that the White House blamed everything on "rogue agents" in Ohio (if so, why did it punish officials in D.C.?) and that, well, anyway, failing to put a stop to the BOLO was as good as planning the BOLO from the top. That's not the scandal we were promised!