Speaker Boehner

Speaker Boehner

Monday, November 15, 2010

Rep. Dan Burton: The Ghost of Investigations Past

The new GOP majority in the House of Representatives needs to be very judicious in the exercise of its majority power. The whole thesis of this blog is that the voters did not give the GOP a blank check. One area of great concern is the use of the House Government Affairs and Oversight Committee.

The GOP's most recent era of legislative majority was split into two pieces: (1) From 1995-2001 when Bill Clinton was president; and (2) 2001 and beyond when George Bush was president. During the first era, the Republicans used their majority status in the House to pursue partisan political investigations, which, I would submit, interfered with their primary purpose and helped lead to their downfall.

The quintessential Republican investigator of the 90s was Indiana Congressman Dan Burton. Don't get me wrong: Congressman Burton is a reliable conservative. He votes the right way on speding, taxes, right to life, constitutionalism etc. However, he guided some very partisan investigations of the Clintonistas. He is indeed the ghost of Congressional investigations past.

Congressman Burton was then and is now a member of the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee. As a member of that committee during the Clinton Administration, he dug deeply into the death of Vincent Foster. His conduct was perhaps perceived as unbecoming of a member of the House of Representatives. Congressman Burton was unable to keep a lid on his contempt for President Clinton. He was at one point quoted as saying:

"If I could prove 10 percent of what I believe happened, he'd [Clinton] be gone. This guy's a scumbag. That's why I'm after him."

His tactics and drama were over the top, worthy of a conservative Michael Moore. In the end, the American people saw the Republican use of the House investigative power as very overtly partisan.

Those attitudes still prevail. Two recent Rasmussen polls are instructive. In one, Rasmussen finds that Americans don't want the GOP to use the House investigative power on the Obama Administration itself (40 per cent favor, 44 per cent oppose). In another, Rasmussen finds by a margin of 55-32 that Americans do want the GOP to use its House investigative power to examine the fiscal costs of Obamacare.

The lesson of 1998 is reflected in those two Rasmussen polls: Don't investigate "birther" allegations or Ground Zero Mosque developers or Reverend Wright, or anything else that would bee seen as partisan. DO aggressively analyze and investigate the devastating financial impact that Obamacare will have on the Republic. If they GOP takes the latter route, then they will do the nation a great service and reap political rewards. If the GOP takes the former route, then they risk awakening the Ghost of Investigations Past, and the failure that he will bring.

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