Darrell Issa's (R-CA) stunning statement reducing the 9/11 attack on the United States to a "simple" plane crash is just the latest outrage from the execrable California Republican. After all, the one-time accused car thief turned car alarm magnate attacked the families of dead Blackwater contractors, accused Valerie Plame of perjury and played a vital role in purging a U.S. attorney, just to name a few others. Yet less than five years after he cried like a baby while announcing his withdrawal from the California governor's race, Darrell Issa mysteriously remains a force in American politics.
Here, then, are the Top 10 Moments from Darrell Issa's Hall of Shame:
1. Issa Calls 9/11 Attacks in New York a Plane Crash
No doubt, Issa's slur against World Trade Center rescue workers was the most unforgettable moment in a truly forgettable political career.
Desperate to refuse federal funds to the ailing workers who rushed to Ground Zero, Issa denied the September 11 carnage was an attack on the United States at all. As the New York Post summed it up:
"It's very simple: I can't vote for additional money for New York if I can't see why it would be appropriate to do this every single time a similar situation happens, which quite frankly includes any urban terrorist. It doesn't have to be somebody from al Qaeda. It can be someone who decides that they don't like animal testing at one of our pharmaceutical facilities."
Issa said the destruction of the World Trade Center did not involve a dirty bomb or a chemical weapon designed to make people sick.
"It simply was an aircraft, residue of the aircraft and residue of the materials used to build this building," Issa said.
2. Issa Weeps Over Premature Withdrawal from Gubernatorial Race
In the film, A League of Their Own, Tom Hanks proclaims, "there's no crying in baseball." If that same standard applied to American politics, Darrell Issa's career would have ended long ago.
In 2003, Issa led the effort to recall California Governor Gray Davis. (Davis was undone by the energy crisis which crippled the Golden State thanks in large part to market manipulation by Enron.) But part two of the Issa plan - to capture the Governor's office himself - abruptly ran aground when Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to get in the race.
On August 7, 2003, Issa shocked supporters and announced he would not continue his candidacy. Comically claiming, "It had nothing to do with Schwarzenegger's decision," Issa at times wept uncontrollably as he made his premature withdrawal. (This video shows Issa's pathetic performance as he concluded his gubernatorial ambitions had been terminated. The water works start around the 7:30 mark.)
3. Issa Attacks Families of Killed Blackwater Contractors
Among the low points in Issa's career as a Bush sycophant was his vicious defense of the mercenary firm Blackwater. As the security company faced charges ranging from atrocities in Iraq to abandoning the families of its slain workers, Issa went on the warpath in its defense.
During February 2007 Blackwater hearings of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa attacked four women whose family members were killed by Iraqi insurgents and dragged through the streets of Fallujah:
"Although I don't think your testimony today is particularly germane to the oversight of this committee, I am deeply sorry for the losses that you've had...One question I have is, the opening statement, who wrote it?"
That October, Issa's jihad in defense of Blackwater continued. On October 16, 2007, Issa claimed that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and his committee chairman Henry Waxman ""go after our troops." Ironically, just two weeks earlier, Issa comically pressed Blackwater CEO Erik Prince to acknowledge his ties to the Bush administration and the GOP, only to then claim "labeling some company as Republican" because of a family's background "is inappropriate."
4. Issa Accuses Valerie Plame of Perjury
On July 11, 2007, the House Judiciary Committee held a session to discuss the misuse of presidential clemency powers in President Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence. That hearing occurred just four months after outed covert CIA operative Valerie Plame had testified under oath before Congress on March 16, 2007.
Not content to merely confront Ambassador Joe Wilson during his testimony, Congressman Issa accused both Wilson and his wife of perjury:
"I certainly believe Ambassador Wilson at his word, but I hope he believes me at my word, which is that in fact having read all the information, I believe that his wife will soon be asking for a pardon, that in fact she has not been genuine in her testimony before Congress and, if pursued, Ambassador Wilson and Valerie would be asking for the same sort of treatment, which is that in fact we put this behind us."
5. Issa Drives the Firing of U.S. Attorney Carol Lam
As it turns out, Congressman Issa was also a key player in another major Bush administration scandal, the political purge of U.S. attorneys.
Carol Lam, who successfully prosecuted disgraced San Diego Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, was one of the 8 U.S. prosecutors forced out by Alberto Gonzales' Justice Department. But it was Issa who helped create the façade that supposedly lax immigration enforcement by Lam's office was behind her dismissal.
It was Issa, after all, who released an anonymously written 41 page Border Patrol report which claimed "that Lam was giving less attention to human smugglers than she should." As the Voice of San Diego reported in March 2007:
Six days after the Associated Press story broke, Issa's office sent a letter to Lam, in which the congressman called the memo "an embarrassment to your office."
Monica Goodling, a Justice Department spokeswoman, sent the letter to Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' chief of staff who resigned in the attorney firing scandal's wake, and two other high-ranking officials.
"FYI," she wrote, "the assault continues."
Lam was eventually sacked, as TPM Muckraker concluded, "despite the fact that no one from the Justice Department ever confronted Carol Lam over her performance on immigration prosecutions."
6. Issa Blames Software for White House Email Destruction
Committed to defending Bush administration wrong-doing at every turn, Darrell Issa in February weighed in on the White House's destruction of millions of emails. Now a self-proclaimed IT expert, Issa claimed that the likely criminal loss of the emails, including those for critical time periods such as the breaking PlameGate scandal, was just the result of a software glitch.
Mother Jones described Issa's feeble attempt to blame IBM's Lotus Notes software then used by the Bush White House, an accusation he was later forced to recant:
Defending the White House's decision to switch from the Lotus Notes-based archiving system used by the Clinton administration, Issa compared the software to "using wooden wagon wheels" and Sony Betamax tapes. To observers of the missing emails controversy, Issa's comments seemed little more than an attempt to deflect blame from the White House for replacing a working system for archiving presidential records with an ad hoc substitute. But to IT professionals who use Lotus at their companies, Issa's remarks seemed controversial, if not downright slanderous. Now, according to an executive at IBM, the software's manufacturer, the California congressman has apologized for his characterization of Lotus and offered to correct the congressional record.
7. Issa Offers Howard Krongard a Ticket to the White House Christmas Party
Last November, Americans learned of the staggering corruption, ineptitude and conflicts of interest of then State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard. Within days of his devastating appearance before Waxman's House Oversight Committee (including his admission that his brother served as an adviser to Blackwater), Krongard resigned over allegations he impeded "ongoing criminal investigations into the construction of a new, $740 million U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and security firm Blackwater Worldwide."
But during his calamitous Congressional hearing in November, Krongard was praised by Darrell Issa. After Krongard earlier noted that he had never met President Bush, Issa told him:
"Thank you for your service. And I’ll end by saying that the first week of December the president’s having a Christmas party. I have an extra guest ticket. After today, I know that you’ve earned it. I would be happy to have you use my guest ticket and then you’ll get your picture with the president and you’ll get to meet him as well you should."
8. Issa Forces Jerry Nadler to Withdraw Truthful Statement about Bush's Illegal Domestic Surveillance
Last August as Congress debated revisions to FISA under the so-called Protect America Act, Rep. Issa went on the attack against opponents of President Bush's domestic surveillance program.
During the debate, Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) spoke out against the codification of President Bush's regime of warrantless wiretapping, domestic surveillance which prior to August 2007 was almost certainly illegal:
"This bill is not needed to protect America from terrorists. The only purpose of this bill is to protect this administration from its own political problems and cynicism, and it has taken outside the law without any authorization."
For his part, Issa demanded that Nadler withdraw his assertion that the Bush administration had engaged in illegal activities. ThinkProgress detailed the Issa brouhaha that ensued:
After some pause, Nadler said he would withdraw his "truthful and accurate statements" in order to proceed with the floor debate. Issa, unhappy with Nadler's retraction, said, "He is not withdrawing it if he claims they're accurate." Nadler responded, "I'm withdrawing them without any reservation but I retain my opinion."
9. Issa Defends Roger Clemens Against Steroid Allegations
During February hearings in which neither political party did itself credit, Henry Waxman's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee probed the use of performance enhancing drugs in major league baseball. Perhaps conscious of lingering allegations that George W. Bush turned a blind eye to his players' own steroid use while running the Texas Rangers, Republican committee members rushed to Roger Clemens' defense.
None more so that Darrell Issa. Issa called Clemens' alleged supplier, Brian McNamee, "a drug pusher" and proclaimed that McNamee's diploma-mill PhD stood for "pile it higher and deeper." Amazingly, Issa compared Clemens' use of B-12 to his own "mother getting B-12 shots from our family physician," adding, "She was pre-menopausal and simply a little anemic she thought." Issa then concluded by lecturing McNamee, "Shame on you."
10. Issa Blames His Brother for Past Brushes with the Law
Which is a lot of chutzpah for as shameless a pol as Darrell Issa. When it came to his own brushes with the law, Issa, too, pointed the finger at someone else: his brother.
In the run-up to his aborted 2003 campaign for California governor, Issa faced scrutiny over his arrests in 1972 and 1980 on auto theft charges. While the charges were ultimately dropped in both cases for lack of evidence, the 1980 episode was a damning one:
The Santa Clara case happened in February, 1980, when Issa was a 27-year-old U.S. Army officer, and his brother was 29, according to the Chronicle. The brothers were arrested on a felony auto-theft charge. According to prosecutors said, William Issa sold his brother's car to Smythe European Motors in San Jose for $13,000 cash and three $1,000 traveler's checks. Hours later, Darrell Issa reported the car stolen from the Monterey airport, near his Army post at Fort Ord.
For his part, Issa was quick to blame his brother for both his run-ins with the police and his later riches selling car security systems:
"William has inflicted pain and sorrow upon our family since he was a teenager. Obviously, his past continues to inflict pain today," said Issa, who became a multimillionaire manufacturer of electronic auto alarms, including the popular "Viper" anti-theft device. "When people ask me why I got into the car alarm business, I tell them the truth. It was because my brother was a car thief."
And so it goes. At every turn, Darrell Issa has served as the faithful Republican hatchet man, defending his President and his party from all foes. (The only exception, as arch-conservative Debbie Schlussel complains: the Lebanese-American Issa's outreach to Syria and defense of Hezbollah against the Israeli incursion in 2006.) While death and taxes are said to be the only certainties in life, new additions to the Darrell Issa Hall of Shame seem inevitable.