Issa calls on GOP to reframe debate against Obama’s ‘imperial presidency’

BY Steve Peoples, Associated Press  February 18, 2014 at 1:31 PM EDT
Photo by the office of Congressman Darrell Issa/ Flickr

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chair Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said in rare remarks that he believed President Barack Obama is “dangerous” to American democracy. He called on Republicans to reframe their arguments against Obama’s championed government programs, and even “shame” if necessary to get other Republicans in line with his proposed political ideas. Photo by the office of Congressman Darrell Issa/ Flickr

MANCHESTER, N.H. — The Republican congressman spearheading investigations of President Barack Obama’s administration by the GOP-run House urged his party Tuesday to unite against Obama’s “imperial presidency”.

At the same time, Rep. Darrell Issa of California questioned former the leadership abilities of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Issa heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and in this role has led a host of investigations into administration controversies. Issa’s remarks came as he made a rare New Hampshire tour, telling audiences he’s not interested in running for the White House.

Issa did say he wants to play a key role, as voters here begin vetting 2016 presidential contenders. Issa challenged fellow Republicans to abandon government-centered solutions to problems and but directed his most pointed remarks at Obama and Clinton, the overwhelming Democratic favorite should she seek the presidency.

“I came here hoping to change the debate for those who do run for president,” Issa said in a speech at St. Anselm College. It was last of his three public appearances in two days in the state that traditionally hosts the nation’s first presidential primary election.

In Congress, Issa has lead a series of investigations by the Republican-led Oversight panel of some of the Obama administration’s most provocative controversies. These include the troubled rollout of the health care website, the Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of politically active groups, the National Security Agency’s mass collection of Americans’ phone records and the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.

“I believe this president is dangerous to our Democracy,” Issa said, stopping short of endorsing outright impeachment, when asked.

He repeatedly referred to purported Obama missteps on issues that resonate with anti-government tea party supporters and Republican establishment figures alike, wings of the party that have been deeply divided over government approaches to immigration, foreign policy and spending programs. Democrats complain that the continued focus on the Benghazi attack, in particular, is a political stunt designed to weaken Clinton should she run for president.

Issa said that Clinton and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta were accountable as the “top two informed individuals who were awake.”

“They didn’t react,” he said, adding later, “We need to find out from Secretary Clinton, why in the world you wouldn’t have insisted that (security forces) be moving and providing support.”

Issa’s remarks come as the New Hampshire primary season approaches.

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential candidate, was scheduled to visit the state Tuesday evening. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and 2012 contender Rick Santorum have agreed to March appearances, while other Republicans such as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul already have traveled to New Hampshire in recent months.

Issa, a former businessman who reportedly is Congress’ wealthiest member, offered a warning for prospective Republican candidates.

“For too long, the Republican Party has been about Republican ideas of bigger government versus Democratic ideas of bigger government,” he said Monday night, suggesting Republicans use “shame” if necessary to get other Republicans in line. “Republicans have to stop talking about new solutions that come with new government programs,” he said.

Asked what the federal government should do, Issa offered a simple response: “Very little.”