Political Correction

Rep. Issa Defends Rep. Burton's "Oversight" Of Clinton, Compares Him To President Lincoln

January 25, 2011 12:35 pm ET - by Matt Gertz

Yesterday, we pointed out that House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) had urged Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) to reconsider his plan to issue unilateral subpoenas on his own authority, a practice Cummings said had only previously been employed during the chairmanship of Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), who is infamous for his witch hunts of the Clinton administration.

Today, after Cummings issued the same critique during the committee's organizational meeting and urged an amendment to the committee rules banning the procedure, Issa responded by defending Burton's chairmanship (while acknowledging that he "probably made mistakes") and comparing him to Abraham Lincoln.

ISSA: First, for our esteemed former chairman [Burton], I will try to deliver some of the words that he may be too shy to deliver. Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas, and my understanding, stopped the post office from delivering during an insurrection. No one looks at Abraham Lincoln and says, my goodness, he was a terrible president. They consider the times. Now Chairman Burton probably made mistakes. I understand that there were incorrect people on a couple of occasions who received subpoenas and it had to be corrected. At the same time, I will not judge the time when I did not serve in Congress or what he faced.


The "mistakes" Burton made include shooting a melon in his backyard as part of an attempt to reenact the suicide of Clinton advisor Vince Foster and prove that he was actually murdered, and defending a staffer who selectively edited transcripts in an attempt to smear the Clintons. That is the legacy of Burton's tenure as oversight chair — not that there were "incorrect people on a couple of occasions who received subpoenas."

Issa went on to say that it is he would not support Cummings' amendment, but that it was his "intention to consult" and get consent from Cummings on "most if not all subpoenas." For his part, Burton told Issa, "I agree with everything that you said." Cummings' amendment failed on a party-line vote.

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