Note To The Washington Post: Henry Waxman Never Shot A Pumpkin

Buried deep in the Washington Post's article about potential House Republican investigations of the Obama administration, the Post gets around to noting (clumsily) that the probes could backfire:

There are potential pitfalls for Issa and other Republican chairmen investigating the administration. During the late 1990s, House Republicans pursued inquiries that many considered political fishing expeditions - such as investigating whether former President Clinton's adviser Vince Foster was murdered despite his death being reported as a suicide.

This and other Republican-led Clinton-era investigations bore no substantial results, and backfired on the party politically. With polls showing that Obama is far more personally popular than congressional Republican leaders, Democrats warn that the public has little appetite for political persecutions.


Democrats, too, have been accused of overreaching. Some Republicans considered it frivolous when the Waxman-led committee investigated the steroids scandal in professional baseball in 2008. Award-winning pitcher Roger Clemens testified under oath that he had never used performance-enhancing drugs. Two years later, he was indicted on charges of lying in his testimony.

A few problems here: First, the Post downplays the shamelessness of the Republicans “investigations” of Vince Foster's death. Foster's death wasn't merely “reported as a suicide” prior to attempts by the likes of Al D'Amato and Dan Burton to stoke conspiracy theories. It was ruled a suicide by police. And a (Republican) special prosecutor, Robert Fiske, had already investigated and confirmed that ruling.

Second, the problem for the Republicans wasn't merely that their investigations “bore no substantial results,” it was also that they were conducted with a stunning combination of bumbling ineptitude and rabid partisan obsession. Burton investigated the White House cat, issued subpoenas to the wrong people, and famously shot up his vegetable garden in an effort to prove that Foster didn't commit suicide. His committee released doctored transcripts of Webster Hubbell's prison conversations in an effort to smear Hillary Clinton -- a stunt that cost Burton aide David Bossie his job and led even Newt Gingrich (!) to denounce the “circus” Burton was conducting. Republicans investigated a decades-old land deal in which the Clintons lost money -- and, upon finding no wrongdoing, investigated again. And again. They impeached the president for the misjudgment of not being a Republican, though they dressed it up with the only-slightly-more-reasonable explanation that he had lied about an affair.

Which brings us to the third problem: the absurd false equivalence of invoking Henry Waxman's investigation of steroids in baseball. There's just no comparison between the way Republicans harassed Clinton and the way Democrats conducted oversight. This isn't the first time the Washington Post has peddled this nonsense, and I'm sure it won't be the last. It is, however, still nonsense -- and, as I've previously explained, it incentivizes bad behavior.