Then-Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa at a House Oversight Committee hearing on the Sept. 11, 2012 assaults that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
After news broke earlier this week that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) would not run for re-election, I had a quick conversation with Just Security Founding Editor and former White House lawyer and congressional staffer, Andy Wright, on his experiences working with Issa, who routinely put party over just about everything, according to Wright.
Wright’s first phase of experience working with Issa was when he worked as a Democratic staff member on the House Oversight Committee’s National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee while Issa was a committee member. Wright and his colleagues had positive relationships with successive Republican chairs of the committee and the subcommittee — Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.), Chris Shays (R-Conn.), and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). But when Issa became committe chair, Wright found that he injected a wildly partisan flavor into the committee’s workings on vital national security issues, inhibiting bipartisan efforts and the general efficiency of a committee tasked with overseeing a democratic administration.
And then there was an incrediblly petty move by Issa involving office curtains in Wright’s office. But you’ll just have to listen to learn about that.
Wright later dealt with Issa from the other end of Pennsylvania Ave when, in 2010, he started working in the Obama White House; a place where his experience with the California congressman was quickly put to use. Wright used his knowledge of Issa to help to devise a strategy for dealing with the congressman’s inevitable hyperpartisan attacks on the Obama administration. Issa, then serving as the committee Chairman, accused Obama of engaging in “Chicago-style politics” and launched a number of botched investigations against the Obama administration that failed to produce evidence of wrongdoing.
But Wright’s anecdotes aren’t just about the outrageous behavior of one elected official. Our conversation ended by examining a larger point about our current pollitical reality by emphasizing the role that good faith, non-partisan congressional oversight plays in upholding the institutional and norms of government in responsible ways.
As always with these “specials,” forgive the rushed format.
Interested listeners can find Wright’s tweet thread, which inspired our special podcast, here:
THREAD on Darrell Issa’s retirement, based on my experiences with him as a committee staffer in Congress & an Obama White House lawyer.
There will be grave dancing. 1/ https://t.co/qRoJxBO6p8
— Andy Wright (@AndyMcCanse) January 10, 2018