Big Daddy

Big Daddy

Big Daddy,
Okay, so what’s all this about the Third Lantern? Sounds sneaky and underhanded, so I thought I’d ask you.
–Miffed in Milpitas

Hey Miffed,
I’m shocked, shocked that someone would refer to me as sneaky and underhanded, although I know these thoughts arise regularly in Milpitas, where I spent two nights years ago.  I’ll deal with you later.

As to the Third Lantern, it’s clean, wholesome politics, merely a campaign committee set up not to get someone elected but to trash somebody who is already elected – the verbose, irrepressible, arch-conservative Darrell Issa of Vista. The Third Lantern is the creation of San Francisco’s SCN Strategies, a trio of top-drawer Democratic consultants.  

Third Lantern, by the way, refers to Paul Revere’s ride; you can look it up yourself.

Congressman Issa, the new chief of the House oversight committee, holds considerable sway in the new GOP-ruled House. He wants to investigate everybody and everything, called President Obama the most corrupt president in history and is bedeviled by any number of passions, most of them directed at Democrats. Over the past two years, he’s been something of a point man in the attacks on the White House.

There’s nothing wrong with investigating everybody at the drop of a hat: A good probe makes us all jump. It keeps us honest. I know, I’ve been there.

And even a politics-driven probe is worthwhile – party hacks on both sides are right once in a while – if the political motives are concealed by a veneer of righteousness that the public swallows. But if the political hatchet emerges, the investigators look foolish and evil – or worse. They become the butt of jokes on The Tonight Show, flounder around and ultimately produce a useless report. Luckily, only a few people see The Tonight Show and most of them are elderly. Still,  bad TV exposure is worse than no exposure at all. And if it winds up on CalChannel, the beloved network of political junkies, the probe is doomed.

This is Issa’s problem. Nobody, even in his own party, see him as an even-handed investigator ferreting out impropriety on behalf of the public. He’s Robespierre, not Perry Mason. (I wasn’t in France in 1789, but I play cards on Thursdays with a guy who was there, and he says everything was fine until that woman started knitting.)

Even less even-handed is the Third Lantern, which was created under federal campaign rules. That means the financial backers of the committee don’t have to be disclosed unless the Third Lantern wants to. And it doesn’t want to – at least for now.

Others may see the irony in a secretly financed committee going after the Vulture of Vista, but I don’t. First, the Third Lantern doesn’t pretend to be even-handed, and that’s good. Who wants an impartial political attack dog? Dogs with fangs are better.

Second, who cares anyway? Whatever the Third Lantern does, it probably won’t include original investigation. Issa’s warts – the business-linked arson, the problems with his former business partner, his youthful auto theft, etc. – are behind him. But they still offer grist for the political mill.

Presumably, the goal here is to discredit Obama’s chief accuser between now and the 2012 elections. And maybe it will work.

But it’s going to get ugly.

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