After 10 months of investigating the IRS on what was supposed to be a bullet-proof charge that the organization was unfairly targeting Tea Party-backed organizations, Republicans have soured on the probe. And Rep. Darrell Issa, the brawn behind the investigation, has been left holding the bag.
"[It] was a distraction, but we’ll get back on track. Issa made a mistake, he said as much, and I would hope to learn from that," Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican congressman who has his sights set on Issa's job as House Oversight Committee chair, told Politico. Chaffetz is in campaign mode — strip away that veneer and he's saying that he could do much better than Issa is at the moment. “[T]here is a lot of meat on this issue with the IRS, this is not some made-up sensational headline he is trying to grab," Chaffetz added — again pointing out Issa's ineptitude.
Republicans like Chaffetz are in a curious position. Some 10 months ago, they promised that the organizations that support them were targets of the IRS and President Obama. They promised that the evidence and scandal had legs. Now, almost a year later, their results have been disappointing. But, in order to save a bit of face, they have to still find a bit of fault with the IRS or risk disappointing the constituents they riled up a year ago. That's why you have responses like Chaffetz's.
And for Republicans, it's a better strategy to blame Issa. That way they can maintain distrust of the IRS, while being able to criticize a lack of results. "There’s a far better way to take this on. … There’s broad frustration with how this has played out, with the road he’s taken,” a Republican on the oversight committee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Politico.
There's been longstanding fear in the Republican arty that Issa might be a liability and barking up wrong trees. Back in 2012, Speaker John Boehner let us all know he was concerned and needed a year of convincing before he signed off to let Issa have a floor vote over holding Attorney Eric Holder in contempt. You don't do that unless you want to keep your distance. Add Benghazi, Fast and Furious, and now his handling of the IRS investigation, and Issa has become as big a target as the investigations he's heading.