Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Monday devoted almost an
entire interview with Republican Darrell Issa to attacking a criticism
the Congressman made of Barack Obama as "corrupt." Stephanopoulos
attempted four times to get Issa to recant his accusation.
The GMA host demanded of Issa, who next year will chair the powerful House Oversight committee, "And just before the election, you made a pretty serious charge on Rush Limbaugh's radio show, saying that President Obama has been, quote, 'one of the most corrupt presidents of modern times.' What did you base that on? And how will you follow up on that now that you have the power to investigate?"
Stephanopoulos returned to the question over and over, excluding other topics: "So, let me just press that. You no longer stand by the statement that the President is one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times?" After Issa brought up misuse of stimulus money and other issues, the annoyed host demanded, "Do you stand by the statement or not?
- Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here  to follow him on Twitter.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the most powerful members of the new Republican House, Congressman Darrell Issa will chair the House Oversight and Government Reform committee. It's his job now to investigate how the federal government is using your tax dollars and any possible wrongdoing in the Obama administration. Good morning, Congressman. How are you today?
DARRELL ISSA: George, I'm doing fine. It's a little daunting to have someone say one of the most powerful. But, thank you for mentioning the investigations and the need to have accountability.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you got to own it now, Congressman. Let's bring now with what Jon Karl was saying about House Republicans maybe resisting this potential compromise on tax cuts. As you know, if no compromise is reached, everyone's taxes will go up on January 1st. Can you accept this compromise that is now being floated about a two year extension for the tax cuts for the wealthy, permanently for everyone else?
ISSA: No, I can't. Tax certainty is important. And it's important for the investing class, probably more than anybody else. And so when you look at small businesses and their need to make decisions about investment, you're looking at people who you want to probably invest today but four the next two years and maybe not make so much back, but eventually make more money. So, if anything, this is wrong-minded. In some ways, you should say, look, if you invest today, we'll let you get a better deal three, four, five years from now because that's how you create jobs. Hopefully, we'll come to a compromise that does allow people make decisions beyond just this tax year.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, let's move on to your responsibilities as chairman of the oversight committee. You're going to have more investigative powers than just about anyone on Capitol Hill. Like a prosecutor, you can issue subpoenas for information, compel witnesses to appear. And just before the election, you made a pretty serious charge on Rush Limbaugh's radio show, saying that President Obama has been, quote, "one of the most corrupt presidents of modern times." What did you base that on? And how will you follow up on that now that you have the power to investigate?
ISSA: George, I want to you understand. One, it was the heat of the campaign. Two, this is not intended to be that the President personally is corrupt. But his administration received $700 billion with the walking around money and the stimulus and used it just that way. A great deal was used for political payback. This has been a very loose administration, one in which, although some people have worked hard to account for where the money went, pretty much the money, money, sorry about that [sic], went just about where the President wanted it to. And that's got to change. Presidential earmarks are just as important to end as congressional earmarks which now have ended. I mean, there's no question that Republicans taking over the House, there will not be earmarks. That era is behind us.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, let me just press that. You no longer stand by the statement that the President is one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times?
ISSA: I think his administration has a lot of explaining where the $700 billion went, where investigations that should have gone on, particularly into ACORN, an organization that he had past influence with, and should be willing to do a lot to end, I think those have to be dealt with. But, quite frankly, this was a statement made rightfully so about the corruptness in Washington under his administration, not him personally.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, wait. No. But, you just said rightfully so. Do you stand by the statement or not?
ISSA: I stand by the statement that this administration has failed to be accountable, failed to be transparent. Failed to do what they said they were going to do that. But, most importantly, you can't have money being spent for political purposes, rewarding the unions and the public employees on the taxpayer's back. Understand, the problem we have in Washington today is people think a job in the government is somehow saving a job. It's not saving a job. It's saving government. It's not creating one real job in the private sector. That $700 billion is gone, we have to figure out, one where it went and two, how to keep it from going away that way again. The American people cannot afford that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I understand that. But, you have no evidence that that $700 billion was dealt with illegally in any manner, correct?
ISSA: Corruption and illegality are very different. The Joe Sestak situation is certainly a matter of corruption. Whether it's illegal or not you, whether other administrations done it before isn't the question. The American people don't think that government jobs and government positions should be used for political purpose. So, it's certainly an example where, I'm not going to worry about whether or not it was a crime, I'm going to worry about whether or not it can continue. The second half of the name is reform. Not just oversight. Not just investigation. We're about accountability and efficiency, as much as we are about investigations.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We are out of time. You are no longer saying President Obama's been one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times, correct?
ISSA: I'm certainly saying this administration is going to have to straighten up and fly right. It will be our job to make sure the government money isn't wasted. I've never made that a personal statement, tried never to make that a personal statement about the President. So, if that's backing up from it, I'm not saying the President is personally corrupt, but his administration has to change direction, particularly at the taxpayer's money.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Got it. Thank you, Congressman.