Gridlock would be the least of the country’s troubles

GRIDLOCK WOULD BE THE LEAST OF THE COUNTRY’S TROUBLES…. If the truly ridiculous interest in the Sestak job-offer story tells us anything, it’s that a House Republican majority in 2011 would look an awful lot like the House Republican majority in the mid-1990s. Paul Waldman noted the other day the kind of political environment we could expect.

…If Republicans were in charge of Congress right now, they’d be holding endless hearings on not just this issue, but a hundred other cases of alleged Obama administration malfeasance. For those of you too young to remember, the Clinton years were a parade of ridiculous “investigations” into things like whether aide Vince Foster was murdered by a nefarious conspiracy. The Republican Congress heard 140 hours of testimony — repeat, 140 hours of testimony — on the burning question of whether the Clintons had misused the White House Christmas card list.

Should they be fortunate enough to take one or both houses of Congress in this fall’s elections, you can bet the GOP is going to get right to work on renewing that sorry spectacle. The only thing holding them back now is the fact that their lack of institutional power renders them unable to create events — like hearings — to which cameras can go and around which news stories can be built. If they do take back even the House, it’ll be a long two years.

My personal favorite was the time Rep. Dan Burton (R) of Indiana, the bizarre chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, fired a bullet into a “head-like object” — reportedly a melon — in his backyard to test his Foster-related conspiracy theories. Burton wasn’t just some talk-radio shock-jock or publicity-hungry activist; he was the chairman of a congressional committee with oversight authority over the White House. And he wielded that gavel as if he were a fringe blogger with a chip on his shoulder, reinforcing the non-existent line between the GOP base and the GOP mainstream.

Now, instead of Burton, we’d have Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.) playing the role of grand inquisitor. Michael Tomasky argued the political bloodlust may be even worse now than in the ’90s.

“This is what’s at stake this fall,” Tomasky concluded. “Forget policy. It’s this: endless hearings and investigations until they find something that gets the public worked up, or until the public just cries uncle and says oh okay we’re sick of hearing you crazy people, if it’ll shut you up, just impeach the bastard already.”