If you thought Burton was bad…

IF YOU THOUGHT BURTON WAS BAD…. If you followed politics in the mid- to late-’90s, you may recall the tragedy of the House Committee On Oversight and Government Reform. Led by its ridiculous chairman, Rep. Dan Burton (R) of Indiana, the panel launched pointless investigations into every wild-eyed Clinton-related accusation unhinged activists could manufacture.

In one instance, Burton held hearings — for 10 days — on the Clintons’ Christmas card list. In another, Burton fired a bullet into a “head-like object” — reportedly a melon — in his backyard to test his conspiracy theories about Vince Foster. Over the last six years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, Burton’s committee unilaterally issued 1,052 subpoenas — that’s not a typo — to investigate baseless allegations of misconduct. That translates to an average of a politically-inspired subpoena every other day for six consecutive years, including weekends, holidays, and congressional recesses.

Burton, of course, 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.

And if Republicans retake the House majority after the midterms, Darrell Issa will make Dan Burton look like a meek, submissive toady.

Rep. Darrell Issa, the conservative firebrand whose specialty is lobbing corruption allegations at the Obama White House, is making plans to hire dozens of subpoena-wielding investigators if Republicans win the House this fall.

The California Republican’s daily denunciations draw cheers from partisans and bookings from cable TV producers. He even bought his own earphone for live shots. But his bombastic style and attention-seeking investigations draw eye rolls from other quarters. Now, he’s making clear he won’t be so easy to shrug off if he becomes chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in 2011.

Issa has told Republican leadership that if he becomes chairman, he wants to roughly double his staff from 40 to between 70 and 80. And he is not subtle about what that means for President Barack Obama.

Issa, who even some Republicans perceive as an embarrassing clown, has specifically promised to leave “corporate America” alone, so he can attack the White House relentlessly.

Of course, the more Issa takes on a high-profile role, the more scrutiny he’s likely to receive. Given Issa’s background, that’s probably not a good thing — the guy was, after all, an alleged car thief who lied about his military background. It’s a record Democrats are likely to make note of if Issa starts throwing stones in his glass house.