Investigating is easier than governing

INVESTIGATING IS EASIER THAN GOVERNING…. The political world may not fully appreciate just how ugly it might be next year.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has a plan for what the Republicans should do if they win control of the House of Representatives: Spend all their time investigating the Obama administration.

“Oh, I think that’s all we should do,” Bachmann told the Three Fingers of Politics website. “I think that all we should do is issue subpoenas and have one hearing after another, and expose all the nonsense that has gone on.”

To be sure, it was farcical on the Hill in the mid- to late-’90s. Rep. Dan Burton (R) of Indiana and his House committee on administrative oversight launched pointless investigations into every wild-eyed Clinton-related accusation unhinged activists could manufacture.

And I mean “every” quite literally. 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.

A Republican House majority in the next Congress would likely take this even further. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has already made clear that he intends to make Burton look like a meek, submissive toady, leaving “corporate America” alone, so he can attack the White House relentlessly.

For that matter, let’s also not forget that some Republicans, including two members of Congress, have raised the specter of presidential impeachment once there’s a GOP majority. One of them is Bachmann — who thinks “all” Republicans should do in the next Congress is launch witch hunts.

As Paul Krugman noted recently, “[W]e’ll be having hearings over accusations of corruption on the part of Michelle Obama’s hairdresser, janitors at the Treasury, and Larry Summers’s doctor’s dog.”

If this seems like a joke, now would be a good time to adjust your expectations.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.