MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — The Republican House chairman spearheading investigations of President Barack Obama's administration urged his party Tuesday to unite against Obama's "imperial presidency."
During a two-day tour of politically important New Hampshire, Rep. Darrell Issa of California said he is not running for president, despite the setting in the nation's traditional first-in-the-nation presidential primary state. But he questioned the leadership abilities of the Democratic favorite in the 2016 race, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"I came here hoping to change the debate for those who do run for president," Issa said in a speech at St. Anselm College. Subjects he hopes will come up ahead of the 2016 election include Obama administration controversies Issa has examined as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee: The troubled rollout of Obama's signature health care law. The Internal Revenue Service's scrutiny of politically active groups. And the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, during Clinton's tenure as Obama's chief diplomat.
"I believe this president is dangerous to our Democracy," Issa said, stopping short of endorsing outright impeachment, when asked. Much of Issa's appeal was aimed at the Republican base of voters, which include populist tea partyers that helped the GOP grab control of the House in the 2010 elections. He challenged fellow Republicans to abandon government-centered solutions to problems, but directed his most pointed remarks at Obama and Clinton, the overwhelming Democratic favorite should she seek the presidency.
Democrats complain that the continued focus on the Benghazi attack, in particular, is a political stunt designed to weaken Clinton should she run for president. Issa said that Clinton and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta were accountable as the "top two informed individuals who were awake."
"They didn't react," he said, adding later, "We need to find out from Secretary Clinton, why in the world you wouldn't have insisted that (security forces) be moving and providing support." The remarks come as the New Hampshire primary campaign season approaches.
Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP's 2012 vice presidential candidate, was scheduled to visit the state Tuesday evening. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and 2012 contender Rick Santorum have agreed to March appearances, while other Republicans such as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul already have traveled to New Hampshire in recent months.
Issa, a former businessman, offered a warning for prospective Republican candidates. "For too long, the Republican Party has been about Republican ideas of bigger government versus Democratic ideas of bigger government," he said Monday night, suggesting Republicans use "shame" if necessary to get other Republicans in line. "Republicans have to stop talking about new solutions that come with new government programs," he said.