As Monty Python famously put it: “nobody expects the Spanish inquisition.” But everyone in Washington is hotly anticipating the debut of the “grand inquisitor” — Darrell Issa, a Republican congressman from North County.

For weeks, journalists have been alerting the country over Issa’s plans to hold hearings to investigate the Obama administration once the Republicans take over the House next month. He’s considered a powerful player, possibly with more power to distract the White House than anyone else.

Issa, who will be doing all of this as head of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has been happy to contribute to his reputation as a gung-ho investigator. But he’s also had to backtrack on a comment accusing the president of being corrupt.

Here’s a sampling of media coverage of Issa over the last few months.

Sept. 22: Making a list (with global warming on it): Slate runs down Issa’s potential priorities for investigation:

The first list: federal agency performance management, federal emergency management, federal IT systems, federal financial management, the Presidential Records Act, ACORN, Countrywide, food safety, stimulus spending, the SEC, TARP, and “the independence of inspectors general.” The second list: Food Safety, Homeland Security, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Health care reform oversight, stimulus spending, the Minerals Management Service, and Climategate (which Issa’s staff calls “Politicization of Science”).

Oct. 19: A blast at Obama: Issa goes on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show and says this: “There will be a certain degree of gridlock as the president adjusts to the fact that he has been one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times. He has ignored the very laws that he said were so vital when he was a senator.”

Nov. 8: Pushing forward and walking it back: News reports paint a picture of a congressman who’s both boldly charging ahead and backtracking on a strong accusatory statement.

On one hand, he tells the Politico that “I want seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks.”

But he also wiggles out of questions from CNN host Wolf Blitzer who asked Issa to support his statement that Obama “has been one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.”

“It was a campaign. I make no bones about it,” Issa responds. “If I had to do it all over again, I would have parsed my words a little more carefully.”

Blitzer asks about the statement again: “So if you had to take it back, you would take back the words one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times? That’s political campaign rhetoric?”

Issa responds:

I would say the administration’s, if you will, ability to be corrupt because nearly a trillion dollars that Congress gave them and let them do whatever they wanted with it should have been approached in the sense that the House, the Senate, and the president wasted a considerable amount of money, and they did so in a way that was political. That’s a big difference in saying one of the most corrupt.

Issa is also challenged about his statement on Good Morning America and responds that he “tried never to make it a personal statement about the president. … I am not saying that the president is personally corrupt. But his administration has to change direction particularly after taxpayer money.”

Nov. 9: King of the world: What will Issa’s committee investigate, exactly? “My portfolio is very broad,” Issa tells The Press-Enterprise newspaper of Riverside. “We own everything.”

The paper reports:

Beyond holding scores of hearings into the implementation of President Barack Obama’s $787 billion stimulus plan, the housing meltdown, the bank bailout and myriad other topics, Issa is considering structural changes for the committee charged with fighting government abuse and bloat.

Nov. 10: Aiming ‘low and cheap’: A Slate writer complains that Issa is concerned about “small-time, seemingly bogus concerns” such as the costs of signs that identify work as being funded by stimulus money.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal declares that “if he lets the facts emerge on Republicans as well as Democrats, Mr. Issa will build credibility as a fair-minded investigator. Meanwhile, better to swear off the kleig lights until he has something important to tell the public.”

Nov. 11: Double double, toil and trouble: A liberal Democratic congresswoman from Illinois slams Issa by evoking images cauldrons and broomsticks on MSNBC, as reported by The Hill newspaper: “The man is on a hunt right now, really a witch hunt. Every time he makes these accusations, somebody has to come along, put their hand over his mouth and he has to walk it back.”

“Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) warned that Issa’s oversight strategy would result in more than 500 hearings in the next Congress – more than double the number staged by former Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) during the George W. Bush presidency,” The Hill reports.

Nov. 17: Notice the naked, please: The Wall Street Journal, which dubbed Issa “the Republican House’s chief inquisitor,” reports that he asked federal agency inspectors to join his crusade to slash spending. “You have to be the people who say the emperor has no clothes,” Issa told inspectors. “In fact, in government, the emperor has no clothes a lot.”

Nov. 27: Third-person prone: The Daily Beast interviews Issa and discloses a few tidbits: The congressman likes to talk about himself in the third person, he’ll have 80 staff investigators and he calls himself a rotten young kid who “pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge in 1972 and was indicted on felony charges involving car thefts that year and in 1980 (the cases were never pursued, and Issa blames the cases on his brother, who was also indicted).”

Nov. 28: Giving bite to the barkers: The New York Times reports that Issa is “planning to vastly expand scrutiny of the Obama administration by seeking new subpoena powers for dozens of federal agency watchdogs in hopes of using their investigations and his own in an aggressive push to cut spending and shrink the government.”

“What my committee has to do is, it has to stretch what it has done in the past,” Issa says.

The story adds:

Mr. Issa has already drawn up a list of big targets: $40 billion a year in fraud or waste in Medicare; tens of billions of dollars in subsidies to the government-controlled mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; $8.5 billion in losses by the Postal Service in the last fiscal year; tens of millions of dollars spent on redundant programs within federal agencies or squandered through corrupt contracting procedures.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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