Byron York

I asked Issa's staffers for a list of the issues on which Issa has spent the most time in the 18 months Obama has been in office. First is mortgage giant Countrywide's favoritism in granting sweetheart loans to lawmakers, congressional staffers and executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Second is the Securities and Exchange Commission's civil case against Goldman Sachs. Third is the Obama administration's response to the gulf oil spill. Fourth is the administration's handling of the Home Affordable Modification Program, which is supposed to help struggling mortgage holders keep their homes. And fifth is the Treasury Department's management of TARP money for the so-called "hardest hit" housing markets.

Would any of those investigations qualify as witch hunts intended to bring Obama down? Unlikely, especially since many Democrats agree that such programs should be carefully watched. But Franken appears to be worried about other things.

"We have seen what happens when Republicans take control of Congress with a Democratic president," Franken told the Netroots group, "and it ain't pretty." In that reference to the Clinton years, he was suggesting that scandal and impeachment will follow a Republican win in November. But that is a misreading of the past. The extraordinary nature of the Clinton scandals was more the result of the independent-counsel law than GOP control of Congress. Does anyone believe the Republican House would have impeached Bill Clinton in 1998 without an independent counsel's report as justification? These days, with the independent-counsel law long gone, what Democrats are worried about is not impeachment but rather aggressive oversight of a Democratic administration.

The workings of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform have long been a mix of legitimate oversight and partisan wrangling. It has been that way under Democrats, and it has been that way under Republicans. But since Democrats generally don't want to investigate Democratic presidents and Republicans generally don't want to investigate Republican presidents, the committee is most effective when opposing parties control the House and the White House. That's the simple reason the public would benefit if Darrell Issa and the GOP were running the committee -- no matter what Al Franken says.

Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner