Despite the drumming President Obama is taking in the polls — his popularity hit a new historic low of 36 percent, according to a new poll out this week — Republicans are not about to let up on the latest scandal brewing at the White House, referred to as "Solargate" by Fox News and "Crony-Gate" by conservative Newsmax. Already, a House Energy subcommittee has grilled several top administration officials and released internal documents that seem to back up claims that the White House fast-tracked over $500 million in Energy Department loan guarantees to solar company Solyndra, which then promptly went bankrupt. Yesterday, the committee called two more witnesses: Solyndra's CEO and chief financial officer.
How does a company go from having the president of the United States visit it to having the F.B.I. come in and confiscate its files?
That was Texas Republican Joe Barton, a member of the subcommittee. The "stony-faced pair, as the Times described them, refused to answer Barton's question or any other for that matter, invoking their Fifth Amendment right not to "witness against [themselves]."
While nothing much was learned yesterday, pleading the Fifth does tend to confirm in people's minds that at the very least something suspicious (if not illegal) went down. Which is why the Republican chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee is now calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint an independent examiner to look into the Solyndra deal and the relationship between President Obama and one of the company's biggest investors, also a major fund-raiser for his 2008 campaign. While unlikely to cost anyone too senior in the White House their job, "Solargate" may still end up a serious headache for the Obama campaign. Already, allegations of cronyism have been directed at current GOP front-runner Rick Perry, with the president himself the target of a "crony capitalism" attack from Michele Bachmann this week.