The “Fast and Furious” debacle already was a major scandal. Federal agents purposely allowed high-powered weapons to make it into the hands of murderous Mexican drug cartels – and one of the guns from the bungled operation apparently was responsible for the murder of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
But the Obama administration has doubled the scandal with what appears to be a tenacious cover-up: Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department has been so uncooperative in getting to the bottom of the scandal – most recently refusing to release documents that have long been subpoenaed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee – that the committee was forced to hold him in contempt.
The full House of Representatives is set to vote on the contempt finding next week.
It may not yet be “Obama’s Watergate,” as historian Tim Stanley says it might in The Telegraph of London. Then again, it may arguably be worse: As Stanley notes, “no one actually got killed during Watergate.”
The other major difference in the scandals: Watergate involved a Republican president. We’ll see whether there’s a Woodward and Bernstein this time around who care enough to dog a Democratic one.
For what it’s worth, the early indications aren’t promising: The mainstream media mostly downplayed or ignored this roiling scandal until the contempt vote Wednesday. And even then, ABC’s evening newscast led with the weather.
Yawns aren’t in order, folks. A good man is dead, his family has no answers, and the White House that could provide those answers is defying even a contempt order by the House in order to keep a lid on those answers.
The questions must be answered: Who ordered this operation? Why has no one been held accountable? How high up in the administration does the responsibility lie?
And, most important: What are they hiding? What could be so damaging that the administration would rather face a contempt action than release the documents?
Remember: As commentator Charles Krauthammer noted Wednesday, this is the same administration that leaked highly sensitive information about covert operations in Iran and Yemen. Now, all of a sudden, when a U.S. Border Patrol agent lies dead, they actually want to keep a secret?
And didn’t this president promise the most transparent administration in history?
Just as outrageous, when the scandal first broke early last year with the help of whistleblowers in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Holder’s department denied in a Feb. 4, 2011, letter that the program ever existed. But evidence later indicated senior DOJ officials knew about Fast and Furious before the February 2011 letter. Holder’s department didn’t retract that falsehood until December 2011.
Holder himself has been caught red-handed. He told Congress in sworn testimony in May 2011 that he only learned of Fast and Furious in the prior few weeks – but internal Justice Department documents show he was informed as early as September 2010.
It’s not just Congress that the administration is showing contempt for. It’s also the family of fallen agent Terry.
“Our son lost his life protecting this nation,” the family said in a statement Wednesday, “and it is very disappointing that we are now faced with an administration that seems more concerned with protecting themselves rather than revealing the truth behind Operation Fast and Furious.”
President Obama invoked executive privilege to keep the documents hidden, which is interesting – not just because of the other leaks that have emanated from the White House recently, but because the documents in question may have more to do with the cover-up of Fast and Furious than the operation itself. It’s a very questionable use of the privilege power – even “Nixonian,” as some have said.
The question is, will the media be as curious about this president’s scandal?