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June 20, 2012 12:52 PM FastnFuror

By Ed Kilgore

If you glance across any of the precincts of the right-wing chattering classes today, you will have the eery experience of being transported through the looking glass back to 1974 and the height of the Watergate scandal. That’s how exercised our wingnutty friends have become over the great issue of this era, Eric Holder’s stonewalling of Darrel Issa’s demands for a document dump related to the “Fast and Furious” gun walking operation, and now the president’s assertion of executive privilege against their release.

F&F does sound like it was a mess, albeit one that simply followed tactics developed and used in ATF operations during the Bush administration. I generally tend to assume all sorts of sordid and ineffective practices pervade everything remotely related to the the border-centered “war on drugs,” which is one reason I wish we’d more or less call it off.

But there’s something especially weird about conservatives raising such a ruckus over what you’d expect many of them to consider eggs broken in making a holy omelet—or over victims of gun violence, for that matter. Is the current hysteria just reflexive hyper-partisanship? Is it displaced fury at Holder for his opposition to GOP voter suppression efforts? Is ATF-hating (remember Wayne Lapierre’s reference to its agents as “jackbooted government thugs”) just systematic now? Or is this all about the bizarre conspiracy theory—which few of the people in full shriek today mention—that F&F was actually aimed at discrediting U.S. gun dealers and hence justifying a crackdown on the Second Amendment?

Beats me. But since this saga is about to produce a contempt of Congress vote that will likely pass the House on a party-line vote, perhaps we’ll get an explanation soon from someone on the Right who doesn’t seem to think it’s self-apparent this is the biggest scandal since Teapot Dome.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • Ron Byers on June 20, 2012 1:05 PM:

    I was just reading a gun related site where folks are confused why this made up scandal isn't generating more heat. They don't seem to understand that most people see this as part of politics as usual. Folks are sick to death of madeup scandals. I am certainly sick of this one.

  • c u n d gulag on June 20, 2012 1:07 PM:

    "Is the current hysteria just reflexive hyper-partisanship?

    Is it displaced fury at Holder for his opposition to GOP voter suppression efforts?

    Is ATF-hating (remember Wayne Lapierre’s reference to its agents as “jackbooted government thugs”) just systematic now?

    Or is this all about the bizarre conspiracy theory—which few of the people in full shriek today mention—that F&F was actually aimed at discrediting U.S. gun dealers and hence justifying a crackdown on the Second Amendment?

    YES!!!

    This ends today's edition of single SA to today's T's multiple SQ's!

    The R's can't 'hep theyselves!'

  • Mark-NC on June 20, 2012 1:14 PM:

    I'd say it has to do with two major themes.

    1. Holder is Black and therefore guilty of something - this will do just fine.

    2. The unending search for excuses to say the Dems are worse than the Repugnant Ones. So you get things like a leak of information has to be MUCH worse than outing an undercover CIA agent (assuming it even came from the White House), or Solendra is obvious corruption, or this nothing of a scandal is worse than Watergate.

    I give them a A+ for understanding that propaganda works really well.

  • j_h_r on June 20, 2012 1:23 PM:

    you're really overthinking this, Ed.

    It's no different than the New Black Panther Party "scandal."

    Holder is Obama's proxy, so he's got a nice fat metaphorical target painted on his back; if it wasn't F&F, it would be something else that Repubs could paint as the most dire threat to the American way of life since Lincoln freed the slaves, and if it wasn't something else, they'd make s*** up (see: Foster, Vince, alleged suicide of).

  • bluestatedon on June 20, 2012 1:36 PM:

    I think it's entirely reasonable to conclude that Obama's invocation of executive privilege is an effort to hide some very embarrassing information about a program that virtually nobody thinks was a well-thought-out initiative. What is the nature of the information that is so important to withhold? If it's related to the identity of ATF agents who are still working undercover, why wouldn't the White House make that argument in its statement accompanying the invoking of privilege?

    If liberals try to assert that they wouldn't be outraged at the use of executive privilege if the sitting President was a Republican and F&F had occurred under his watch, they're simply being hypocritical, especially given Ed's reference to 1974, a time during which Democrats were howling with anger over Nixon's use of executive privilege.

    Nobody with any sense would think that whatever is being withheld would remotely approach what Watergate was, or what tinfoil conspiracies the nutters are harboring now. If that's the case, why invoke executive privilege now? If Obama is doing this solely to protect Holder, he's allowing personal relationships to damage his administration, which is beyond shortsighted.

  • James E. Powell on June 20, 2012 1:47 PM:

    I'm not sure, but I think that there has to be far less here than meets the bloodshot eyes of the right-wingers. These are, after all, law enforcement officers from the daring, paramilitary, cowboy style end of the business. Those guys do right-wing stuff; wingers love them and want to give them even more power to do more right-wing stuff, no?

    So why invoke privilege? Until now I wasn't curious. Now I am. What the hell were these guys doing? And if it started under Bush, why not expose the fools, fire the dolts and move on?

  • Surfcitytom on June 20, 2012 2:00 PM:

    It's either a desperate, political contrivance or racism. Probably a little of both.

  • Mitch on June 20, 2012 2:01 PM:

    As much as I may like Obama, I have no pity for anyone involved in Fast & Furious. It was without a doubt a classic stupid blunder. What the hell were they thinking?

    1.) Give guns to psycho hyper-violent death-worshipping cartel thugs.

    2.) ???

    3.) Profit

    Sorry, bluestatedon is right. If Bush had caught doing this, then every Dem in the nation would blow up. If Bush were declaring Executive Privilege before Congress, we would all be shrieking. I know, because, well, we all lived through eight years of that nonsense. The fact that similar programs existed under Bush only makes it worse. It is not an excuse.

    Sorry. No pity for Obama on this one, nor for Holder, nor for anyone else who ever plans stupid actions like this one. It sounds like the kind of bungling Iran-Contra bullshit the GOP excels at. It is indefensible.

  • Surfcitytom on June 20, 2012 2:06 PM:

    I think Holder might have made an unintentional misstatement in previous testimony, and the White House would rather play hardball than give Issa the satisfaction of extracting a mea culpa for an inconsequential mistake.

  • Ron Byers on June 20, 2012 2:06 PM:

    James E. Powell

    If memory serves the LEOs in this story are ATF. Most rural Southerners and nearly all Wingers hate the ATF. They are, after all, the guys who enforce gun laws. They also have a long history of being involved with deadly screwups. For the ATF an excess use of force is never a vice.

  • boatboy_srq on June 20, 2012 2:16 PM:

    REMINDER: if you ask any Reichwinger, Holder is tasked by Obama come 2013 to confiscate all privately-held firearms. FnF is part of the justification for voiding the 2nd Amendment in this grand escapade: we let the druglords get guns, and they killed people with them, so guns on the border aren't safe and must be siezed and destroyed. Issa et al aren't looking for how FnF got screwed up: they're looking for proof that Holder/Obama/whoever is out to take away citizens' Constitutionally-protected weaponry, either as an end in itself or as prelude to rounding up all the True Believers[tm] and shipping them off to FEMA camps.

    Honestly, doesn't anyone here speak Wingnut anymore?

  • Mimikatz on June 20, 2012 2:39 PM:

    This program started under Bush. Bush. The Republican past president. When Holder found out about it he stopped it.

    Issa is a media hog and the worst excuse for a Congressman that CA has produced in many a moon. His document requests never stop. Holder just told him to stop and Obama backed him up. The GOP, especially the gun wing, are just nuts. They will believe anything they are told because of their high anxiety level. Gods help us if the GOP wins the election.w

  • bluestatedon on June 20, 2012 2:44 PM:

    "they're looking for proof that Holder/Obama/whoever is out to take away citizens' Constitutionally-protected weaponry,.."

    Look, we all know what the nutters are thinking, and we know they're all loons. The problem is that invoking the secrecy of executive privilege—especially when the White House has previously denied any involvement— provides the loons all the ammunition they need to keep looning, without defusing the issue.

    Obama was well within his rights to refuse to release his birth certificate, but doing so finally took most of the air out of the issue, to the extent that it's only the outer fringers who are still pursuing the issue. Many mainstream Republicans, including Karl Rove, have openly criticized those who still persist in the idiocy.

    According to an adminstration statement, “The documents responsive to the remaining subpoena items pertain to sensitive law enforcement activities, including ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions, or were generated by Department officials in the course of responding to congressional investigations or media inquiries about this matter that are generally not appropriate for disclosure.”

    So some of the docs they don't want to release to Issa were generated by the DOJ in response to congressional investigations or media inquiries? Huh? If they were generated in response to media inquiries, why in God's name assert secrecy? This still isn't adding up to me. My suspicion is that Obama has unwittingly fallen into doing the exact thing that Issa and the GOP idiots have wanted: stonewalling, to borrow a Nixonian phrase. It allows Issa and all the other nuts to expand their conspiracy-mongering without any limit now.

  • square1 on June 20, 2012 3:09 PM:

    I, for one, am looking forward to an impeachment vote for Holder.

    Maybe now the Democrats will learn what they should have done when Karl Rove refused to honor a Congressional subpoena.

    I'm not a big fan of executive privilege short of direct communications between the Pres. and his advisors. If Holder has to be the sacrificial lamb then so be it. Holder is pretty much a worthless asshat. His DOJ turns a blind eye to rampant mortgage and securities fraud while focusing on prosecuting Roger Clemons and Lance Armstrong. And I am supposed to care about this guy keeping his job as AG?

  • boatboy_srq on June 20, 2012 3:19 PM:

    @bluestatedon:

    “The documents responsive to the remaining subpoena items... were generated by Department officials in the course of responding to congressional investigations or media inquiries about this matter that are generally not appropriate for disclosure.” That to me says "internal memo, with subjective content, that may not be flattering to the persons or bodies to whom the official documents were directed." It's pretty likely that there's more than a little disparagement of Issa and the others for being bats##t crazy on this (and other) item(s). Imagine Mimikatz' comment above being part of that set and you get what "generally not appropriate for disclosure" probably looks and sounds like. IF these were released in bulk we'd have the Climategate emails all over again, but this time at the federal-government level instead of merely research-institution level.

    And perhaps this is more 11-dimensional chess, where the contents really aren't all that bad but make the GOP look more rabid than usual, and POTUS is holding them off so the press can see them foam at the mouth just enough before "relenting" and letting them get exactly the public scrutiny they deserve. We've seen enough from this WH to think it possible that this is build-up to an October "the GOP doesn't want to govern, and here's proof of that" play. That could be a 7th-inning-bases-loaded-first-pitch-gets-hit-out-of-the-park kind of press release. Issa isn't especially known for his willingness to be patient when he's looking for red meat, so holding back on him is even more likely to bring the howl-at-the-moon wingnut come out, and that could be very useful to Dems this year.

  • Anonymous on June 20, 2012 4:22 PM:

    Mimikatz on June 20, 2012 2:39 PM:

    "This program started under Bush. Bush. The Republican past president. When Holder found out about it he stopped it."

    Except that it wasn't stopped until 2011, and there were meetings about it involving Holder's direct subordinates back in fall of 2009. Sorry, but nobody's hands are clean in this. Bush may have begun it but (like many other stupid decisions) Obama's crew decided to keep on doing it, maybe even turning it up a notch.

  • Crissa on June 21, 2012 1:43 AM:

    Of course, apparently the ATF and prior Admin's incompetence is Obama's fault.

    And we don't know what the thousands of documents that Issa is asking for are, either. *sigh*

  • jonh on June 21, 2012 1:15 PM:

    I don't get it. Isn't this kind like 'please don't throw in that thar briar patch!'?

    If Holder/Obama were to go all wikileaks and dump everything and the kitchen sink to the internet (so no cherry picking by those sneaky R scamps), who do you think would be most embarrassed? As for 'protecting necessarily confidential information', do you think the R's would hesitate to leak such info if it gained them a nickel or a vote? In any case, such claims are always vastly overstated. If it would go out in a FOIA request, dump it.

    Such an act would set up all kinds of wonderful and benign precedents. And the R's would have literally asked for it.

  • Marc Valdez on June 22, 2012 6:19 PM:

    I have a more conspiratorial take on the situation. The fact that the "Fast and Furious" guns weren't distributed evenly in Mexico (Sinaloa cartel primarily) suggests to me that there exists a GOP-Los Zetas alliance based on the very lucrative cross-border trade in guns. The GOP is running protection for Los Zetas. Pure and simple.