A Democrat friend of ours — we have several of them, for some reason — assures us that the recent scandals arising from the Fast and Furious operation and a series of national security leaks won’t have any effect on the president’s re-election bid. This seems to be a common assumption among Democrats, including the president.
They’re right to the extent that the economy will be the most important issue in the race, and they have ample reason to be cynical about the public’s interest in complicated stories that don’t directly affect the average American’s pocketbook, but we suspect that they’re underestimating how very bad these stories make them look. With official investigations underway and a bi-partisan outrage simmering in Congress, even the friendliest news media are finding it impossible to continue ignoring the scandals, and they will have nothing to report that isn’t embarrassing to the administration.
The House Oversight Committee will vote next week on whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for withholding requested documents about the Fast and Furious operation, which is the kind of thing that major news organizations are obliged to report no matter how distasteful they might find it, and the stories will necessarily entail informing the public that there was a Fast and Furious operation to begin with. This can only be hurtful to the re-election as there is no way of explaining the cockamamie scheme, which entailed permitting the sale of hundreds of weapons to Mexican drugs gangs and predictably resulted in hundreds of deaths, that doesn’t make the administration seem dangerously incompetent. The stories will also have to acknowledge the fact that Holder has indeed been withholding the requested documents, raising the inescapable suspicion that those documents must contain something that the administration is very eager to conceal. Every story will also remind the public that Eric Holder is the Attorney General of the United States, another fact that can only undermine confidence in the man who appointed him.
After helping the Clinton administration arrange the presidential pardon for notorious fugitive financier and loyal campaign contributor Marc Rich, Holder came into his office with a questionable reputation, then proceeded to further infuriate his many critics by dropping a won case of voter intimidation against members of the New Black Panther Party, lecturing the American people about their cowardly reluctance to engage in conversation about race, forcing states into court for enforcing their immigration and voting laws, seeking a criminal court trial on American soil for terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and generally being an annoyance to the country. Several congressmen have lately demanded that Holder resign for his role in Fast and Furious, and at this point he must be considered a political liability for the administration.
The perception that Holder is a political actor rather than an impartial law enforcement official has spilled over to the controversy about the four major security breaches that have recently wound up on the front pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post. Holder has appointed two Justice Department officials to look into the matter, one of them an Obama campaign contributor, but congressional Republicans are understandably skeptical about their impartiality and are therefore demanding a special investigator. Special investigators are another of those things that major news media feel obliged to report, and the results are never pretty. In this case there are serious concerns about the government’s ability to protect the country, and the details all undermine the president’s carefully cultivated tough-on-terrorism image.
– Bud Norman