– Bud Norman
– Bud Norman
An upcoming House vote on holding Attorney General Eric in contempt of Congress has forced reluctant news media to belatedly explain the Fast and Furious scandal, but so far no one has offered a satisfactory explanation of what the heck those government agents were thinking when they launched the now-infamous “botched law enforcement operation.” We don’t know, either, but offer the following scenario, an entirely fictitious account first presented as a skit at the annual Gridiron show, as one possibility.
(Scene opens at a hearing of a Senate investigating committee, with Senators Forehead, Cheeks, Chin and Lips seated at a table. Across from them is Chip Wilson of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.)
SEN. FOREHEAD: This session of the Senate’s investigation into Operation Fast and Furious will now come to order. Our first witness is Mr. Chip Wilson of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the man who devised this program. Mr. Wilson, could you please tell us what Operation Fast and Furious was all about?
WILSON: Certainly, Senator. Operation Fast and Furious was a program carried out by the BATF under the auspices of our supervisory agency, the Department of Justice. Basically, the program involved our facilitating the sale of more than 2,000 guns, grenades, and other weapons to various Mexican drug gangs.
SEN. FOREHEAD: You purposely helped in the sale of 2,000 guns, grenades, and other weapons to Mexican drug gangs?
SEN. CHEEKS: I’m sorry, Mr. Wilson, but I have to ask you this. Why on earth would you ever facilitate the sale of more than 2,000 guns, grenades, and other weapons to Mexican drug gangs?
WILSON: We wanted to see if anything bad would happen.
SEN. CHIN: Good lord, man, those guns have been linked to more than 200 murders. I think it’s fair to say that something bad did happen.
WILSON: Yes, and now we know. In that regard, at least, I think the operation has to be considered an unqualified success.
SEN. CHIN: Mr. Wilson, one of the murder victims was an American immigration agent. Several Mexican policemen and government officials were also killed.
WILSON: With all due respect, Senator, I don’t think it’s productive to quibble over who’s responsible for whose bloody murder. The important thing is that we now have definitive proof that Mexican drug gangs are not the kind of people you want to be selling heavy weaponry to. If you don’t think that’s important, Senator, well, frankly, I’m disappointed by how very incurious you are.
SEN. LIPS: Mr. Wilson, I am shocked that this cockamamie operation of yours ever won approval from the Department of Justice. When did Attorney General Holder learn of this?
WILSON: I recall that Attorney General Holder testified before this very committee that he learned of it in May of 2011, so I’ll go with that.
SEN. LIPS: We have e-mails from you and other officials discussing this matter with him that are dated well before that.
SEN. FOREHEAD: What I’d like to know, Mr. Wilson, is how a person such as yourself ever wound up an employee of a federal agency.
WILSON: Well, Senator, ever since I was a kid there was nothing I loved more than drinkin’, smokin’ and shootin’ off guns. So when I heard that there was a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, well, it seemed a good fit. I soon discovered that I had been somewhat misled by the name about the kind of work they do there, but by then I was a government employee, and as you know, there was no getting rid of me at that point.
SEN. CHEEKS: Mr. Wilson, do you have any professional or academic credentials for your job?
WILSON: Well … KU. Senator, if it makes you feel any better, I have recently accepted a reassignment and will be leaving my current post.
SEN. FOREHEAD: Well, I’m sure we can all be grateful for that.
– Bud Norman
This Fast and Furious business keeps getting worse for the Obama administration.
A House oversight committee voted on Wednesday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over requested documents about the “gun-walking” fiasco, and it’s likely that next week the full House will do the same. Most Americans hold Congress in some degree of contempt, and Holder’s invocation of executive privilege raises the sort of complicated legal issues that send the average voter in search of a celebrity sex scandal or a box score, but the story should nonetheless undermine public confidence in the president and his appointees to some extent.
A contempt of Congress vote is the sort of thing that the major media outlets feel obliged to report on, no matter how much they’d prefer to ignore it, and in this case it will require that they give their readers and viewers some background information about the Fast and Furious operation. A government program that provided Mexican drug gangs with thousands of weapons and resulted in the death of an American law enforcement agent and hundreds of Mexicans apparently is the sort of that major media outlets don’t feel obliged to report on, at least not during a Democratic administration, and even the fact that an Attorney General’s sworn testimony was contradicted by documents got little play in the news, so many Americans will be hearing the basic facts of the scandal for the first time. None of those facts reflect well on the administration, nor do any of them have anything whatsoever to do with Republican nominee Mitt Romney, so the best that the Obama campaign and its media allies can hope for is to limit the damage.
Holder’s refusal to turn over the documents is seemingly part of the damage control effort, but it will inevitably raise suspicions about what it is that he doesn’t want the public to know. Given how very embarrassing the already known facts are, and the political cost of provoking a contempt vote that puts the tragic story into prominent play, the obvious conclusion is that the documents are pretty darned damning.
The rest of the Democrats’ responses seem similarly counter-productive. The ever-loyal Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is blaming the Bush administration, even after Holder’s Justice Department officially gave up on that ploy, while other Democratic apologists are blaming the controversy on Republican racism, even though the charge necessarily implies that the death of a couple hundred Mexicans is no big deal. We suspect that many Americans are already weary of hearing Bush and racism offered as excuses for the administration’s failings, and in this case it will likely prove especially grating.
– Bud Norman
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
Politically obsessed readers of a certain age might recall that Mitt Romney’s father lost a chance to become president due to the injudicious use of the word “brainwashing.”
For those too young or too old to remember, George Romney had become a business legend by rescuing the American Motors Corporation from failure, parlayed his fame into the governorship of Michigan, and was successful enough in the job to be considered a leading contender for the presidency in 1968. Romney had come back from a fact-finding mission to Vietnam in 1965 as an outspoken supporter of America’s military efforts there, but had become a critic of the war by 1967, and he explained his change of mind by telling a television reporter that the generals had given him a “brainwashing” during his trip. Republican primary voters decided they didn’t want a candidate whose brain was so easily susceptible to washing, and thus Richard Nixon became president.
The incident was brought to mind by a video from 1995, recently uncovered by the invaluable Brietbrat.com site, which features current Attorney General Eric Holder employing a far more troubling use of the term “brainwash.”
Holder, then a U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, is seen telling the Women’s National Democratic Club that the government should employ the news media, the entertainment, sports and advertising industries, the public schools, and all other available resources to inculcate in the public an attitude that it’s “not cool, not acceptable, that it’s not hip to carry a gun anymore.” Just when the more paranoid listener will be musing that what he describes sounds very much like brainwashing, Holder adds with no apparent embarrassment that “we need to do this every day of the week and just really brainwash people into thinking about guns in a vastly different way.”
There is much to criticize in the speech, including Holder’s recommendation of famously crack-addicted Mayor Marion Berry as a possible star for the public service advertisements as someone who “has credibility with young people,” but his unabashed belief that the government should be in the business of brainwashing its citizens is outrageous.
All the more so because he was urging that the government do it in order to enforce a law that was later declared unconstitutional as a violation of the Second Amendment, but such enthusiastic use of relentless propaganda methods by the government for any reason is frightening. Holder will likely protest that he didn’t mean brainwashing as it is defined in our Random House Dictionary — “a method for systematically changing attitudes or altering beliefs, originated in totalitarian countries, esp. through the use of torture, drugs or psychological stress techniques — but the “informational campaign” he laid out precisely meets the secondary definition of “any method of controlled systematic indoctrination, esp. one based on repetition or confusion.”
Alas, similar techniques are consistently used by the presidential administration that Holder serves. From the Hollywood-produced advertising and pop star paeans of the campaign to the blatant attempt to use the National Endowment for the Arts to coerce the “arts community” into shilling for Obamacare and other initiatives, the constant staged events and television appearances, and the Hollywood-produced ads and pop star paeans of the present, something suspiciously akin to brainwashing is constantly at work. There has been widespread speculation that the infamous Fast and Furious Operation was meant to provide more anti-gun for Holder’s Department of Justice, and this video will do little to quell that suspicion.
– Bud Norman