The American Public and Other Slow Lerners

Rarely do we offer any kind words to any Democrats, but we’re obliged to acknowledge those six brave members of that damnable party who joined a House of Representatives majority in citing Lois Lerner for contempt of Congress on Wednesday. A remarkable 26 Democrats went so far as to vote for petitioning the Attorney General to appoint a special counsel to investigate Lerner, and we suppose they also deserve some credit for their half-assed acknowledgement that there’s something seriously afoul in the Internal Revenue Service scandal.
The unanimous righteous indignation of the House’s Republican caucus was sufficient to cite Lerner, who headed the department of the IRS that was targeting conservative non-profit groups for punitive scrutiny and delays, and who has since invoked her Fifth Amendment rights to avoid any questions regarding her claim in Congressional testimony that she has broken no laws, but it’s nice to have at least a few Democrats agreeing that it all sounds mighty fishy. We don’t know any of those six Democrats, described by the ladies and gentlemen of The Washington Post as a “band of moderates and others facing difficult reelection challenges,” but we’ll generously assume that they’re genuinely outraged on First Amendment principles that the IRS was used to harass the president’s political opponents. Those 26 who settled for asking for a look into the matter by the Attorney General, who has also been held in contempt of Congress for failure to answer pertinent questions about the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal, can at least be credited with a sense of political self-preservation. The vast majority of the Democrats unified behind the it’s-all-a-racist-Republican-plot position of ranking House Oversight Committee member Rep. Elijah Cummings, although former House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi had to miss the vote because of a fund-raising engagement, so even the most tepid dissent suggests a worry that the public will eventually be outraged an iron-fisted assault on the free expression of American citizens, no matter how unfashionable their notions about balanced budgets and limited government might be.
Those 26 weasel votes for a special counsel might even be enough to give a veneer of bipartisanship to the much-needed investigation. and thus assure its rightful place before the public’s attention. They bolstered a vote that puts Lerner is serious legal peril, no matter how indifferent the president’s Justice Department might be, and added to the pressure for her to avoid a potential long prison sentencing by implicating any higher-ups that were involved. Given how how very high-up Lerner was, the testimony she doesn’t want to give could be significant.

— Bud Norman


Too Hot For Politics

It’s summertime, when the living is supposed to be easy, and this is usually the slow news season when politics and other matters of national importance are supplanted in all the papers by stories about bath salt-crazed cannibals, natural disasters, and celebrity sex scandals. Not this summer, though, as the politics continues unabated.

This hot and hazy Thursday brings two stories that would dominate the front pages at any time of year, as the Supreme Court will unveil its long-awaited ruling on Obamacare and the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on holding the Attorney General of the United States in contempt of Congress. Both stories will drag out over the rest of the summer, regardless of what news today brings, and will inspire seemingly endless arguments and analysis.

Much of the analysis will concern how the developments affect the ongoing presidential race, which has been constantly intruding into the news. Presidential campaigns once took time off after the primaries and didn’t begin in earnest until the conventions, but like so many other worthy traditions that schedule has fallen by the wayside. One can also expect any number of unforeseen developments to command the attention of the civic-minded throughout the summer, too, including foreign crises, economic calamities, and assorted scandals.

The relentlessness of the political news is wearying, even for those of us who find it fascinating, and offers yet another argument for conservatism. A properly limited government wouldn’t require the constant attention of its citizens, and would allow time for such happier pursuits as baseball, lawn work, and addressing all of the problems that government hopes to solve but usually winds up exacerbating. Politics has insinuated itself into almost everything, but it should at least take the summers off.

— Bud Norman

Faster and Furiouser

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.

Scandals that don’t directly affect the average voter’s pocketbook rarely prove decisive in an election, even when the major news media are inclined to stoke public outrage, but this one can only hurt the president’s chances. It will be hard to argue that same people who ran the Fast and Furious operation should be entrusted to run the economy.

— Bud Norman