Holder Fights Back in Election Year PR War
July 5, 2012
Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr.—the nation’s first African American attorney general—responded publicly to his June 28 contempt of Congress charge, the first in U.S. history. When the House of Representatives switched back Republican Nov. 2, 2010, Obama’s problems started. Enjoying only two years of a Democratic House since swearing in Jan. 20, 2009, President Barack Obama faced a sudden shift to the right. When voters found out that the 51-year-old president could not fix the economy in two years, they lashed out handing the House back to the GOP. Gone were the disgruntled days of former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, driving Democratic majorities in the House and Senate in 2008. Now the country finds itself more divided than ever, especially after Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. upheld Obamacare June 28.
Rushing to a contempt vote in the full House, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wasted no time slapping Holder with contempt June 28 for not producing all the documents requested in a subpoena by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Issa’s committee voted along party lines to hold Holder in contempt for not producing the requested documents in the Fast and Furious “gun-walking” investigation. “I’ve become a symbol of what they don’t like about the positions this Justice Department has taken,” said Holder, blaming the mess on Election Year politics. It’s doubtful that Boehner and House Republicans go that deep, in terms of analyzing specific rulings by Holder’s Justice Department. Hitting Obama with a pie-in-the-face four months before a close presidential election probably mirrors reality more accurately.
Running neck-and-neck, Barack and GOP presidential nominee former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney continue to trade barbs heading into the summer’s political doldrums. While Roberts’ Obamacare ruling gave Barack as shot in the arm, there’s little else this summer promising to decide the race. With Bush and Cheney ancient history, the country’s back in what looks like another Gore v. Bush scenario, where the election could turn on a razor’s edge. While no one has a crystal ball, Romney continues to hammer on Barack’s inept management of the economy, with Obamacare just one more impediment to economic growth. Republican National Committee folks hope that Holder’s contempt citation spreads to Obama. Whether it translates directly to Barack or not is anyone’s guess. Stirring up Election Year controversy gives voters reason to pause.
Speaking to the Washington Post, Holder said he thought he was being used as a political surrogate or proxy. “I am also a proxy for the president in an election year. You have to be exceedingly naïve to think that vote was about documents,” said Holder, dismissing the vote as Election Year dirty tricks. Whatever the merits or drawbacks of the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation, Issa has a right to investigate whether or not a covert White House program caused the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Holder can blame the contempt citation on Election Year politics but Congressional subpoenas must be taken seriously. Saying that his policies aren’t liked by the Congressional Republicans has little to do with Election Year shenanigans. Holder can’t have it both ways: He’s either disliked by Congressional Republicans or he’s being used as a political scapegoat to get to Obama.
Crying political subterfuge doesn’t answer real questions about the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation. If providing traceable weapons to Mexican drug cartels is a failed strategy, then the administration must admit defeat and move on. If the shoe were on the other foot and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) were still chairman of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, it’s doubtful they’d do things differently. Holder made a point of how quickly the Committee moved toward a contempt citation following the thwarted subpoena. Instead of honoring the Oct. 12, 2011 subpoena, Holder stonewalled for over six months, prompting the June 20 Committee vote and full House vote June 28. If Holder wished to spare Obama more embarrassment during an Election Year, he should have been more forthcoming. Now Holder wants to blame the mess on Election Year politics.
Holder can get the House contempt citation reversed by giving Issa the requested documents. Promising to go court challenging Barack’s June 20 assertion of executive privilege could further embarrass the White House before November. Since Fast and Furious was essentially an extension of Bush’s 2006-07 “gun-walking” operation, admitting failure wouldn’t be such a bad thing for the White House. Holder’s Feb 2 testimony before Issa’s Committee, saying he only recently learned of Fast and Furious, raised eyebrows, prompting more vigorous requests for documents. Had Holder said then that he would look into the matter more carefully and supply the committee with the needed documents, he wouldn’t be blaming the GOP for Election Year mischief. Whatever the politics, there’s nothing wrong with Holder turning over the documents and moving on.
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