The fight over the Fast and Furious scandal is picking up steam on Capitol Hill this week. The House of Representatives is preparing to vote Thursday on charging Attorney General Eric Holder with contempt of Congress for holding back documents sought by a committee investigating the bungled gun-smuggling sting. President Obama has already asserted executive privilege over the material, and Republicans are accusing the White House of trying to cover up what top officials knew about the operation, in which federal agents lost track of hundreds of AK-47s and other weapons they allowed smugglers to buy in hopes of tracking them to Mexican drug cartels. Despite all the fuss in Washington, Fast and Furious has been widely ignored by mainstream media outlets and the general public. Here, three reasons why it might be time to start paying closer attention:
1. The president got involved, and many people don't like that
When President Obama got involved by invoking executive privilege, he upped "the political ante" considerably, says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post. A poll by The Hill found that Americans, by a 2-to-1 margin, think that Obama over-reached by blocking the Fast and Furious documents, with 56 percent disapproving and only 29 percent approving. The White House denies there's any cover-up, and they're accusing congressional Republicans of trying to use "political theater" to take potshots at the administration. Right or wrong, Obama's decision hit "the gas pedal in this ongoing game of political chicken."
2. This is starting to look like a "Nixonian" cover-up
Asserting executive privilege to hide documents from Congress is "absolutely Nixonian," former GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, told CBS News on Sunday. The parallels with Watergate really "are eerie," says Mary Claire Kendall at The Washington Times. During the scandal that brought down Richard Nixon's presidency, the question was, "What is the White House hiding? The same question is being asked today." It's unimaginable that agents at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms did something as "colossally" stupid as handing assault weapons to drug cartels without the knowledge of higher-ups. So who knew, and when did they know it?
3. The victims of the botched sting deserve justice
There are plenty of "ordinary Washington scandals," Charles Krauthammer tells Fox News. What makes this one different is that there are allegedly "two American agents, honorable men in the service of their country, who are dead, in part at least, as a result of this operation." One — slain Border Control agent Brian Terry — died in a December 2010 shootout with members of a Mexican drug gang inside the Arizona-Mexico border. Two Fast and Furious guns were found at the scene, and although ballistics tests were inconclusive, one (an AK-47) might have been used to kill Terry. Two months later, a customs agent in Mexico was killed with a gun traced to a Dallas gun shop. And hundreds of Mexicans have also been killed with Fast and Furious weapons, says Michael A. Walsh at the New York Post. "It's no laughing matter."