Republican leaders in and out of Washington were leery of House GOP members escalating a confrontation with the Obama administration over the botched ATF gunrunning sting operation Fast and Furious. Now the investigation, led by House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), has exploded into a full-bore standoff with Attorney General Eric Holder and, thanks to the invocation of executive privilege, President Obama. By moving to hold Holder in contempt of Congress, it's not clear if Republicans are poking "a finger in the eye" of the White House, or "playing directly into Obama's strategic plan," say Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. Former Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) says the GOP "circus" around Fast and Furious is "is already backfiring on them." Is he right?
Yes. This will backfire: House Republicans are playing right into Obama's hands, says Andrea Tarantos at the New York Daily News. As Mitt Romney understands, Obama wants to talk about anything but the economy, and if a peripheral gunrunning fiasco becomes campaign issue No. 1, "Romney's economic message will be muzzled by the GOP's investigative zeal." That may gin up the GOP base, but if cooler House heads don't prevail, "it could also cost Republicans the White House."
"How Fast and Furious investigation could hurt the GOP"
Republicans are already winning: Sure, maybe Team Obama has decided to use this standoff "as yet another way to attack Congress with a shiny object distraction campaign," says William Teach at Pirate's Cove, but "it will backfire." The mainstream media will side with Obama, of course, but by involving himself in the scandal, the president has inadvertently forced the media to finally cover Fast and Furious. Once the public finally learns the sordid details, Obama's goose is cooked.
"Contempt vote forces media to finally cover Fast and Furious"
Both sides have a shot at victory: Republicans certainly have some dicey decisions to make, says Josh Chaffetz at The Washington Post. If they vote to hold Eric Holder in contempt, that's likely the end of their legal options, but they have a "panoply of political tools," from arresting Holder to docking his pay to an impeachment trial. "The House would risk looking petty in doing any of this, just as the Obama administration risks looking petty by withholding information from Congress," but "whoever can win public opinion will ultimately win the day." And in political fights this big, "that is as it should be."
"If the House holds Holder in contempt of Congress, what then?"