This may yet “turn out to be bigger than Watergate,” said Michael Walsh in the New York Post. In 2009, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives authorized a crackpot scheme dubbed “Operation Fast and Furious,” letting gunrunners smuggle thousands of guns from the U.S. to Mexico. The ostensible aim was to trace how Mexican drug gangs get their high-powered weapons. But roughly 2,000 guns from the operation went missing, and two of them were later found at the site along the border where Brian Terry, a U.S. Border Patrol agent, was slain in 2010. Rep. Darrell Issa’s House Oversight Committee launched an investigation, and though Attorney General Eric Holder initially denied that the Justice Department had approved the program, emails later surfaced showing that his subordinates, at least, “knew all about it.” The question now is, “how high does this go?” The House this week moved to hold Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to release additional documents and emails, said John R. Lott Jr. in FoxNews.com. Meanwhile, President Obama has asserted executive privilege to block Issa’s requests. “Obama may want this scandal to disappear,” but if it turns out that he was personally involved in the cover-up, he faces grave political risk.
This so-called scandal is nothing but “a partisan witch hunt,” said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. Want proof? Issa’s latest demand is for correspondence between the Justice Department and the White House from last year, after “Fast and Furious” had been shut down. So Issa—one of the most rabid Republican attack dogs in Congress—is now trying to find something, anything, “that can be portrayed as a high-level Obama administration cover-up.” The loony Right thinks it already knows what the administration is covering up, said David Horsey in the Los Angeles Times. “Fast and Furious,” they’re insisting, was an elaborate White House plot to incite a bloodbath in Mexico so as “to undermine the Second Amendment and take away citizens’ guns.” The National Rifle Association is openly calling for Holder’s head and warning members that if Obama is re-elected, he will “start confiscating guns with no fear of retribution from voters.”
Yes, Republicans are trying “to score political points,” said Conor Friedersdorf in TheAtlantic.com. But that’s true of all congressional investigations. It’s important for the American people to know how Holder and the Justice Department reacted when an “indefensible” program came to light. Was their main concern to cover their own rear ends? When George W. Bush was president, said NationalReview.com in an editorial, then Sen. Obama accused him of “hiding behind executive privilege” whenever Congress asked embarrassing questions. If Obama weren’t a hypocrite, he’d waive any dubious claim of privilege here and order Holder to cooperate fully.
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Let’s talk about “the real scandal” here, said Andrew Cohen in TheAtlantic.com. In the past five years, 68,000 illegal guns have been recovered in Mexico and traced back to the U.S. At a minimum, then, 98 percent of the guns sold by U.S. gun shops that wound up in Mexico had nothing to do with “Fast and Furious.” Yet the same Republicans in Congress so outraged over the program’s sale of 2,000 guns have adamantly blocked every effort to monitor and regulate U.S. gun shops. Every day, Mexicans are being slaughtered by American weapons. But what does the GOP care about? Embarrassing Eric Holder, and making sure the gun shops keep doing a brisk business. “The partisan shouting will escalate,” but “the real problem will go unsolved.”
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