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Sen. John Cornyn Admits His Amendment Was A Publicity Stunt To Embarrass Eric Holder And The DOJ – And Gets A Pass From Fox News

Reported by Ellen - October 20, 2011 -

Senator John Cornyn visited On The Record last night (10/19/11) to discuss his amendment barring funding for programs like the ATF's misbegotten Fast and Furious operation about which there’s no detail too small to discuss on Fox – so long as it casts Attorney General Eric Holder and/or the Obama Department of Justice in a bad light. In the interview, Cornyn as good as admitted his amendment was a publicity stunt designed to “keep the heat on” Holder and the DOJ. Host Greta Van Susteren let his remark go by without comment.

As usual, the focus was Holder rather than what went wrong in the Mexican gunrunning sting operation and why. (For more background information on the program, I recommend Jay Bookman’s recent column in the Atlanta Journal Constitution called A Sane Person’s Guide To ‘Fast and Furious.’) I’ve criticized Van Susteren in the past for playing the same Holder-gotcha game but in this case, she did a decent job of staying out of the witchhunt. However, Cornyn brought up Holder in the first answer to a question – which had absolutely nothing to do with him. Van Susteren asked, “You have a particular amendment that was just voted on. Tell me about it.”

Cornyn answered, “It was basically to cut off funds for these kind of “gunwalking” programs that unbelievably sprung up in Phoenix and we don’t know how high it went but the Attorney General’s denied knowing about it until several months after a border agent… was killed in 2010 (a photo of the agent filled the screen as Cornyn spoke). I find that implausible and, of course, some of the evidence seems to contradict that.”

Later, in response to another question from Van Susteren (about Cornyn’s proposal passing unanimously in the Senate), Cornyn threw Holder into the mix again. “Frankly, Eric Holder’s not been very forthcoming. He needs to be much more forthcoming, let us know when he found out about it or if he didn’t know about it, why not, and the people held accountable.”

Van Susteren passed over most of the anti-Holder bait. She even challenged Cornyn's amendment, saying, “Everybody agrees it’s a bad idea but we still have to legislate so it doesn’t happen again. We sort of, we’re trying to legislate stupidity out of ourselves.”

Cornyn laughed and said, “Well, part of it is just to keep the, keep the heat on and, frankly, the bright light of publicity on this so we can get Eric Holder and the Department of Justice to come clean with the facts.”

Wait a minute! A U.S. Senator just revealed that part of his motivation for a piece of legislation was a political stunt designed to embarrass his political opponent. I don’t know about you, but that strikes me as pretty noteworthy.

Sadly, not to Van Susteren. She repeated her point about legislating in reverse, so to speak, when everybody already agrees the program was a bad idea.

What Van Susteren didn’t mention is that the “gun-walking” technique violates existing Justice Department policy. Why pass a law prohibiting something that’s already prohibited? Furthermore, Operation Fast and Furious was an offshoot of similar operations carried out by the ATF as far back as 2006, under the Bush administration. Why isn’t Cornyn interested in finding out more about that?

Cornyn agreed with Van Susteren’s point about the legislation then further suggested his goal was the head of a DOJ honcho more than anything else. “If we get the answers and we find out who was responsible and they’re held accountable, then I think that will be worth the effort,” he said.

Another thing that never comes up in the endless Holder-focused Fox News segments? The fact that, as Bookman noted, “When the Obama administration proposed a new regulation that would require border-state gun shops to notify officials if a single individual attempted to buy large numbers of guns, the NRA protested bitterly and …At the NRA’s insistence, the House passed a resolution opposing that regulation, and the NRA has since filed suit against the rule.”

In other words, good faith, effective methods aimed at preventing Mexican gun running have been blocked by Republicans.

Bookman’s thesis is that the Republican game here is “to raise such a stink about ‘Fast and Furious’ that the government is forced to stop undercover gun-trafficking investigations altogether. They see this as an opportunity to discredit and handcuff ATF, an agency that the NRA and others view as a hated enemy.” In my view, that’s a fringe benefit secondary to going after Holder, who has been a long time target. But whether it’s the chicken or the egg that’s the primary quarry, the two possibilities dovetail nicely for the Republicans either way.

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