Sean Hannity was once again in partisan clover last night as he licked his chops in anticipation of some epic downfall of Attorney General Eric Holder - no, President Obama on a grand scale not seen since Watergate. On that score, he had a team of like-minded guests to hype the scandal that most Americans probably couldn’t care less about
For those not up on their Nixonian presidential history, the Watergate scandal centered around a burglary of the Democratic National Committee by men connected to President Nixon’s re-election campaign in 1972. As History.com explains, the prowlers were caught “while attempting to wiretap phones and steal secret documents. While historians are not sure whether Nixon knew about the Watergate espionage operation before it happened, he took steps to cover it up afterwards, raising 'hush money' for the burglars, trying to stop the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from investigating the crime, destroying evidence and firing uncooperative staff members.” Nixon eventually resigned over the scandal.
Fast and Furious, on the other hand, offers up no such underhanded, dirty dealings or any likely law-breaking by the Obama administration. It was a botched gun “walking” operation where the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms lost track of guns it had allowed to be purchased illegally in order to trace them to higher-ranking Mexican drug cartel members. When one of those lost guns was tied to the shooting death of a U.S. border agent, Republicans, led by the highly-partisan and ethically-challenged Darrell Issa, began investigating. The big “controversy” is who bears responsibility for this botched program and did Holder (or President Obama) hide evidence of their own fingerprints on it. With President Obama’s decision to assert executive privilege over some of the documents Issa’s committee has requested, Republican members of Congress now claim they’ve got evidence of some kind of cover up. Or at least enough evidence to crow about it on Fox News.
While many Americans would just like Congress to get to work on jobs, education, infrastructure and other matters that would actually help make their lives better, Hannity and his Republican friends think this is Obama's Sestak-gate Watergate.
So last night, Rep. Steve King – the same Steve King who thought people would commit suicide rather than pay higher estate taxes – announced that Fast and Furious was “reminiscent” of Watergate. “President Nixon asserted executive privilege then, the president has mirrored that now.” King said it “implies very strongly, if it doesn’t bring a conclusion to us out here that this information… links inside the White House itself.”
King went on to say the process would lead to “an indictment of Eric Holder.” Well, not really likely, says the not-liberal Christian Science Monitor.
Hannity was all ears. “This is fascinating!” he said, without offering any challenge. So you really do believe this will be an indictment!”
In theorizing the reasons why Obama asserted executive privilege, King said, “I don’t even want to utter what I imagine could be, to go to that depth. I don’t think they can prove such a thing. And I think if I would say what my imagination tells me, it would be too volatile even to utter on television.”
King went on to call it a “desperate move” designed to “bluff Darrell Issa.” He added, “One can conclude this: There was knowledge of Fast and Furious, either before or as it was being implemented or knowledge of the cover up after the fact (notice how King takes a cover up for granted) and it most likely goes inside the White House.”
“Having watched Watergate unfold," King said, "I will say that we will find out the whole truth to this… Once (the full House votes for contempt), the barrel’s over the waterfall. We’ll see what happens in the wreckage afterwards.”
I almost expected to see him and Hannity high-fiving. But maybe they saved that for the green room.
“Issa knows that even if the House votes to hold Holder in contempt, it would be on a purely party line vote, leaving the GOP unable to do anything with the vote.”
If that did happen, I hope some Democrat shouts, very loudly, why is there no contempt citation for Karl Rove, who has yet to answer a subpoena from three years ago . . .
The reality is that Issa has been on a fishing expedition for more than a year. He asks for documents that he knows he isn’t entitled to see, since they impact current investigations, and then throws temper tantrums in public when he’s reminded that he’s out of line. Issa has changed up his requests repeatedly, in an effort to keep this storyline alive for the election. It’s no wonder after Issa threw yet another tantrum that Holder asked the President to simply declare the privilege to stop the fishing expedition.
Keep in mind that Holder specifically met with Issa and more level headed Congressmen on Tuesday to settle the matter, once again reminding Issa of something he should not have needed to know: that he doesn’t have the authority to override the Justice Department on current investigations. Instead of humbly acknowledging that he can’t accomplish anything more here, Issa chose to throw another public tantrum, crying that he wasn’t getting his way. At that point, Holder called his bluff.
Issa knows that even if the House votes to hold Holder in contempt, it would be on a purely party line vote, leaving the GOP unable to do anything with the vote. And it would be obvious to the public what game is being played.
Ellen is correct that this is just the latest witch hunt against Holder, who has had to endure what may be a record number of personal and professional attacks practically since being sworn in. The GOP has a serious obsession with humiliating him and driving him from office. Since they can’t achieve the latter, they’re hoping that repeatedly trying the former will cause Holder to somehow run away.
And yes, this is partly revenge for the fact that Holder has called the GOP on multiple bad constitutional calls. His Justice Dept attys fought the various attacks on immigrants and voting rights, two areas the GOP was hoping its staunch radio and tv shouters could get them an easy walk. And those moves we’re clearly intended to intimidate and disillusion potential Obama voters. Holder’s interference has certainly angered some GOP flamethrowers.
This is also revenge for the prosecution of I. “Scooter” Libby and the near-miss on a prosecution of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney over their criminal behavior re Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame. And let’s keep the facts in mind: Plame was a NOC (undercover agent) working for the CIA while posing as a state dept staffer. She was known to have worked with the CIA in terms of state dept briefings but was not publicly known to be managing intelligence assets overseas. Exposing her was meant by Rove and Cheney to be a message to her husband about how vulnerable he could be. So multiple Bush Admin staffers including Libby and Richard Armitage were tasked with getting a “line of the day” out to various reporters.
Libby knew the reality of Plame’s status but exposed her anyway out of deference to his boss, Cheney, and out of spite against Wilson and his wife. Other staffers, like Armitage, didn’t know the truth about Plame, and thus just repeated what they thought was public knowledge. The result was that Plame’s career was ruined and her assets were likely lost or killed by foreign agents. We’ll never know as all of that was classified CIA material. But in the aftermath, the Wilson’s moved to an undisclosed location and Joe Wilson called publicly for Rove to be "frog marched out of the White House.
During the ensuing investigation, Armitage cooperated but couldn’t name anyone other than Libby, and made clear that he didn’t know about the NOC status. Libby, on the other hand, lied repeatedly in order to stall the investigation and protect Cheney and Rove. His ploy worked, and he wound up getting convicted of obstruction and perjury, the sentence for which Bush commuted, which insured that Libby could never testify about the matter.
The point is that the Plame matter really was a criminal matter and a very serious one. Ironically, the laws broken were actually GOP revenge for CIA whistleblowers like Philip Agee and John Stockwell writing books about the CIA in the 70s and 80s. The GOP never dreamed that would come back to bite them, but that’s life.
Fast and Furious isn’t a criminal matter. It’s a discussion about a mistaken Bush Admin ATF idea the Obama people didn’t terminate in time. This is already being investigated by Justice Dept staffers. And yes, Brian Terry was killed in an shoot out where a couple of these guns turned up. (I don’t know that he was killed by those guns. I doubt it, or the GOP would be waving that around too.).
The Plame matter and Watergate really were criminal matters, as was the Iran-Contra situation. The fact that that the GOP and Fox News seem unable to see the truth about that speaks to how desperate they’re getting the closer we get to November. Issa is in a real bind now. By pressing this button, he’s left himself no way to save face.