Rep. Darrell Issa went on Fox News Sunday today to discuss the Fast and Furious scandal. Host Chris Wallace’s grilling suggested that there’s a rift in the Republican Party over Issa’s handling of the investigation and his Oversight Committee’s grandstanding vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. Perhaps it was because he’s feeling the heat that Issa ridiculously said he thought as many as 31 House Democrats would go along with the “official” contempt vote now pending in the full House.
Early in the segment, there was this exchange:
Wallace: “Assuming there’s no deal with the administration over the documents you’re seeking, Congresman Issa, will the House vote Attorney General Holder in contempt this week?”
Issa: Yes, I believe they will. Both Republicans and Democrats will vote that.
Wallace: You’re saying it’s gonna be bi-partisan?
Issa: I believe it will be bi-partisan. You never know how many but there are a number of Democrats – 31 – who wrote to the administration asking them to be forthcoming. Many of them will stay with us now that the administration has not been.
There's a huge difference between writing a letter to the administration and voting to hold its Attorney General in contempt. Furthermore, even the Committee vote fell along party lines. Since then, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has blasted the maneuver.
Wallace did not dispute Issa's contention. But shortly thereafter, the grilling started. Wallace asked for an example “of the kind of document that’s all that important that you say is going to really get to the bottom of this case and that clearly is not a matter of executive privilege.”
Wallace also suggested he thought there was no there there in a contempt vote. He asked, “Then what?” if the House does vote to hold Holder in contempt. “Because you can refer it to the U.S. attorney, who works for Holder, and in all likelihood will say he’s not going to prosecute his boss. You can file a lawsuit in federal court, which will takes years, then you can impeach him. You can arrest him or try to arrest him and have a standoff between the sergeant at arms and his security people or do you just let it sit there?”
But Wallace also jumped on the GOP/Fox News bandwagon of invoking the parents of slain border agent Brian Terry to advance the “this is not just an inside Washington scandal” meme. Issa did, too.
Still, Wallace pressed Issa to explain why, if it’s so important to find out what happened to Terry, Issa has not held public hearings with people in a position to know and but has instead focused on internal documents in Washington that “may be politically embarrassing.” “But how does that tell you what happened two months earlier to Brian Terry?” Wallace asked.
The tone of Wallace’s questions was consistent with the surprisingly skeptical one taken by Fox News when you read the full articles they’ve run on this matter. The feeling is definitely that Issa is grandstanding for what will amount to a pointless vote, just because he’s backed himself into a corner and wants the attention. GOP leadership doesn’t see the point of the contempt vote other than as a way to embarrass Holder and Obama. They’re always happy to do that, but not in a way that looks like just a nakedly partisan statement with no further value.
Issa’s conduct during the interview was revealing. While he was a little uncomfortable with some of the questions, it’s clear he was prepped for a lot of it. He disagreed with Wallace when confronted with the fact that for all his posturing, he has no intention of holding public hearings with the ATF people who could shed any real light on this policy. And he was inadvertently cornered by Wallace into admitting he has no evidence of a coverup by the White House.
Issa’s most revealing moment came when Wallace asked him what he thought would happen if the full contempt vote were held. When Wallace sarcastically suggested the notion of Issa having Holder arrested, Issa smirked before covering and resuming his “very serious” demeanor. That slip tells a lot. Issa clearly is hoping for exactly that scenario – where he reads an arrest warrant on Holder as the cap to his Congressional career. The fact that it would be meaningless was totally lost on him.
Issa’s hope that 31 Dems would vote for his attack on Holder is also revealing. This is part of the reason the GOP doesn’t want to actually have this vote. The higher-ups know they won’t be getting any Dems to sign on, and they don’t subscribe to Issa’s fantasies.
The more likely approach to be taken this week will be for John Boehner to meet with Holder himself and declare that he’s pushed Obama and Holder into cooperating, thus aggrandizing himself, making the President appear ineffectual, and taking the spotlight away from Issa. And that’s a scenario Issa really doesn’t want to see happen. Because he isn’t concerned about getting this or that “gotcha” document. He just wants the spectacle of getting to morally berate the Obama Admin at least once a week during an election year.
The despicable use of Brian Terry’s parents was typical but still fairly revolting. They used the only moments of Hannity’s interview that fit the Fox approach (and which was the only reason Hannity interviewed them in the first place – to get that sound bite). Issa’s solemn comment about calling Terry’s mother was not only a dodge from the real question he was being asked about what the next step would be, it was a sickening display of fake concern. Issa was clearly happy to be able to hide behind the parents while implying that Holder must be covering something up.
Cumming was also left in a bad position, both being cut off by Wallace repeatedly and being forced to take up a portion of his time discussing the Terrys and his own grief over losing a child to gun violence. Cummings never challenged Issa or Wallace on the key fact re Brian Terry: that he wasn’t killed by a F&F gun, but instead by another AK still at large in Mexico with the man who fired the fatal shot.