Yesterday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over documents associated with the “Fast and Furious” gunrunner scandal.
The Attorney General , backed by the White House, has cited “Executive Privilege” over some of the documents sought by Darrell Issa’s (R-Cal.) Committee.
When this vote comes to the House floor, it will be fall along party lines. But even if the motives are wrong, the result of pressuring Holder will be right. Holder is on the record with inconsistent testimony about when and what he knew about project gunrunner.
The reason this scandal matters is three-fold. First, when the U.S. government puts firearms in the hands of drug lords and hundreds of people die—including American border patrol agents, we should care. Maybe they would have been killed by non-US guns anyway, but we will never know. Second, our government has no business giving out guns in order to track them. This is a terrible, terrible, terrible policy and the fact that it went horribly wrong was infinitely foreseeable. Third, anytime the Congress, whether it is Ds questioning wiretapping or Rs questioning a program to provide guns to drug dealers, takes back its power from the Executive, we should favor it. Legislative bodies are known to be much less tyrannical than executives.
Releasing the documents of gunrunning to Mexico isn’t going to hurt national security. This is simply about saving someone’s ass. But people have died and even if it is not Holder’s, someone’s head is going to have to roll. This wasn’t even as justified as the Oliver North scandal. This is straight forward. The U.S. government shouldn’t be tracking anyone by giving them guns, especially when the purpose isn’t to fight tyranny, but to sell drugs. This is dangerous and irresponsible behavior and not a proper role of government. This isn’t about Ds and Rs. If republicans did this with or without a tangible objective, we should still oppose it. Remember “Bush lied, people died?” Well, as our fearless leader, Mr. Romney would say – “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
Every unelected bureaucrat like those in the Justice Department need to remember that they do not only serve at the pleasure of Mr. Obama, they serve at the pleasure of the American people. Executive privilege is meant to protect our foreign policy interests, not Eric Holder’s interests. Whether it is the Bush administration or the Obama administration, they work for us and unless releasing classified information presents a dire threat to the Republic, we have a right to get to the bottom of corruption and mistakes.
Courts have held that executive privilege applies in cases of “vital national security interests.”
None of this is to hint that Republicans should think they can ride this as an election issue. They can’t. Republicans should remember to keep this as far away from political-ization as possible. There is no political victory to be gained here. Jobs and the economy, not Justice Department corruption, will be the game changers in November.
But heads should roll. You don’t have to agree with Issa’s desire to win political points to understand that Congress has a right to these documents. Mr. Obama’s election promises for a “new kind of politics” were largely based on transparency, something he has reneged on. But he promised that this type of executive cover-up that we experienced fourteen times under Clinton and six under Bush was done. It is now time for him to live up to his word, release the documents–ALL of the documents–and help the Congress ensure that these mistakes are corrected.
In the words of former Senator Barack H. Obama (D-Ill) a President cannot “hide behind executive privilege every time there’s something a little shaky that’s taking place.” “[The President should] come clean, the American people deserve to know what [is] going on there.”