Calm down. The end hasn’t come yet, not quite. But you can feel it coming, a dull, oppressive presence like the heaviness of the air before a storm, or the quickly widening fissures that consumed the House of Usher. Future historians, looking back on the wreck of the Obama administration, will mark with wonder the president’s darkly frivolous assertion of executive privilege this week. It was then, they will say, that his administration, that the president himself, officially entered the Period of Panic and Flailing.
It’s not going to be pretty. Expect a season of recriminations, grandiosities, and sudden reversals. The usual narrative holds that Obama asserted executive privilege, denying Congress the documents it requested in the murderous case of gunwalking called “Fast and Furious” in order to save his Attorney General Eric Holder. Perhaps. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, at the end of the day, this spectacular piece of recklessness wasn’t regarded as the beginning of the end for Eric Holder, who will likely face a Contempt of Congress citation next week. Already, various outlets are preparing the ground by quietly inserting into the discussion the name of Alberto Gonzales, the attorney general under President George W. Bush who was hounded out of office by Democratic zealots after he fired some U.S. attorneys. The idea, I suspect, is to upholster the ground so that when (as I predict) Holder is forced out Obama cheerleaders like the New York Times can resort to the tu quoque strategy: “Well, Bush’s attorney general had to resign, too, and some of his staffers were held in contempt.”
Will the upholstery work? Will it successfully insulate public opinion from the damaging facts of the case? I doubt it. For one thing, the two incidents are screamingly different. As usual, Andy McCarthy outlined the issue with superlative clarity:
[T]he Bush situation involved (a) a non-crime (presidents do not need a reason to fire U.S. attorneys), (b) a non-scandal manufactured into a scandal (Bush 43 fired 8 U.S. attorneys; Clinton had fired 92 of the 93, and for no better reason than partisan patronage after he defeated Bush 41), and (c) patently improper subpoenas to the president’s personal staffers who are not subject to Senate confirmation and assist him in his constitutional duties. The Obama/Holder situation, to the contrary, involves outrageous government malfeasance in firearms transfers that led to murders, including the killing of a federal agent, and a patently proper subpoena for documentation maintained by the Justice Department, an agency created by Congress and dependent on Congress for its existence, funding and jurisdiction.