What if They Held a Contempt Party and Nobody Came?

Leadership of the Stupid Party has intentionally scheduled the vote on holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress — he’ll be the first cabinet official in history ever so rebuked — on the only day when no one will be paying any attention. By the time the vote comes later today, the media will be abuzz with the Supreme Court’s monumental Obamacare ruling, regardless of what the justices decide.


The oversight committee headed by Chairman Darrell Issa (R, CA) has meticulously pursued the Fast & Furious investigation for well over a year. Rep. Issa has been extraordinarily careful to pursue information doggedly. He has periodically produced extensive reports (see, e.g., here and here) to keep the public fully informed about the astonishing extent of Justice Department stonewalling, to show that the committee did not conduct a partisan witch hunt.

Plainly, we have reached this historic point because the Justice Department and the administration refuse to explain to the country how and why they came to employ a depravedly indifferent “gunwalking” scheme that routed at least 1400 firearms in the direction of violent Mexican drug gangs, foreseeably resulting in scores of shootings, including the murders of at least one and likely two federal agents — Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and, it appears, Immigration & Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata. The president of the United States — whose national security apparatus cannot shovel enough classified information about national defense secrets to the New York Times when the objective is to help the Obama reelection campaign — has bogusly invoked executive privilege in a brass-knuckles effort to shield Justice Department deliberations from Congress … as well as, perhaps, communications about Fast & Furious exchanged in other corners of the administration.

Issa has pressed for the information, and the White House has laughably responded that all of the relevant information has been provided. The speciousness of this claim is easily demonstrated by two developments. First, in an effort to deflect the congressional inquiry, Holder announced an in-house inquiry by DOJ’s inspector general. That is supposed to satisfy the public, even though, just last Friday, the Obama State Department gave us the administration’s idea of an in-house inquiry — telling the press that Obama officials only promised they’d look into the scandal involving the administration’s issuance of a visa to an operative of a designated terrorist organization, not that they would actually reveal to the public what their investigation turned up. But let’s suspend disbelief and pretend for a moment that the internal DOJ investigation is a serious attempt to uncover the Fast & Furious debacle. The inspector-general reportedly has access to 80,000 documents; Issa’s committee has been provided with less than ten percent of that amount (about 7600).


Second, it is patent that Congress has been given the bare minimum, if that, that Holder thinks he can get away with. Just look at what happened yesterday, detailed in this report from the Washington Examiner. After preposterously maintaining for weeks that the committee had already been provided with every relevant document, yesterday, in a desperate attempt to stave off the contempt vote, the Justice Department suddenly located “stacks of documents” relevant to the case that DOJ officials said they were willing to show congressional staffers … but only on the condition that (a) Congress could not keep copies of the documents, (b) Congress’s investigators would not even be permitted to take notes about what is in the documents, and (c) Congress would have to buy a pig in a poke: the contempt vote would need to be cancelled before any documents could be viewed, even under these absurd restrictions.

Having been lied to and strung along for months, Issa and the committee wisely said, “No deal.”

Issa & Co. are obviously on the side of the angels in a matter that has incensed Americans — not because of mere, familiar DOJ stonewalling but because of our government’s arming of violent criminals and the predictable murders federal agents. So why oh why are Republicans stepping on their own news? Why, when the contempt vote could be scheduled at any time, has Speaker John Boehner insisted that it go forward on the same day as the Obamacare ruling, assuring that the media will be paying far less attention than a contempt citation for a sitting cabinet official would otherwise surely get?


Very simply: They are the same old Republicans. GOP leadership is jittery that the Fast & Furious investigation, and the extraordinary measure of holding Holder in contempt, will make the Obamedia say bad things about them and — shudder — upset independents and moderates. Yet leadership also knows that if it does not, at least for appearances’ sake, back Issa, conservatives and other concerned Americans, who want accountability for this heinous episode, will revolt. So leadership figures: We’ll do the contempt vote to satisfy the right-wing knuckle-draggers, but we’ll do it while nobody’s looking so the left-wing press will have to go easier on us. Profiles in Courage!

Boehner should stick to fretting over his personal financial portfolio and leave the strategizing to Issa.


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