President Obama taglined his promise "to usher in a new era of open government" with this Justice Louis Brandeis quote, "[s]unlight is said to be the best of disinfectants." What the American people have received is a government shrouded in darkness.
Since early 2011, congressional Republicans and Democrats have requested information from the Obama administration relating to the mismanagement of Operation Fast and Furious – a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) strategy of gunwalking that led to the unfortunate death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has stalled congressional investigations and withheld tens of thousands of pages of documents which are believed to outline the Department of Justice's knowledge of the program. To date, the Attorney General has held no main Justice official or appointee responsible for overseeing or approving the tactics employed in Operation Fast and Furious. He has denied responsibility and boldly rests this argument on his assertion that he was unaware of the program.
Such actions by a member of the president's cabinet do not indicate, by President Obama's words, the "most transparent administration ever." In fact, they indicate the opposite. No American should accept that an agency head is not aware of an operation of this magnitude taking place – even if it is true. And while Holder balks at congressional requests, the family of Brian Terry is left wondering why the Government has turned its back on him.
When I came to Congress one year ago, public approval of the president and members of Congress were nearing historic lows. I expected to find a broken Washington. I am sad to say that I have found just that.
The American people do not trust the men and women who make up their government.
On Thursday, as I questioned Holder about Operation Fast and Furious. I pushed for him to explain why neither he nor any of his colleagues in Washington had been held accountable for the debacle that was Operation Fast and Furious. He is responsible for leading an agency that is supposed to find justice wherever it may be.
Holder not only denied culpability, he had the nerve to ask for credit for his actions as Attorney General. Exactly what credit, might we ask, does Mr. Holder deserve? Under his watch, the American public has witnessed the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case, redistricting controversy, immigration and voter identification challenges, and the threat of bringing terrorists into our country. All of these do nothing but erode the American public's trust in Mr. Holder's ability to serve in the Administration.
The Attorney General also suggested that the Republicans' lines of questioning were driven by political consideration. These questions have gone unanswered for over a year and are only pushing up to a November election because the Department of Justice has resisted calls for transparency.
Furthermore, accepting responsibility for allowing automatic weapons to slip into the hands of criminals and drug cartels is not a matter of Democrat versus Republican. Honoring the sacrifice and needless loss of Agent Terry is not about being liberal or conservative.
Congressional oversight of the executive branch is an essential component to the system of checks and balances installed by our Founding Fathers. It is simply not acceptable, for a presidential cabinet member to have the audacity to come into a hearing chronicling his department's lack of transparency and instead demand credit. The American people deserve better.
Republican Ann Marie Buerkle represents the 25th Congressional district of New York and is a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.