The Republican majority’s vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of congress is historic. No Attorney General has ever been so explicitly condemned by the Congress.
But the contempt citation is a hollow political theater. It has no substance – zero.
It will not produce any more documents or evidence about the botched sting operation to halt gun-running between the U.S. and Mexico.
And after Obama Justice Department and White House lawyers offered to defuse the situation this week by literally showing previously private documents about the political response to the scandal to the House committee – but without turning them over – there is no doubt that the contempt citation is a purely spiteful, political act.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee refused the information they say they want.
That’s why the contempt citation is a boomerang.
It will only add to the national disgust with Congress for wasting time on petty politics. I have been covering Washington politics for the better part of three decades and seen politics take turns towards the personal and the vindictive. Yet I don’t recall seeing politics played as such a petty, crass level.
The facts about the substance of the Fast and Furious story are on the table for all to see. The idea of tracking gun sales from U.S. dealers to the Mexican drug cartels began in the Bush administration. The operation allowed hundreds of U.S.-made firearms to be sold to drug gangs with the goal of tracing them to Mexican drug kingpins so that said kingpins could be arrested and convicted on gun-related charges.
It was a good idea but it got out of hand and was mismanaged. Later one of the guns was later found at the scene of a gun-fight where an American border agent was killed.
The program was halted by the Obama administration and federal officials involved were fired by the Attorney General.
But the failures of "Fast and Furious" opened the door to attacks on the Attorney General. He is the man guiding several policies that give conservatives heartburn – from refusing to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act to challenging new laws requiring voter identification as well as opposition to Arizona’s tough new immigration law.
Now with GOP’s refusal this week to look at the documents they claim they want to see it has become apparent there is something beyond anger at the attorney general in play. Something deeper is going on here.
The real source of the GOP anger is suspicion that the Obama administration wants to strip Americans of their second amendment rights.
As Rush Limbaugh recently explained it on his radio show, “The whole point of Fast and Furious was to create mayhem in Mexico among drug cartels with American-made weapons, easily procured so that you and I would stand up in outrage and demand tighter gun laws.”
Wayne LaPierre, the Executive Director of the National Rifle Association agrees. He said in a radio interview that Fast and Furious was an “attempt to blame the second Amendment, blame American gun owners and get more gun legislation here in the United States.”
This conspiracy theory is not limited to talk radio.
California Republican Darrel Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, has also offered this baseless theory as the reason for his committee’s investigation. He said “Very clearly they made a crisis and they are using this crisis to somehow to take away or limit people’s second amendment rights.”
Michigan Republican Tim Walberg, another member of the committee, was even more candid: “Frankly, I believe it was set up to go wrong in order to deal with second amendment liberties of law-abiding citizens and pushing into a perception that it was a problem of the second amendment as opposed to law enforcement.”
And now the NRA has announced it will score the House vote on holding Holder in contempt of Congress. If a Congressman voted against the contempt citation then the NRA would downgrade that Congressman’s rating on gun rights issues.
This is the real story behind the contempt of congress vote. It is all about fear, some might say paranoia, among gun-rights advocates that the Democrat in the White House wants to take away their guns. And Issa and Congressional Republicans are using this fear to stir up their base by encouraging the empty conspiracy theory that the Obama administration is trying to take away people’s guns.
This sad exercise has nothing to do with Fast and Furious. It is a political vendetta which combines election year politics with one of the worst abuses of Congress’s oversight powers in recent memory.
This incredible conspiracy theory is all the more baseless after the Brady Campaign, the nation’s leading gun control advocacy group, gave the Obama administration a grade of “F” for failing to stop the spread of guns and gun violence in the nation.
The Brady Campaign based their failing grade on the administration’s decision not to renew the assault weapons ban despite public outcry after the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
And recall that President Obama said explicitly in 2008 “I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe in people’s lawful right to bear arms. I will not take your shotgun away. I will not take your rifle away. I will not take your handgun away.”
That is one promise the President has kept. The Right should be applauding him for being on their side.
And in terms of presidential election politics, Obama is running against Mitt Romney who once proudly declared "I don't line up with the NRA.” Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, tripled fees on gun owners to obtain licenses to carry.
Get ready for a fast and furious boomerang that will smack the GOP House.