House Majority leader John Boehner’s “green light” to the GOP-controlled House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to consider a contempt of Congress citation against Attorney General Eric Holder is just the latest in the continuing dance of political gamesmanship the GOP is playing with President Obama.
That’s right, Obama. The ostensible issue is that Holder refuses to cooperate with the committee in turning over presumably incriminating documents that would tell what Holder did or didn’t do in the botched Bureau of Alchol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)’s Mexican gun sting operation, Fast and Furious. The issue is just as politically contemptible as the legion of other GOP ploys to taint Obama through Holder. And they have come just as fast and furious, practically, from the moment that Holder took the reins at the Department of Justice.
The ATF gun sting hit on Holder is hardly new. Former President George W. Bush’s DOJ ran a similar gun sting a year before Obama took office. The program resumed in 2010 with no evidence that Holder knew all the details or the problems with the sting operation. Many of which, as he testified, were not disclosed to him by operatives. The program ultimately was not a DOJ operation but a local law enforcement program that should have drawn fire, but should not have been blown up into a manic partisan crusade against Holder.
A distressed Holder made that exact point during the sweating he got from Congressional GOP attackers some months ago when he bluntly called the attacks “politically motivated gotcha games.” The implication is that the attacks are just another in the saber rattle against him and, by extension, Obama. And he’s right.
Holder was always seen by the GOP as the weak link in the Obama chain of command. Someone who was politically vulnerable because of his past position as a Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton administration. He took much heat then for allegedly giving the nod to controversial Clinton pardons, lobbying efforts on behalf of a communications company and for upholding the court order to send the 6-year-old Cuban refugee Elián González back to Cuba.
Since then the GOP threatened to filibuster his appointment as Attorney General, ripped him for publicly chiding the nation on the racial divide and for turning a blind eye to alleged voter intimidation by the New Black Panthers. These are all phony, self-serving, political hatchet job issues.
The intent is, of course, to paint Holder as a corrupt, political deal maker, and a closet racial bigot. The idea is by inference to paint Obama, through Holder, with the same brush. Or at the very least, plant the seed that Holder’s appointment and tenure at the DOJ typifies the poor and untrustworthy judgment of Obama in picking his political appointees.
Holder has enough GOP partisan lashes on his back to know that no matter how many facts he cites to bolster his case that he didn’t know, or certainly approve any illicit doings in the sting ATF operation, the issue won’t go away. The GOP will toss out empty threats such as demands for his firing, or resignation, and even talk about impeachment. It won’t happen. But it’s media catchy and sensational enough to keep Holder on the hot seat. The issue will be bandied about even more throughout 2012.
Holder has tried to stay out front of the GOP attack dogs by spending hours in testimony before the GOP controlled House panels. He has repeatedly publicly admitted that mistakes were made, calling the ATF’s tactics “unacceptable,” and has accepted blame for them, calling them “inexcusable.” The GOP House members that scream for Holder’s head know that he has done no wrong. The House panel has gone through the motions and purportedly drawn up a 48-page bill of particulars against Holder that supposedly will be the basis for a contempt citation at some undetermined future date. The panel has given no sign that it’s in any hurry to call for a full House vote.
With the 2012 presidential election set to kick into high gear in the coming weeks, however, and with the GOP’s hysteric vow to make Obama a one-term president, if the GOP can keep the heat on Holder — the nation’s top law enforcement official and an official to Obama — it will serve as a red herring to toss more mud on Obama and hope that it sticks. That’s the reason, and the only reason, that the GOP will continue to play fast and furious with Holder.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst