With the vote last Wednesday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee citing the nation’s top law enforcement officer with contempt, it signaled a new low in the partisan bickering between Democrats and Republicans that is crippling the American political system.
At issue here is when and to what extent did Attorney General Eric Holder know about Operation Fast and Furious, a botched gun-smuggling investigation run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
This controversial initiative, which began under the Bush administration in 2006, allowed weapons purchased illegally in Arizona to be walked back across the Mexican border and traced, with the intent of identifying smuggling routes and building cases against the Mexican drug cartels where these guns were trafficked.
Unfortunately the ATF lost track of more than 1,000 firearms, two of which were found on scene where a U.S. Border Patrol Agent was fatally shot on December 14, 2010.
Although Attorney General Holder has testified about this matter several times, and turned over thousands of documents, the Republican controlled House Oversight and Government Reform Committee took the extreme action of recommending a contempt ruling against a sitting attorney general that broke along strict party lines, with all 23 Republicans voting in favor and 17 Democrats opposed.
While this case is not entirely without merit, it is one that generally would be settled through quiet compromise. Instead this was looked upon as an opportunity by Republicans to taint the Obama White House with the presidential election 139 days off.
The question that comes to mind is, in an already polarized political environment, what kind of lasting damage is this sort of hyperbole having upon the electorate?
This is all considered part of “The Game” in Washington. Hit a guy when he doesn’t expect it, make something out of nothing, and hopefully you steal some headlines – whatever is necessary to move an agenda or campaign forward.
At the end of the day consultants, lobbyists and politicians mark their scorecards and go to dinner. Outside the Beltway those headlines resonate and battle lines are being drawn.
The Democrats are guilty too. They’ve employed similar tactics when advantageous, but the Republicans have led the way in creating a brand of “take-no-prisoners” policy.
Nobody is trying to protect Eric Holder – he’s a big boy and very capable. If there were a lack of candor on the attorney general’s part that vote would have been unanimous.
The president invoked his right to executive privilege, which is perfectly legal, and certain Justice Department documents containing internal deliberations about Operation Fast and Furious have been deemed off-limits.
Executive privilege is routinely utilized by Republican and Democratic administrations.
President George W. Bush did so six times, as recently as 2008, during a congressional investigation into the mass firings of U.S. attorneys and the possible use of the Justice Department for political aims.
In this instance White House Counsel Harriet Miers and Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten were both held in contempt of Congress, highlighted by the over-the-top theatrics by Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, leading a walkout of Republicans in protest.
President Obama’s claim of executive privilege should be the end of this controversy. Instead committee chair, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is going to take his pity party to the full House chamber, where House Speaker Boehner will happily extend this pointless affair, wasting time and resources in the interest of damaging the president’s re-election bid.
I say pointless because this will accomplish nothing but fire up right-wing talk radio and stir an already spicy pot of hate between the two parties.
If no deal is reached to prevent this measure going forward, the contempt citation will be voted on by the House of Representatives, and should pass being Republicans hold a majority.
This decision would then be forwarded to the local U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, who in all likelihood will refuse to prosecute their boss for a charge lacking objectivity and one rife with partisanship that furthers an obvious Republican agenda.
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I appreciate the maxim that “all’s fair in love, war and politics,” and understand the Republican Party has to come up with something beyond just Mitt Romney as a reason for people to vote for their party’s candidate, because the country is better off now than it was under the Republican leadership of George W. Bush – financially, intellectually and morally.
Romney alone is not a winner, but the party has to dance with their date to the prom.
As a Republican strategy this contempt allegation serves a dual purpose, of tainting the Democratic brand, and filling the airwaves with charged rhetoric, distracting undecided voters from perceived weaknesses in the GOP nominee.
Romney is a retread candidate from 2008, who couldn’t get out of the primary, and manifests obvious faults for any core-Republican, like having previously supported pro-choice abortion rights and advocated in favor of gun control measures.
After the dismal performance by all candidates in the protracted 2012 Republican nominating process, Romney emerged by screwing up the least.
In an effort to secure its core-constituency, the leadership of the Republican Party has gambled and made a conscious decision to run hard to the right, walking lock-step with Romney, and fighting the Obama administration on every initiative, regardless of merit or whether the legislative gridlock hurts the American people.
It’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in an attempt to pull off a sleight of hand victory.
On the other hand, after the catastrophe left behind by Bush and Cheney, President Barack Obama has managed to steer the country away from calamity’s edge and proposed concrete ideas for how America can achieve greatness once again.
My advice to responsible Republicans is to not create more smoke; we have plenty of wildfires burning out of control. If Romney is your guy and you truly believe he is more qualified to be president, jump on that horse and ride, but don’t sabotage America as a consequence.
I’m having a really hard time understanding where winning a campaign became more important than bettering America.
The roots of this philosophy can be seen in Richard Nixon’s paranoia-driven administration, it then took a more jingoistic form under Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
It’s no coincidence that Roger Ailes, president of the conservative media outlet, Fox News Channel, happened to be the media consultant to Nixon, Reagan, and Bush, and was a driving force behind this “lie and burn” form of modern electoral politics.
Complimenting Ailes was the overtly aggressive Republican strategist Lee Atwater, who also advised Reagan and Bush, and later served as chairman of the Republican National Committee, before passing away from a brain tumor in 1991.
Atwater described Ailes as having “two speeds — attack and destroy.”
Also on this militant tree is Mary Matalin, who served as Bush’s deputy political director on his 1988 re-election campaign, and under Atwater at the RNC.
Matalin later worked with Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, who together fashioned an already unscrupulous brand of politics into a “Black Ops” philosophy, that delivered the fear-drenched administration of George W. Bush.
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America is at a tipping point, where several generational-shifting dilemmas must be faced:
Health Care? As modern medicine continues to cure diseases and extend lifetimes, how do we afford long-term care?
Education? The quality of education in America has slid over the past 20-years from top-notch to only average, falling behind South Korea, Finland, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Canada.
Infrastructure? America’s infrastructure was given a grade of D by the American Society of Civil Engineers, and is ranked 17th by the World Economic Forum.
Specific to this exact moment, the question is all about jobs. How do we create employment opportunities when manufacturing has been largely exported?
Now these problems haven’t come crashing down upon our heads just yet, but huge chunks of them are falling all around.
Romney has offered little in terms of solutions thus far. He supports the same trickle-down economic ideals that sunk us into this recession under George W. Bush.
The concept of maximizing profits at any cost, then sloughing off the consequences to some sucker down the road is equivalent to running our nation’s economy like one big Ponzi scheme.
When the music stopped in the Bush Administration, the middle class was left without a chair.
This is a risky bet, potentially irresponsible, and another example of predatory economics. This could be devastating to the middle class – who remains on life support from the last go-around with trickle down.
To get America back on a path to prosperity our intention must shift away from individual gain and focus on enabling our entire population, which will make for a stronger, more viable America going forward.
Investing in our people – that is good business.
So when “Breaking News” flashes across television screens about the contempt vote in Congress, listen to the argument being framed, the venom it stirs and think about who gains from creating that hostility.