What's the 'Fast and Furious' scandal? Why should furs care?
Last week the U.S. House of Representatives voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. The charge? Illegally withholding documents that the House had lawfully subpoenaed regarding an ATF program gone berserk.
Pretty much everyone agrees that the Fast and Furious operation itself – which began under the Obama presidency and thus was ultimately overseen by Eric Holder and which involved supplying Mexican drug cartels with weapons without so much as consulting the Mexican government – was an ill-conceived failure, so poorly planned as to border upon the absurd. This much, the administration has acknowledged. But what they seem to want to cover up is, who knew what and when did they know it?
This may not seem important to a generation that doesn't recall Watergate, which is why this scandal is especially important to furs (who tend to be young and in many cases apolitical). They aren't as familiar with the past as they might be, and their lives will extend further into the future than most others. Yet the Fast and Furious affair seems to have much in common with the events that brought down Richard Nixon's presidency, right down to the nature of the questions being asked.
In the end it wasn't the Watergate break-in that took Nixon down – there's considerable evidence that he was being honest when he said he had no foreknowledge. But he did lie repeatedly after the fact in order to protect his underlings and his political organization, and proving these lies depended on determining what he knew and when he knew it. Indeed, it was these events that made the phrase famous.
During the Watergate years it was the missing tapes that were most famous. In the case of Fast and Furious, the potentially-damning information is in the form of e-mails that Attorney General Holder – the nation's chief law-enforcement officer short of the President himself – has refused to make available to Congress. In a move again reminiscent of Watergate, President Obama has invoked the nebulous concept of "executive privilege" to protect his underling and thus entangled himself even further into the affair.
So, what will the future bring? Nixonian "stonewalling" (again a phrase made famous by the scandal) followed by dramatic revelations? Yet another presidency ruined by indiscretions so ridiculous that they might fairly be labeled juvenile? Will we be treated to endless hours of televised coverage as the House struggles to obtain official records and use them to determine who knew what and when? Will the current gridlock turn into total deadlock as the wheels of justice grind away for month after month?
I lived through Watergate, and I've not forgotten the heartache and endless pain of it all. We're facing exactly the same sort of crisis again, I believe, and it would be to everyone's benefit everywhere if Mr. Holder were to simply comply with the clearly stated requests of our duly elected representatives. Failing that, we should remember what Nixon's similar abuse of "executive privilege" meant to our country on election day.