Last week the GOP members of the House of representatives voted to hold the Attorney General of the United States in contempt. The reason they did so was that he refused to turn over documents, protected by executive privilege, to the House Oversight Committee, which is involved in a desperate effort to find something, anything that might generate a scandal before the election.
In this instance the something is an operation sponsored by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) labeled Fast and Furious. Missouri’s Todd Akin (R-2), of course, voted with the GOP majority, and now allows as how:
There’s been so much stonewalling. I think it’s pretty serious; a whole lot of recent action implies another Watergate situation. This matter has historic implications.
Watergate? He wishes.
Even the Oversight Committee Chair, Darrell Issa (R-CA), admits that he “had no evidence nor did he strongly believe” that Holder knew about or supported the Fast and Furious operation. Which is actually moot, since an extensive investigation by Fortune, published as “The Truth about Fast and Furious,” is questioning the basic premises of the GOP narrative. According to Fortune‘s Katherine Eban, “the ATF never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. How the world came to believe just the opposite is a tale of rivalry, murder, and political bloodlust.”
The political bloodlust that Eban is referring to is at least partly that of a GOP desperate for a juicy Obama administration scandal as they go into the elections, along with the Oversight Chair, Darrell Issa, who raises partisanship to a whole new level. When Issa assumed the chairmanship of the Oversight Committee, he promised “hundreds” of executive branch investigations and he’s been willing to grasp at every straw in order to deliver.
Without offering any evidence to back up his claim, Issa stated early on that Obama was “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.” He’s subsequently tried to walk that statement back along with other statements equally indicative of bias and equally unsubstantiated. In fact, most of Issa’s efforts have fizzled – or left him with egg on his face. For Issa, Fast and Furious is his last chance to raise an effective political stink before November.
Which is where pols like Akin come in. In the Chesterfield meeting where he made the Watergate comparison, he tried his hardest to elaborate in his usual fact-free fashion about, among other things, the putative 2,000 guns that, before the Fortune investigation, were believed to have been lost by the ATF:
The fact is that 100,000 assault rifles are loose. Who knew about this? And we wanted to know why it happened.
100,000 assault rifles? Is Akin talking about something else here? Or is he just story-telling? Akin did say that Darrell Issa was “an imaginative guy” – evidently he’s not the only one. Of course, Akin may not have been exercising his imagination here, just demonstrating his lack of facts since he also seems to think that executive privilege only pertains to presidential communications although there is a “deliberative process privilege” that would cover communications between executive branch staffers.
I know what my own explanation is – and it has something to do with the plank in the Texas GOP Party Platform – the one where Republicans came right out and said that they don’t want anyone teaching critical thinking skills in their schools. Elevating GOP wishful thinking about Fast and Furious into Watergate is just one more indication that lots of folks in the Grand Old Party already have already pretty much managed to avoid that onerous, critical thinking instruction.
*Slightly edited for clarity.