Earlier this week, the House Oversight committee voted to recommend (more here)that Attorney General Eric Holder (pictured) be held in contempt for not turning over documents pertaining to a botched (and idiotic) mission that led to a U.S. Border Patrol agent being killed by U.S.-supplied guns. The contempt vote fell on strict party lines. Next week, the House will take up that vote.
The documents speak to how the Department of Justice (and the White House, it seems) discussed how to communicate this matter to Congress. I think the assumption/concern/fear is that Holder (or perhaps Obama) instructed (or was instructed) to lie to Congress about any knowledge of the mission.
To protect Holder, Obama (in unprecedented fashion) asserted executive privilege over the documents on behalf of the Attorney General.
It is very, very clear, in my (and others‘) estimation, that this is politically-motivated. I have no doubt that if there were a Republican in office, none of this would be happening. Heck, they had two terms of a President wielding precisely these same powers and pulling these same tricks without them nary saying a word. (In fact, most all of our Americans dying in Afghanistan are being killed with weapons that were given to them by the Americans years ago to try and fight the Russians. Oh irony.)
Further, I really don’t think that there is some super-damning piece of evidence that’s being “covered-up” that is any worse than what our past two President’s have done regularly with no accountability: secret plans, with secret reasonings, followed by lies to both the public on Congress. This is business-as-usual.
But, just as Jay Carney said in yesterday’s White House press conference, this is about principle. It’s about precedent. It’s about who has the right to do what in this administration and subsequent administrations. And so, I fully support Congress asserting it’s (long-neglected) power of oversight of the Executive.
I’ve written before that every major power the world has ever known moves from a place where the people have the power to a place where the power becomes concentrated in smaller and smaller concentrations. It’s well-documented how the elite and powerful in American are simply immune from the justice system and legalities that the rest of us are subjected to regularly. Are politicians and presidents really that much more inherently law-abiding than us “normal people”? I doubt it.
And yet they have simply become accustomed to little or no oversight; little or no accountability. When a Republican’s in office, Democrats will rail while Republicans sit on their hands. When the Democrat is there, expect liberals to forget every principled thing they ever said or complained about during the previous administration. It’s the party “brand” that matters.
And we’ve let them do it. We’ve sat around using weak arguments of “lesser evils” for far too long.
Conservatives: being uncritical of your guy led to what, exactly? Two wars, huge debt, an entirely new (and huge and sprawling) department added to the federal bureaucracy (Homeland Security), TARP, more abortions happening, and more gay marriage. What exactly do you think will change if you “take back the White House”? You will be far more disappointed than even disillusioned Democrats now, I promise you.
Liberals: being uncritical of your guy led to what? No increase in social spending, no public health care, austerity measures being enacted, bank bailouts, weakened financial regulation, more tax cuts, increased attacks on your civil liberties, fighting in more middle-eastern countries, more secrecy, more wire-tapping, more propping up of repressive regimes, and more claims of Executive immunity from scrutiny anywhere.
All of you, on both sides of the politicla spectrum need to start holding your own guys accountable, and not standing in the way of the others trying to do it for you. It’s the only way that politicians will actually begin working for us and not in spite of us.
And so, with all that being said, let Darrell Issa do what he’s going to do for whatever reasons he’s going to do it. The Executive needs to be put back in its place as a servant-leader of the People. Eric Holder needs to learn that he cannot use secrecy simply to stave off embarrassment or accountability (as opposed to using it for security).
Do I think this will happen? Probably not. But to see Congress re-asserting it’s proper place is encouraging, however theatrical it might be.
And hey, for all you Democrats, remember: any power that’s taken back and used by Congress now, you can freely use against the next Republican President! Isn’t that exciting and encouraging? So please, just relax, and let the Republicans have their field day.