Fast Furious Follies
by Jim Shepherd
After spending most of the day [Thursday, December 8] watching Washington's definition of government at "work" on answering questions about Operation Fast and Furious and the failure of MF Global, I found myself looking at more than 28 pages of notes and asking myself a simple question: why bother?
In a single day's time, I watched as a former Senator, Governor, and self-described Wall Street "smart guy" said - with a straight face- that he "had no idea" what happened to more than a billion dollars - from a company he headed.
Then, I watched as the Attorney General of the United States sat before the House Judiciary Committee and alternatively had his head patted or his hindquarters kicked, depending on whether the Representative speaking was Democrat or Republican.
Those hearings were shameful examples of just how dysfunctional the federal government has become.
The Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches are in open combat. All sides are inflexible and intractable in their positions.
The Justice Department insists it isn't withholding information about Fast and Furious, despite the fact that their communications make it obvious the information provided to this point could be described - charitably - as inconsistent.
Legislators are divided directly down party lines.
Republicans characterize AG Holder's administration as incompetent, dishonest or both. Democrats continue to defend the Attorney General, citing statistics they undoubtedly know are flawed, while characterizing the entire Fast and Furious matter nothing more than political "gotcha" games.
It's difficult to see where either side achieved anything more than seven plus hours of bad political theatre and leaving a bad taste in the mouth of anyone watching.
Republicans brought charts, graphs and pounds of paper.
Democrats brought the usual strident statements that "assault weapons" and "gun show loopholes" were to blame for all the violence in America - and most in Mexico.
Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) was aghast that without the much debated Demand Letter 3 to require reporting of multiple long gun transactions in four border states it would be possible for a purchaser to buy "100 AK-47s without reporting the transaction to the AFT!"
"I suspect many members of Congress don't understand," Waters said.
Between Waters and Georgia Representative Hank Johnson's semi-coherent efforts to minimize the 2,000 guns lost in Fast and Furious by comparing them to the "untold thousands of weapons sold by individuals and other illegal dealers at gun shows" to "Al Qaeda, felons and white supremacists" it was apparent that at least two members of Congress are somewhat less than clueless.
That, however, doesn't keep them from being completely certain that Republicans on the committee were simply trying to use Fast and Furious to "score political points".
Mr. Johnson ended his comments by describing the "NRA and other Second Amendment radicals" as the problem, not the guns that walked in Fast and Furious.
That set off Representative Darrell Issa of California, the head of the Subcommittee that has pursued the Attorney General's office for Fast and Furious information for months.
Throughout the hearing, Issa continued to press Holder, but he maintained a civil demeanor - until Johnson's "radicals" comment.
Calling Johnson's comments "reprehensible" Issa responded to Johnson's statement with a straightforward question to the Attorney General: "Mr. Holder, will you attend my subcommittee's hearings in January, or will I have to send a subpoena?"
As happened at several points through the Attorney General's testimony, there was no definitive answer to his direct question. Instead, Mr. Holder reminded Mr. Issa that he had already testified four times on Fast and Furious, including twice to his subcommittee.
It was that kind of hearing.
Mr. Holder would scrap with a Republican for a few minutes on Fast and Furious.
A Democrat would then either praise him for his work - or ask a question about anything from the Justice Department's plans for prosecution of medical marijuana clinics (Rep. Jared Polis/Colorado), to a Caribbean Border Initiative (Del. Pedro Pierliusi/Puerto Rico), or California Rep. Zoe Lofton's plea a blog site receive the same First Amendment status as magazines, newspapers and television media. That First Amendment status needed to be granted despite the site's apparent bad habit of using material that they neither created or owned.
Trying to bottom lining this hearing would be equivalent to diving off a railroad bridge without knowing how deep the water was below you: risky with a good chance of an unfortunate outcome.
At this point, it appears safe to say there are inarguable and incontrivertable inconsistencies in the statements, documents and actions of the Department of Justice regarding Fast and Furious. It would seem equally safe to presume that a significant amount of blame-storming is going on at the Justice Department.
Judging from the determination of the Republicans on the committee to pursue their questioning - and the Attorney General's equally determined position that appropriate steps continue to be taken - Fast and Furious isn't going to go away anytime soon.
The good news is that it's not likely to be repeated.
There will likely be additional actions taken against the individuals at Justice who wind up taking the fall for the flawed operation that resulted in the deaths of two U.S. agents and as many as 200 Mexican citizens.
Some involved may even face criminal charges.
One other thing, unfortunately, is more than likely true, barring divine intervention.
As Attorney General Holder stated in his opening remarks: "it is an unfortunate reality that we will continue to feel the effects of this flawed operation for years to come. Guns lost during this operation will continue to show up at crime scenes on both sides of the border."
That's not just wrong, it's criminal, no matter which side of the aisle on which you sit.
Republished from The Outdoor Wire.