As previously noted, the “Fast and Furious” program run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. attorney in Arizona was a badly conceived operation made worse by incompetent leadership. It began as an effort to track the illegal flow of guns from U.S. gun shops across the border to Mexican drug cartels, with the hope of using the information to break up those cartels, and in the end it may have contributed to scores of deaths, including the death of a U.S. Border Patrol officer.
Nobody — with the exception of some who were directly involved — disputes that it was a bad idea gone wrong. And as a result, most of those in the ATF and the U.S. attorney’s office in Arizona who planned and led the effort have been fired or reassigned.
So what’s the controversy in Washington all about? Republicans have two working theories about Fast and Furious, and through the House Government Oversight Committee are attempting to find evidence to support those pet theories. But so far, despite having subpoenaed a veritable haystack of documents from the Justice Department, they have been unable to find the needle that they seek.
The response to that failure has been to demand still more haystacks to search. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa insists that the Justice Department release thousands of additional documents that go right to the core of ongoing criminal investigations in the case, even though as a matter of law and practice such documents are considered exempt from congressional subpoena.
Attorney General Eric Holder, backed by President Obama, has refused to release those documents, which is why he is now in danger of joining a long list of officials in both parties to have been held in contempt of Congress over the years.
Issa and his colleagues believe that somewhere, documents exist that will show that Holder and others at high levels in the Obama administration helped to plan and execute Fast and Furious, although again, there’s no evidence that is true. But what really drives the investigation is a deeply held conviction among many conservatives that instead of being an effort to track guns back to the drug cartels and then arrest cartel leadership, Fast and Furious was a government plot intended to make guns look bad and to build public support for undercutting the Second Amendment.
Here’s how Rush Limbaugh explained it to the faithful yesterday:
“Now, we all know what the purpose of this was. The purpose of this was to gin up anti-Amendment 2 sentiment among the people of this country. The objective was — and this is where the irony steps in — the objective was to have news stories where everybody was shocked and stunned and saddened, guns purchased by drug cartel members in America. Look how easy it was, end up in Mexico, owned by violent drug gangs, and used in the commission of heinous crimes. Why, our gun laws are too lax. The sentiment in this country among the people is to maintain the Second Amendment. The America people don’t want, by a vast majority, any gun control legislation. But that doesn’t matter to people like President Kardashian or Eric Holder or any of the Democrat Party or the left.
They don’t want you to have guns, and so it doesn’t matter about the Constitution and it doesn’t matter about the will of the American people. If they don’t want you to have guns they’re gonna try to find a way to make sure that you don’t. And that’s what Fast and Furious was, as simply put as I can make it.”
The theory has no more basis in fact than do claims that Obama is a Kenyan plant or that he intends to confiscate all firearms in private hands. It also ignores the reality that the Bush administration had run similar if smaller scale operations, and that Fast and Furious — botched though it was — was simply an extension of those previous programs.
Unfortunately, these days a story with a basis in fact is much less valuable than a bogus story line that gets people stirred up and angry, certain that their country is being stolen from them as they watch.
– Jay Bookman