Friday, June 22, 2012

Obama Asserts Executive Privilege to Deny Fast and Furious Documents to Investigators

The Obama Administration Claims “Executive Privilege” to Protect Attorney General Eric Holder from turning over Records in Congressional Investigation of 'Fast and Furious' Mexican Gunrunning Scheme

On the eve of a vote by the House Oversight Committee to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for his stonewalling of Congressional investigators looking into the controversial 'Fast and Furious' scheme executed by the BATF which resulted in the death of at least two federal agents from illegally- exported American weapons, (including CBP agent Brian Terry), President Obama extended protection to Attorney General Holder's refusal to comply with a Congressional Subpoena aimed at forcing disclosure of who knew what when in the White House about the deadly program.

While technically within the rights of the President to assert such a privilege, (but see below), such conduct was immediately denounced by committee Chairman Darryl Issa as a “last minute” ruse to delay justice for murdered agent Brian Terry and drew charges of hypocrisy across the right of the political spectrum due to then-candidate Barack Obama's criticism of the Bush Administration for invoking “Executive Privilege” to deny access to records by Congress during eight years of the Bush Administration.

Such action is troubling not just due to Holder's repeated insistence before Congress that he was not aware of the controversial program and its deadly outcome to American law enforcement personnel in spite of receiving emails and updates from his deputies about it, but because the President has repeatedly claimed no personal knowledge of the Fast and Furious program.

Indeed, the assertion of “Executive Privilege” by the President to protect Holder's refusal to comply with the Congressional subpoena seems to contradict the President's prior emphatic public statements that he knew nothing about “Fast and Furious,” and further strains credibility that neither he nor anyone on his payroll in the White House knew about the lethal program.

This is so because a claim of “Executive Privilege,” a legal doctrine intended to aid the separation of powers and shield Presidential advisors from potential liability for giving candid advice to the President on matters of sensitive concern, (e.g. human “targets” selected for “elimination” by American drones in the fight against terror in far away places like Pakistan), is only legally permissible if, in fact, the White House or the President's advisors were actually aware of the lethal program, (otherwise no “privileged” information would be at stake which needed to be "protected").

Of course, there is nothing new about Presidents zealously guarding their right to direct lawful executive action free from undue meddling by Congress or trying to protect their own political appointees. In a 180 degree twist of this doctrine and an example of perhaps the most flagrant abuse of it in the modern era, everyone over the age of 60 remembers how President Nixon attempted to use similar arguments to protect himself from having to disclose the so called “Nixon tapes” in the Watergate coverup which was rejected by the Supreme Court and ultimately led to Nixon's resignation. However, comparisons to the Nixon Administration, even ones not exactly apropos, are not particularly helpful to an Administration already plagued by voter unease and polling below 50% favorability in most battleground states which Obama must carry to win reelection in 2012.

Moreover, unlike a more recent example of such claims attempted to diffuse political fallout from a Potentially devasting scandal during the 1980's, President Reagan, who never actually was proved to have approved of the covert program which indirectly aided the contras contrary to the policy of Congress, arguably did so with the best interests of the country at heart, in an area in which the President's constitutional prerogatives are undeniably stronger and allow more leeway in the long-term interest of the country, (i.e., foreign policy). To be sure, while one could make a loose claim that the “gunwalking” scheme at issue in Fast and Furious is likewise related to the important “foreign policy” of tracking and stopping Mexican drug lords from committing even worse crimes against American citizens later, the problem with that theory is in order to accomplish such a goal the Obama Administration would have actually had to have "marked" the weapons with tiny RFID tracers, (which they didn't in this case). While why the feds didn't do so is a matter of furious debate, with those like Wayne Lapierre of the NRA and yours truly believing it was done in an attempt to gin up support for gun control and others asserting mere incompetence on behalf of the BATF and the Obama Administration, the action just taken by the President insures the chances of the American people finding out which it is anytime soon, and certainly before the election, are slim to none. What IS clear however is the methods used by the BATF violated the very gun laws Democrats normally have championed in regulating gun sales on U.S. soil, (but which private gun shops in Arizona were urged to circumvent by the government to achieve the purposes of the Fast and Furious program). Indeed, in their zeal to illegally put weapons in the hands of dangerous criminals the government violated dozens of federal laws against “fraudulent” transactions, (including selling to known criminals and fake “straw man” buyers for the express purpose of exporting said arms across the border to Mexico in contravention of settled federal law). Further, when some gun shops questioned the safety and propriety of the government's "have a care" methods, some were not too subtly pressured or threatened. It is such claims that are some of the most disturbing and for which the documents requested by Congress could have shed additional light on as well as who in the Obama Whitehouse knew of the deeply flawed program.

Further, in perhaps the biggest contrast between this still youthful scandal of the Obama Administration and that which occurred in the 1980's, Reagan's Iran Contra resulted in zero American deaths, in fact, to the contrary Iran Contra arguably saved American lives, (as it ostensibly resulted in the safe return of American hostages held by radical terrorists). Indeed, while one can possibly argue about the wisdom of funneling profits from arms sold to Iran in the '80's to the Contras in Nicaragua fighting for their freedom, no one can doubt that the motives of President Reagan in doing so were not sincere and intended to promote American national interests. Not so of President Obama, whose actions seem designed, at least with the limited evidence available in light of the Administration's determination to withhold further documents from the public, with only one thing in mind: saving a flagging President from the embarrassment of politically-damaging revelations on his role in the scandal from erupting publicly just before the 2012 elections in order to aid his re-election chances, (arguably the only reasonable explanation for the President's last minute assertion of executive privilege in light of his previous denials of White House involvement in the scandal).

Call me crazy, but at least the way I see it, one's crass desire for political self-preservation doesn't come even close to a legitimate excuse to stymy a Congressional investigation into potentially illegal activities which resulted in the death of even one American law enforcement officer at the hands of Mexican outlaws.

However, most troubling of all is the extent to which such conduct seems to fit a pattern by the Obama Administration of self-aggrandizement and expansion of power at the expense of the other two branches of government, followed by delay, obstruction and distraction tactics when its methods or aims are legitimately questioned by those we elect to do so in our government of checks and balances.

From attempts to bury-- no pun intended-- the coal industry, (the President's remarks that anyone attempting to open a coal fired electric plant would be bankrupted and the cost of energy under his plan double come to mind), to attempts to discredit Fox news and others in the media such as Sheryl Atkisson of CBS news who have doggedly pursued the truth about Fast and Furious, (see here and here), to inappropriate and veiled threats to the Supreme Court which is widely expected to any day issue its ruling striking down the President's signature domestic achievement, Obamacare, the Administration seems at best tone-deaf and at worst malevolent when it comes to an understanding of the appropriate limits, constitutional and otherwise, to its power and the almost maniacal way it seems to view itself as well as its political “enemies.”

And although the use (and/or abuse) of the law and hard ball tactics of Chicago politics to advance his political career certainly is nothing new to the President, (witness Obama successfully using Illinois election law to block his primary opponents from the ballot in his first run for Illinois State Senate in his first run for office), the extent to which this President seems to recognize no bounds to his power-grabbing ways and the extent to which he seems willing to use highly-politicized themes and “power politics” such as the Trayvon Martin tragedy and attacks on States' voter identification laws meant to protect the integrity of the voting process is truly alarming. (And this is especially so when one takes into account the divisive and damaging effect such tactics have on the American body politic).

Don't like the investigation of a Congressional committee into potentially illegal and certainly poorly conceived “gunwalking” programs that end in the death of American agents/citizens in Mexico at the hands of outlaws? Attack the character and motives of the Congressional Committee's chairman.

Can't get your controversial “cap and trade” legislation passed through normal democratic means of debate and consensus? Simply declare, by Executive fiat, that the Environmental Protection Agency is “empowered” to administratively introduce draconian and job-killing regulations that will devastate our ability to develop our most abundant and reliable source of domestic electricity, coal.

Don't like the Defense of Marriage Act duly passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton? Just “declare,” absent the Supreme Court or Congress' agreement solely on the judgment of the authority of himself, that the legislation duly passed by the people's representatives and signed into law by Democratic president Bill Clinton defining marriage as between one woman and one man is "unconstitutional."

Even worse for the President is it exposes the blatant hypocrisy of the left at a time when it is most likely to alienate a critical group of voters not likely to see this as the “heightened transparency” of government Obama promised when running in 2008, conservative leaning independents like me.

In fact, while liberals like to complain that Republicans Administrations, i.e., Bush 43, had no respect for the rule of law and abused its powers with such things as executive orders and claims of "executive privilege," similar claims are now brushed off when it comes to the Obama Administration. Indeed, some are now observing the comparisons which are clearly emerging between this Administration, which promised to be “the most ethical in history,” and some of the actions of President Nixon, who famously attempted to stonewall Congressional investigation into the Watergate scandal of the '70's.

Only time will tell if this President's end shall be similar to Nixon's, or simply end unceremoniously at the hands of a public exercising their solemn duty in the privacy of a voting booth in an unprecedented time of deficit spending and global economic uncertainly who have, for their own unique reasons, simply had enough. Unquestionably however, it cannot help Obama's chances. Jp

For more info click here,0,4057316.story

Agent Terry's parents, interviewed on Fox News' Sean Hannity's show, shared their disgust at the announcement and and belief that it means the White House is "hiding something... They have lied from the beginning..." (see full video here )

Speaker John Boehner implied that White House officials were either involved in the Fast and Furious operation or the cover-up that followed.