Attorney General Eric Holder has repeatedly and publicly called the drumbeat attacks on him politically motivated. He said the same again, and punctuated it even more strongly by calling the action "crass," when the House with the backing and to the disgrace of 17 Democrats voted to hold him in contempt. It was both a shameful milestone and the culmination of the GOP's two pronged assault against the Obama Administration. The first part of the dirty strategy was to pluck out what it considered a vulnerable Achilles Heel in the Obama administration, namely one of his appointees to hector, harass and discredit. Holder early on was deemed the most inviting target. The other GOP assault prong is to taint, tar, and embarrass the Obama administration by targeting Holder for congressional hounding. The GOP capped its hit strategy by dumping on Holder the dubious distinction of being the first Attorney General in U.S. history to be held in contempt by Congress.
The ploy was in place from virtually the moment that President Obama hinted that Holder would be his Attorney General pick. Obama held off the initial onslaught against Holder by getting key Senate Republicans to agree not to block Holder's appointment. They agreed but that didn't mean that Holder would not be in the GOP's bulls eye for attack. During the confirmation hearings he was sweated by a handful of GOP Senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee on every concocted and manufactured alleged indiscretion that Holder purportedly committed as President Clinton's Deputy Attorney General.
It was just a matter of time before the GOP found the issue to launch a full blown assault on Holder and hope that it stuck with lawmakers and the public blew back on Obama. The bare details are by now well known about the botched ATF's Mexican gun sting operation "fast and furious" -- in which thousands of guns were supposedly supplied to Mexican drug cartel traffickers. All the GOP would have the public believe this happened with Holder's connivance and then when it went awry, allegedly covered it up, with a strong hint that Obama was part of that cover-up.
An exhaustive investigative report by Esquire Magazine more than convincingly blew this bogus notion to shreds. It documented that the operation was a maze of bungling, incompetence, by agents and the legal hand tying of federal prosecutors. The biggest obstacle was Arizona's lax gun laws that gave virtual open license for anyone to buy, sale and swap guns with minimal regulation. This doomed the Bush administration initiated operation to failure from the start.
Holder made that point nearly a dozen times during many hard grillings by the GOP controlled House Oversight Committee. He backed it up by turning over thousands of requested documents to the Committee on the operation and offered to turn over even more documents. If it wanted the Committee could have called the legion of ATF agents, prosecutors, and other operatives that were involved in the operation to publicly testify about the operation. These are the same operatives that media investigators talked to and were readily accessible for testimony. They didn't call them. Their non-testimony, the thousands of documents it had, and Holder's offer to supply more meant nothing to the Committee. The issue wasn't getting to the truth on the issue as they sanctimoniously claimed, but getting Holder.
Now that Holder has been cited for contempt, the matter of what to do about him has been plopped in the lap of the District of Columbia US Attorney. This gives the GOP yet another weapon to pound Holder and Obama. It will scream loudly that the US Attorney, an Obama appointee, will bury the Holder case and therefore that's even more proof that Holder and Obama are allegedly conniving to thwart justice. It's a near perfect maneuver and set-up to try and keep the heat on the Obama administration.
Then on the campaign trail, the GOP will hammer hard on the issue of Holder-Obama alleged trail of incompetence and duplicity to make the case that Obama's Justice Department is a nest of political corruption. In any other year, this would be shrugged off for the clownish and pitiable grandstanding put up job that it is. But this is not any other year, it's an election year and the GOP has rolled the political dice that hammering Holder will be the perfect distraction to keep Obama off balance at every point during the campaign. The official record then may show that Holder is in contempt of Congress. The real record shows that it's the House and its action that's contemptible.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent political commentator on MSNBC and a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.
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