Friday, June 29, 2012

Holder-ing A Gun To Their Head

Lost in yesterday's Supreme Court Ruling--one which made Chief Justice Roberts an overnight sensation, and a Democratic Hero, and, for Republicans, the most hated man in America--was the contempt vote that a Republican House brought against Attorney General Eric Holder.

With the scoring threat of the National Rifle Association (NRA) hovering over yesterday's proceedings, it was no surprise that 17 Democrats voted with Republicans to uphold the sanction.

Presumably, had Democrats in swing districts voted against the contempt, they would be placing their own House tenure in jeopardy, as the NRA, with the long memory of elephants, would, during their reelection bid, remind their respective electorate--with one damaging ad after the other--of their unforgivable sin against gun ownership.

Supposedly a non-partisan organization, the group was anything but leading up to the House contempt vote, with the NRA leading the charge on the unsubstantiated claim that the Attorney General was involved in a cover up of misdeeds in the ATF Fast and Furious Operation, insisting that the Obama administration allowed guns to be smuggled into Mexico, so that the ensuing violence would so disgust the American citizenry that they would call for a repeal of the Second Amendment.

An outlandish claim on the surface, but one that Republicans believed--once all the facts surfaced--would vindicate their actions and behavior, if only they could get their hands on the Attorney General's internal memos, e-mails and the like, that he refused to surrender to Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Congress holding Attorney General Holder in contempt has no precedence--and neither is there precedence for how this president has been attacked, and continues to be treated by those on the Right. The only explanation for it--according to many non-black pundits--is that the president is black, and the real reason that this kind of racist and racial treatment, far from being generally denounced, is quietly tolerated.

One of Fortune Magazine's reporters investigated the Fast and Furious conspiratorial claim, as well as other claims, revealing that Republican claims of a cover up, and a conspiracy to repeal the Second Amendment, was, itself, fraught with conspiratorial overtones:

Some call it the "parade of ants"; others the "river of iron." The Mexican government has estimated that 2,000 weapons are smuggled daily from the U.S. into Mexico. The ATF is hobbled in its effort to stop this flow. No federal statute outlaws firearms trafficking, so agents must build cases using a patchwork of often toothless laws. For six years, due to Beltway politics, the bureau has gone without permanent leadership, neutered in its fight for funding and authority. The National Rifle Association has so successfully opposed a comprehensive electronic database of gun sales that the ATF's congressional appropriation explicitly prohibits establishing one.


The agents faced numerous obstacles in what they dubbed the Fast and Furious case. (They named it after the street-racing movie because the suspects drag raced cars together.) Their greatest difficulty by far, however, was convincing prosecutors that they had sufficient grounds to seize guns and arrest straw purchasers. By June 2010 the agents had sent the U.S. Attorney's office a list of 31 suspects they wanted to arrest, with 46 pages outlining their illegal acts. But for the next seven months prosecutors did not indict a single suspect.
On Dec. 14, 2010, a tragic event rewrote the narrative of the investigation. In a remote stretch of Peck Canyon, Ariz., Mexican bandits attacked an elite U.S. Border Patrol unit and killed an agent named Brian Terry. The attackers fled, leaving behind two semiautomatic rifles. A trace of the guns' serial numbers revealed that the weapons had been purchased 11 months earlier at a Phoenix-area gun store by a Fast and Furious suspect.

Conservatives have pummeled the Obama administration, and especially Holder, for more than a year. "Who authorized this program that was so felony stupid that it got people killed?" Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, demanded to know in a hearing in June 2011. He has charged the Justice Department, which oversees the ATF, with having "blood on their hands." Issa and more than 100 other Republican members of Congress have demanded Holder's resignation.

The conflict has escalated dramatically in the past ten days. On June 20, in a day of political brinkmanship, Issa's committee voted along party lines, 23 to 17, to hold Holder in contempt of Congress for allegedly failing to turn over certain subpoenaed documents, which the Justice Department contended could not be released because they related to ongoing criminal investigations. The vote came hours after President Obama asserted executive privilege to block the release of the documents. Holder now faces a vote by the full House of Representatives this week on the contempt motion (though negotiations over the documents continue). Assuming a vote occurs, it will be the first against an attorney general in U.S. history.
As political pressure has mounted, ATF and Justice Department officials have reversed themselves. After initially supporting Group VII agents and denying the allegations, they have since agreed that the ATF purposefully chose not to interdict guns it lawfully could have seized. Holder testified in December that "the use of this misguided tactic is inexcusable, and it must never happen again."
Read the whole story here.

We know this: The NRA, as a chief exponent of gun ownership, makes wide-spread gun distribution possible, by resisting new gun-control laws, and regulations, while threatening reform-minded lawmakers--using a Grover Norquist-like zeal--indirectly (if not directly) supporting gun manufacturers (the volume of guns made), and gun sellers (the volume of guns sold), many of whom have no compunction as to the niceties of the law, nor care who will ultimately end up holding the stock of a rifle, or the grip of a revolver.

Almost from the moment President Obama took the oath of office, word went out that this new president was positioning himself to take away the people's guns and ammunition--and the very fact that he hadn't well into his first term was proof enough that he was lulling the America people to sleep on the issue, only to spring it upon them later during a second term, when he had nothing left to gain by remaining quiescent.  

As nonsensical as this may sound, it did sell guns and ammo by the millions, and provided Republicans with a rallying issue on which to raise money and galvanize their base for the Fall elections--the real reason behind all this. 

One thing Republicans knew, and could count on: Chief Justice Roberts was their man on the Supreme Court (their go-to guy). How could he turn on them by supporting this dreaded law (the Affordable Health Care Act), on which Republicans had placed their political fortunes?

It was their hope that the Supreme Court ruling would become President Obama's political Waterloo, dashing his bid for reelection. 

However, Chief Justice Roberts had other plans. He seemed to know: The Constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act could very well tarnish his Supreme Court legacy--if it was allowed to be decided as had some previous critical rulings, along partisan lines, a 5 - 4 split.

Democrats would be giddy with this Supreme Court opinion--as it seemingly marked a return to sanity and balance on the nation's highest court--were it not for the Court's decision on Citizen's United, and Citizen's United Redux, a Supreme Court decision that I hope to blog about soon.