Monday, June 20, 2011

Breaking Rocks in the Hot Sun

Some time before last November's election, Congressman Darrell Issa vowed to launch serious investigations of Obama Administration shenanigans if the Republicans took control of the House.  It's been six months now since he became chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and with the revelations in recent weeks about the administration's bizarre Operation Fast and Furious, it appears his work is beginning to bear fruit.

For those who haven't heard, "Operation F & F" was a program begun in 2009, whereby the ATF tracked the flow of guns from the US to Mexican drug gangs by allowing surrogates for the gangs to buy weapons in the US, in order to discover who was involved in the gunrunning operations.  This tactic was previously used under the Bush Administration (named "Project Gunrunner"), but the difference between the two administration's approaches is that the Bush administration ATF arrested the surrogates before the guns were delivered.  By contrast, the Obama administration ATF has travelled into dangerous territory by allowing the guns to actually reach the Mexican gangs, apparently in contradiction of the ATF's longtime policy of stopping any weapons from reaching their ultimate destination, once its agents have identified such a plot.  Two of the guns have been implicated in the killing by gang members of a US Border Agent.  The ATF let about 2,000 of these guns reach the gangs, and given the amount of shooting going on across the border, it would be difficult not to believe that many of these guns have been used in killings in Mexico.

There's been speculation that all this might be part of a manufactured crisis by the Administration, aimed at creating a political environment that would be more favorable to restrictive guns laws, which has long been a cherished liberal goal. Whether or not that turns out to be the case, as of tonight the news is that the acting head of the ATF is going to resign, possibly under pressure from above, which would be the first serious fallout of this scandal. Issa has stated that he believes Attorney General Eric Holder hasn't been truthful in his claims about when he became aware of this mess, and Issa has made requests for officials from the Justice Department to appear before his committee in the coming weeks.  These requests may be rebuffed, but ultimately Issa has the power to issue subpoenas to force them to appear. It's entirely possible with this Justice Department that Holder might order his people to refuse to appear even under subpoena, but I can't see how that would do anything but make things worse for the Administration.

We heard repeated frequently in the late Weiner affair the post-Watergate axiom that it's not the crime, it's the cover-up that brings scandal-ridden politicians down.  It seems to me that there is a possibility here that the possible criminal aspects of this scandal may be as serious as whatever political consequences may be suffered by any efforts toward a cover-up. The fact that this misbegotten operation has resulted in at least one death at the hands of evil people brings this to a level beyond the usual money/sex/influence peddling scandals we've seen so often.

The big question for the moment is how far up into the Justice Department this will reach.  If it is proved that Eric Holder hasn't been truthful about his role, I think he'll have a hard time holding onto his job.  Anything beyond that will take the Administration into the dark land of politician's nightmares, one in which a President with failing prospects heads into an election with a storm of scandals at his back.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has stated that Obama was completely unaware of what was going on with Operation Fast & Furious. If that statement proves untrue, I think Obama might find he's made a seriously wrong turn down a mean little street called Impeachment Alley. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I'm recuperating from hand surgery so the blog will be inactive for another week or two.  It's a bit much to work up one of these posts doing the one handed hunt-and-peck, so barring Obama doing something silly like precipitating a constitutional crisis (imagine that!), I won't be posting anything here until I can use both hands.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Your Bath Is Drawn, Sire

I'm beginning to think our modern political class should dress like 17th century royalty instead of pretending to be ordinary guys who just happen to have a Brooks Brothers charge account. It would at least be an honest expression of how so many of them regard themselves, and us.

The last few weeks have brought us a bumper crop of news about past and current public officials assuming the royal prerogative:

First, and most spectacularly, we have the French head of the IMF arrested in New York for sexually assaulting a hotel maid, part of which included the Monsieur in the buff chasing the maid down one of the hotel hallways.  This is not the sort of stuff you'll get from your average peasant unless he's had about 12 shots of Jack and some strong weed, and even then only if he thinks there's no way his wife will find out. Some in France have sniffed at the notion that an eminent man such as the head of the IMF should be held to ordinary standards, but I think it will be hard for M. Strauss-Kahn himself to get sniffy if he finds himself living next to a stainless steel toilet.

Out in California, Arnold Schwarzenegger apparently has an easier way with domestic staff.  The revelation that he fathered a child with the family maid has not only broken up his marriage but probably ended his political career, whatever that was worth.  The fact that he felt no need to mention this indiscretion before or during his time as Governor has been little mentioned amid the soap opera aspects of the affair, but it does fit in with my theme here.

Meanwhile, some of our current and former presidential candidates have been keeping their hands in the royalist game well enough.  Newt Gingrich and his wife bought at least $250,000 worth of jewelry from Tiffany's through something called an "interest-free" revolving account, which Gingrich described as a "normal business arrangement." I'm personally familiar with "interest-free" transactions, also known as paying cash, but I don't think I've ever known anyone who had an interest-free credit account, and I've certainly never had one myself.  Stupid me, maybe all I had to do was ask.

The 2008 election's most toothsome candidate, John Edwards, this week came under indictment for what looks like major hanky-panky involving $925,000 of off-the-books campaign contributions used to keep his extra-marital affair (and the resulting child) out of the public eye, even as he was trying to become the leader of the free world.  I never did like the guy, but I didn't imagine he was as loathsome a beast as he's turned out to be.  I just figured he was a stuck-up, two-faced SOB.

Currently, Rep. Anthony Weiner's political career is rapidly decomposing following his "can't say with certitude" statement about whether or not that was his bulging crotch in the photo someone tweeted to a 21-year old female college student.  From what I've seen of him, I regard Weiner as the political equivalent of a cloud of gnats at a picnic, an annoying partisan pest much like the defeated Alan Grayson. Some Democrats have had high hopes for him, but I doubt that he has much of a political future after this, especially if it turns out he's been telling a great big fib.  So the big question in all this is: who does this schmuck think he is, a Kennedy?

Finally, lest we forget, our dear President has recently returned from his trip to Europe, where his super-giant sized prez car ran aground leaving the American Embassy in Ireland, which surely must be a metaphor for something.  Obama had along with him a staff of 500, none of whom were able to keep him from blowing it with the Queen of England yet again.  It appears that feeling like royalty and actually being royalty are two different things--at least, it probably takes more practice than Obama's had to convincingly pull it off.  In any case, Obama came home and rubbed it in our faces on a stop in Toledo, where he wolfed down two chili dogs and a side of fries, the day after the First Lady unveiled the USDA's new vegetable-heavy dietary guide, which replaces the widely despised food pyramid.

Enough already, guys, we give up.  Would you please just take your ermine robes and your golden balls and play somewhere else?  Please?