Video: The card of last resort
posted at 8:05 pm on December 20, 2011 by Ed Morrissey
Yesterday, the Attorney General of the United States offered an interesting defense against criticism of Operation Fast and Furious and the hundreds of deaths committed by weapons that the ATF allowed to “walk” across the border. Speaking to the New York Times, Holder posited that the only reason critics have of pressing the matter is either an ideological grudge, or latent bigotry:
But Mr. Holder contended that many of his other critics — not only elected Republicans but also a broader universe of conservative commentators and bloggers — were instead playing “Washington gotcha” games, portraying them as frequently “conflating things, conveniently leaving some stuff out, construing things to make it seem not quite what it was” to paint him and other department figures in the worst possible light.
Of that group of critics, Mr. Holder said he believed that a few — the “more extreme segment” — were motivated by animus against Mr. Obama and that he served as a stand-in for him. “This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him,” he said, “both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.”
Mr. Holder, however, attributed most of the hostility to underlying ideological differences. “I think that people, despite my law enforcement background, view me as taking these consistently progressive stands, and I think that, philosophically, there is a desire to get at that person,” he said. “But I think the stands I have taken are totally consistent with a person who is looking at things realistically, factually.”
Does this sound like a man who takes his job — which is to manage federal law-enforcement efforts and keep agencies like the ATF accountable for their actions — seriously? In my column for The Week, which editors headlined “It’s time for Eric Holder to resign,” I argue that Holder’s desperate ploy to smear critics of the ATF and DoJ amounts to a disqualification for office:
To recap, we have an agency under Holder’s supervision that ran perhaps thousands of guns across the border without any attempt to keep track of them, to supposedly find straw buyers and their connection to the cartels. The ATF then tried to use the purchases they facilitated as evidence that the ATF needed more restrictive laws to impose on gun dealers. These weapons were used in hundreds of murders. When Congress challenged Holder on the operation, his staff at the Department of Justice offered a false statement that the ATF always attempted to interdict weapons before crossing the border, which they had to withdraw when documents began appearing that clearly contradicted it. Even to this day, Holder has told Congress that he has communications regarding Fast and Furious that he will not release to investigators in the House who have demanded them.
If all Holder has in defense of his performance and that of his Department of Justice is playing the race card in an attempt to bully his critics into silence, then he truly has no defense at all. With the families of 300 murder victims mourning deaths delivered by the ATF’s weaponry, dismissing criticism of Holder’s performance as attorney general as bigotry is not just despicable, it should be a disqualification for the office he holds.
Actually, I disagree with the headline a bit. It’s actually long past time that Holder tender his resignation, and it’s frankly puzzling that he’s remained AG for as long as he has. The very best argument that one can factually construct for Holder in light of Fast & Furious is that he and his team are incompetent, which hardly recommends his continued presence at the Department of Justice.
I discussed this with Uma Pemmeraju at FoxNews.com this morning:
Matthew Boyle at the Daily Caller interviewed Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), who thinks that the sound of silence from the White House means that Barack Obama sanctioned this smear ploy by Holder:
Walsh agrees with Florida Republican Rep. Allen West’s assessment of Holder’s behavior, saying Holder’s race card is the “last card in the deck.”
“This is sort of the last refuge that people on the left will go to when they’re in trouble,” Walsh said in a phone interview. “They’ll accuse their opponents of racism. My God, we’ve got tons of problems in this country and … this president, is through Eric Holder, saying, ‘Nope, you can’t criticize me. If you criticize me, we’re going to accuse you of racism.’ Shame on them, that’s terrible.”
Walsh said Obama’s continued silence in the face of Holder’s inflammatory rhetoric demonstrates that the president shares in the blame for the attorney general’s choice of words.
“His [Obama’s] silence, to me, tells me the president is complicit in this,” Walsh said. “And, even if he does come out and say something, I can’t believe Eric Holder can even make a statement like that. In his statement he refers to himself and the president. I can’t believe that Eric Holder made that statement without either understanding that the president agreed with it, or [that] he had the president’s permission to say this.”
Yes, it certainly seems that way.