Last week, Eric Holder tried to argue that the effort by the House to hold him in civil and criminal contempt of Congress for his refusal to comply with subpoenas for documents related to Operation Fast and Furious was nothing more than a proxy attack on Barack Obama:
“I’ve become a symbol of what they don’t like about the positions this Justice Department has taken,” he said. “I am also a proxy for the president in an election year. You have to be exceedingly naive to think that vote was about . . . documents.”
Well, according to a new poll by CNN of general-population adults, a majority of Americans is … exceedingly naive. They apparently still believe that government officials have to comply with subpoenas just like the rest of the hoi polloi:
Most Americans approve of the decision by the House of Representatives to censure Attorney General Eric Holder, but a new national poll also indicates that a majority of the public thinks that House Republicans are investigating Holder to gain political advantage.
According to a CNN/ORC International survey released Monday morning, 53% of people questioned say they approve of the House vote a week and a half ago to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents related to a controversial program called Operation Fast and Furious, with one in three saying they disapprove of the move and 13% unsure.
More than two-thirds want more answers on the ATF operation that cost the lives of two American law-enforcement officers and hundreds of Mexicans as well:
Nearly seven in 10 say the Obama administration should answer all questions, with 27% agreeing with the move to invoke executive privilege.
The numbers are about the same for Holder and Obama among registered voters. The gap on approval for the contempt citation rises slightly to 54/32 among RVs, while slightly less want Obama to stop hiding behind executive privilege, 32/68 rather than 27/69 in the general population. Independents hit right on the overall split for the Holder contempt citation, 54/33, and a bit stronger on opposition to executive privilege, 25/72. Non-white voters are less convinced but still break toward support for the contempt citation (45/40) and, more clearly, opposition to the assertion of executive privilege in this case (36/59).
Obama also has big problems in two of his core constituencies. Younger voters oppose executive privilege just as strongly as independents, 23/72, and back the contempt citation 58/27, even more strongly than the other two age demos. Low-income voters also support the contempt citation (51/34) and oppose executive privilege (23/72) by wide margins. That’s a danger sign for Obama as he tries to convince the 18-34 crowd that he still represents hope and change. Asserting executive privilege to keep documents from Congressional investigators clearly isn’t going to impress them on that score.
Generally speaking, Americans expect government officials to obey the same laws to which we all are subject. Trying to sell that as “naïveté” has flopped.