It looks like the House Republican push to get the media to pay attention to Operation Fast and Furious through a request for a special prosecutor has paid dividends. CNN’s Anderson Cooper devoted an entire segment to the scandal, interviewing House Oversight chair Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), and giving a tough but balanced overview of the issue. This might be the best exposure to F&F that CNN viewers have yet seen, and Cooper sounds pretty skeptical that Holder responded honestly to Congress’ rather easy question:

Cooper also brings up a Bush-era effort called Operation Wide Receiver as an argument that the probe on F&F might be more political than substantial. Issa tells Cooper that the Obama administration is also withholding documents relating to Wide Receiver, but that he would be interested in probing that operation as well. The Associated Press reported on it yesterday:

The federal government under the Bush administration ran an operation that allowed hundreds of guns to be transferred to suspected arms traffickers — the same tactic that congressional Republicans have criticized President Barack Obama’s administration for using, two federal law enforcement officials said Tuesday.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and other Republicans have been hammering the Obama Justice Department over the practice known as “letting guns walk.” The congressional target has been Operation Fast and Furious, which was designed to track small-time gun buyers at several Phoenix-area gun shops up the chain to make cases against major weapons traffickers. In the process, federal agents lost track of many of the more than 2,000 guns linked to the operation.

When Bush, a Republican, was president, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Tucson, Ariz., used a similar enforcement tactic in a program it called Operation Wide Receiver. The fact that there were two such ATF investigations years apart in separate administrations raises the possibility that agents in still other cases may have allowed guns to “walk.”

The AP’s report is very ambiguous on one point, though, and it’s a critical potential difference. Wide Receiver apparently allowed a small number of weapons to get into the hands of gun traffickers — but did any of those cross the border? If so, did the Bush administration coordinate that effort with the Mexican government? The issue here isn’t the idea of a sting operation, but the fact that the Department of Justice knowingly allowed weapons to flow over the border and get into the hands of drug cartels. The AP carefully dances around that issue when reporting that OWR was similar, an argument which is nonsense if the Bush administration kept the guns on this side of the southern border or coordinated the operation with Mexican officials to keep the weapons out of the hands of the gangs.

Kudos to CNN for delving into this scandal. Maybe Tracy Schmaler and Eric Schultz need to start screaming and yelling at Anderson Cooper.