First, a quiz: I came across two articles about this in quick succession, but, based on the headlines, the two pieces might have been about two different — and nearly contradictory — events. Just for fun, match the news outlet with the headline! I’ll give you just once guess.
Headline #1: “Issa Backs Off GOP’s Call for Holder to Resign Over Gun Sales”
Headline #2: “Issa: Holder should reform law-enforcement agencies or quit”
News Outlet A: The Daily Caller
News Outlet B: ABC’s The Note
After I read both articles, I decided to write my headline more along the lines of The Daily Caller’s because, well, it’s closer to what Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee and one of the chief investigators of Fast and Furious, actually said at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor.
Issa hasn’t called for Holder’s resignation with the same unambiguity as some of his colleagues on the Oversight Committee. (Rep. Paul Gosar’s call still sets the standard for spelling out the most extreme possible consequences of Holder’s connection to Fast and Furious). Indeed, Issa hasn’t explicitly, officially demanded Holder’s resignation at all. Nevertheless, Issa didn’t exactly make it sound as though he thinks his colleagues shouldn’t demand it. Instead, it sounds as though the Chairman still seeks to know whether Holder is capable of doing his job — and retains doubts that he might not be fit for the position he holds. From The Daily Caller:
“I’m asking the President to stop having full confidence in Eric Holder unless Eric Holder can start having full confidence in an array of [administration] people who are part a problem that has not yet really been fixed,” Issa said at a press breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Holder should “stay there and fix it, or go,” he said.
However, “that’s not for me to decide. That’s for the president to decide,” he added. …
“Eric Holder did not order this, as far as we know or even suspect,” Issa said. “He didn’t order this operation, he didn’t demand [officials] somehow do something this stupid,” he said.
What matters now, Issa said, is “are we going to fix this so the system protects against this again?”
Reporters, he said, should press Holder to describe his proposed reforms, asking, “’What have you done to prevent this happening ever again? … what are you doing, if you will, to put this behind you, if appropriate, with the termination of people, whether they are career people or political appointees?’”
Meantime, 52 House legislators, two senators and two presidential candidates have called for Holder’s ouster.
Issa’s quotes point to an important truth, though: The problems at Justice are pervasive (just ask J. Christian Adams). Holder’s resignation might be a symbolic victory, but it wouldn’t necessarily ensure a program so magnificently stupid as OF&F never happens again. As Chairman of House Oversight, Issa is right to keep the focus on reform — and to repeat at every turn that the larger scandal of OF&F is not Holder’s ignorance or incompetence, but that the operation resulted in the deaths of at least 200 Mexicans, as well as Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. The level of Holder’s knowledge and involvement might plausibly be low enough to warrant his stay at Justice — but not to warrant anything less than his wholesale assumption of responsibility for not leading the Department well enough to prevent the program in the first place, coupled with a demonstrated commitment to at the very least read his memos in future. But, heck, I’m not the Chairman of House Oversight and I have no need to be so guarded about my opinion on this: Like the many Republicans on record calling for his resignation, I say Holder should just go.