Slow and infuriating: Obama looks bad in partisan feud over Holder

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If not for hypocrisy, bad faith and opportunism, politics would wither away. The latest case of suspect outrage in Washington pits the Obama White House against hostile interlocutors in Congress over documents regarding a disastrous Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives program called Fast and Furious.

For two years, Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has conducted hearings about the botched undercover program that was designed to track the movement of guns sold to Mexican drug cartels.

Instead of building airtight cases against cartel leaders, the ATF lost track of 2,000 high-powered guns in 2009 that are believed to have been dispersed throughout the Mexican underworld. Two of the guns were found near the scene of a shootout that resulted in the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

While outrage in Congress was understandable given how poorly run the operation was, it had more than a whiff of partisan hackery about it. Rep. Issa pursued Attorney General Eric H. Holder for documents as relentlessly as Inspector Javert pursued Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables."

For reasons that encourage skepticism about the Obama administration's intentions, the Justice Department has not cooperated by providing all of the requested documents. It has not been transparent or forthcoming despite Mr. Holder's insistence to the contrary. Meanwhile, conspiracy theories abound. President Obama, who opposed President George W. Bush's liberal use of executive privilege, is in a jam.

This week, Mr. Obama claimed executive privilege as a rationale for withholding the documents from congressional oversight. Rep. Issa referred a contempt citation against Mr. Holder to the full House, which will vote on it soon.

Even if the investigation is deeply partisan, that doesn't mean executive privilege is warranted except in the rarest of cases. Mr. Obama has lost the high ground.


First Published June 23, 2012 12:00 AM


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