After having spent decades of my life in politics, I’ve come up with a few rules of thumb. One of them is this: Any time the attorney general of the United States needs to explain to a member of Congress the difference between lying to Congress versus misleading Congress, it’s not a good thing. When your argument is essentially, “We misled you but we didn’t lie to you” – if that’s your best interpretation of events — you’re in a bad place.
Eric Holder is in a bad place. He testified before Congress today on the so-called Fast and Furious scandal, and when asked by Representative James Sensenbrenner, “Tell me what’s the difference between lying and misleading Congress, in this context?” Holder replied, “Well, if you want to have this legal conversation, it all has to do with your state of mind and whether or not you had the requisite intent to come up with something that would be considered perjury or a lie.” (The issue under discussion was the Justice Department having to withdraw a misleading letter sent to Congress by Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.)
The weakest link in the Obama administration chain is Eric Holder. His department is badly mismanaged. The attorney general has botched efforts to
prosecute CIA agents for their role in Enhanced Interrogation Techniques and demanding a civilian trial for Khalid Sheik Mohammed. GITMO remains open. And the Fast and Furious scandal, which has already cost lives, is far from over. Eric Holder has accumulated enough failures and scandals to justify three
The danger for President Obama is that the Fast and Furious program becomes a double symbol for the administration – both in terms of incompetence and in terms of ethics. A border agent died because of the ineptness of the Department of Justice. Holder admitted today that weapons lost during the course of the failed Fast and Furious gunrunning operation will continue to show up at crime scenes in the U.S. and Mexico “for years to come.” He’s saying he accepts responsibility without in fact wanting to be held accountable.
The attorney general should resign now — but if not now, he will later, before the 2012 election. This is not a man Obama wants to be forced to defend.