After interviewing Fortune magazine writer Katherine Eban last week about her six-month investigative piece, “The Truth About the Fast and Furious Scandal,” which demolishes congressional Republicans’ version of what happened in the failed gun-tracing operation, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien turned to House Oversight Committee member Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) for reaction.
“I know you’ve had a chance to read this article ….” O’Brien began.
“I haven’t had a chance to read the article,” Mica interrupted.
“Oh, uh, forgive me …” a visibly shocked O’Brien said.
“I try not to read too much fiction or novels,” Mica replied.
He hasn’t read it?
I came to Washington in 1989 to work for Roll Call. The first big congressional scandal I covered was Newt Gingrich’s takedown of then-House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Texas) over his bogus book, “Reflections of a Public Man,” purchased in bulk by lobbyists seeking his favor. I covered the impeachment of Bill Clinton. And lots more.
So, I feel I have some experience to say that congressional Republicans have moved into new territory with their politicized Fast and Furious investigation.
Come on – lives are at stake! How can a senior House Republican wave the banner of ignorance so smugly about something as serious as how American weapons end up in the hands of deadly Mexican drug cartels?
Republicans invoke slain Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, who was killed in a shootout with Mexican bandits in Arizona in 2010, at which two guns from Fast and Furious were found, as the reason for their investigation, which culminated in an unprecedented contempt of Congress finding against Attorney General Eric Holder.
But if they really cared about Brian Terry, and not just about scoring political points, they’d read the detailed, nuanced Fortune magazine article. It gives voice to the other federal agents involved in the failed gun probe who you won’t hear Republicans championing.
It tells how an authority-hating Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent named John Dodson, acting out of apparent frustration over conflicts with his ATF team leader, “blew the whistle” on Fast and Furious to Congress, while distorting his own role and the significant legal hurdles his team faced in trying to stop the flow of U.S.-purchased weapons to deadly Mexican drug cartels.
If Republicans really want to stop the killing, they would at least consider a central problem discussed in the article: federal laws that make it hugely difficult to trace and interdict guns. Why were obvious straw buyers for cartels, some of whom were homeless or jobless, legally able to plop down thousands of dollars to buy multiple semi-automatic weapons?
To be sure, Democrats have their dangerous blind spots as well. After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, I covered the network of political Islamists in the United States with ties to Hamas, Al-Qaeda, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Muslim Brotherhood. Liberal commentators believed those Islamists were the victims of a McCarthyist attack on their religion.
The difference is that the Justice Department and other national security authorities recognized what that network was really about, and took it seriously, despite the political heat from the left. One of those Islamists the liberals initially defended, Anwar Al-Awlaki, who preached at the notorious Dar al-Hijra mosque in Northern Virginia, where two of the 9/11 suicide attackers worshiped under him briefly, was killed by a controversial targeted drone attack approved by President Obama last year because he was plotting attacks against Americans from Yemen.
When lives are at stake, how can an elected lawmaker not expose himself to all available information needed to make wise policy choices?
The true scandal is that any elected official would boast about his ignorance.