Operation Fast and Furious, the failed and much lamented gun-tracking effort that has sparked months of acrimony between the Department of Justice and congressional Republicans, is becoming a hotter issue in the presidential campaign.
The Conservative Caucus ran an ad on Wednesday in The Washington Times offering a $100,000 reward to any whistleblower who comes forward with “verifiable evidence” that President Barack Obama or any of his White House aides knew in advance or approved of Fast and Furious, the investigation run by the DOJ’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that went badly awry.
And the campaign of Mitt Romney, besieged by bipartisan questions about the candidate’s refusal to release more tax returns and his general lack of transparency, sought to divert attention to Obama by arguing it is the president who lacks transparency, with the case in point being Fast and Furious.
The presumptive Republican nominee’s campaign issued a statement on Tuesday accusing Obama of presiding over an administration of “transparent hypocrisy,” as exemplified in part by “concealing the records” pertaining to Fast and Furious. Obama’s invocation of executive privilege is naked hypocrisy, since he spoke against it during the 2008 campaign, the Romney forces asserted.
“President Obama has resorted to running a campaign of distraction, distortion and dishonesty,” Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. The Romney campaign has been trying for weeks to make Fast and Furious a front-burner issue. Last month, Saul called Obama’s invocation of executive privilege “just another broken promise.”
The Conservative Caucus ad, meanwhile, goes so far as to compare Fast and Furious to the Watergate scandals, urging anyone who might get caught up in it to come forward now, as White House counsel John Dean did four decades ago, when his testimony before Congressional investigators helped to send President Richard M. Nixon into exile.
The ad asks if Fast and Furious was “simply a bungled attempt to capture Mexican drug lords” by tracing guns to them through straw-buyers, or was it “an ‘under the radar’ political scheme hatched at the White House as now appears possible?”
The ad goes on to muse: “Was the real intent to create mayhem and havoc along the U.S. Mexican border so that the Obama administration could justify restricting Americans’ access to firearms?”
Fast and Furious became a huge embarrassment after two weapons involved in the gun-tracking endeavor were found at the scene of a shootout in which Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in December 2010. In the months since, Republicans on Capitol Hill have assailed the administration over and over, with Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the ranking GOP member of the Judiciary Committee, declaring that he does not believe Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, the head of the Criminal Division, who has said he did not know of the botched operation. Grassley has called on Breuer to step down.
Another Republican senator, John E. Cornyn of Texas, recently joined calls from lawmakers for Attorney General Eric Holder to resign because he has “violated the public trust,” as we reported in June. Late last month, the Republican-controlled House voted to find Holder in contempt for refusing to release documents related to the operation, documents over which Obama has asserted executive privilege.
Holder has accused Republicans of cynical “political gamesmanship.” But the vote, while symbolic, was nevertheless historic, marking the first time a sitting attorney general was cited for contempt.
The campaign of Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, issued a statement on Tuesday accusing Obama of presiding over an administration of “transparent hypocrisy,” as exemplified in part by “concealing the records” pertaining to Fast and Furious. Obama’s invocation of executive privilege is naked hypocrisy, since he spoke against it during the 2008 campaign, the Romney forces asserted.