Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Transparency And Accountability

And you want her
And she wants you
And no one, no one,
no one ever is to blame.
—Howard Jones, No One Is To Blame

Can no one in this administration accept responsibility for anything?  Can no one even answer a damn question?

Getting a do-over on his testimony before the Congressional committee investigating Operation Fast & Furious, Attorney General Eric Holder continued with his Teflon “I didn’t know” defense.  Although he admitted that the operation was “unacceptable” and “should never have happened,” Holder declined to apologize for it, and nowhere in his testimony did he even suggest that he as the top man in the Department of Justice should be held accountable for any of it.  Despite acknowledging that his department’s February letter to Congress explaining that every effort was being made to intercept illegal gun trafficking into Mexico was “inaccurate,” nowhere in his testimony did he suggest that he had any responsibility for misleading Congress.  Even though Holder said he “certainly regrets” the fact that at least two of the weapons ATF let go as part of Fast & Furious wound up at the crime scene where Border Agent Brian Terry was murdered, he hasn’t bothered to contact the Terry family, and even went as far in his testimony to complain that it is “not fair” to link Terry’s murder to the flawed gunwalking program.

Holder complained that inquiries into when, exactly, he knew what was going on—he’s now admitted in the face of considerable documentary evidence that his May testimony that he only learned about Fast & Furious “for the first time over the last few weeks” could probably have been modified to say “a couple of months”—are an inappropriate distraction from the real issue of stopping the flow of guns.  Holder complained that it’s really Congress that’s to blame by not providing ATF with more support.  Reliable Leftist Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT) even began setting up the tired old “blame Bush” defense, sending a letter to the Inspector General asking whether the Justice Department probe would also be including similar programs conducted during the Bush administration.

Are there any adults in this administration at all?

We’ve seen a similar pattern of denials and deflections in the continuing saga of Solyndra.  No one in the Obama administration has been willing to stand up and say “that was a mistake, and it’s on me.”  Along with all the stonewalling of Congressional requests for information, there’s been no effort to accept responsibility or to admit that the loan program was being administered by green energy zealots who lacked the qualifications and intellectual detachment necessary to be making those kinds of financial decisions.  Obama has flippantly characterized it as a necessary bet, where we all knew some loans weren’t going to work out.  Hey, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose—you pays your money and you takes your chances.  The problem, of course, is we’re not talking about dropping $1,000 on a 30-1 longshot at the track, or losing $10,000 on a commodity futures contract; we’re talking about a $530 million loss of taxpayer funds.

In one instance we have a dead American law enforcement officer, and thousands of weapons now in the hands of Mexican drug cartels.  In the other instance we have hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars funneled to a soon-to-be-bankrupt firm owned by major Obama contributors without adequate financial review.  In both instances we see the administration going to some lengths to resist Congressional inquiries into what the hell happened.  And in neither case has anyone stepped up to accept responsibility, and basically no one has resigned or been fired.  Oh to be sure, Jonathan Silver, the head of the Energy Department’s loan office—the subagency through which the Solyndra loans were run—resigned in October, but his departure was previously planned to take effect when the loan program itself expired at the end of September.

This is particularly interesting in the Fast & Furious situation.  It is all too obvious that the program—which involved deliberately letting large quantities of guns cross the border into Mexico in the hopes of them creating a trail of bread crumbs that would lead ATF to the major drug cartels—was colossally inappropriate from its inception.  As the documents laying out the details and the level of higher-echelon involvement within the Department of Justice have come to light, even AG Holder has had to admit that the program was a bad, bad idea.

Unacceptable.  Should never have happened.  

But this leaves us with a dilemma:  either Holder is lying and he knew about the program (and thus at least tacitly authorized it), or Holder is telling the truth and he didn’t know.  If he did know, the only decent thing for him to do is to admit it, accept responsibility, and resign.  That obviously hasn’t happened, and there is no sign that it’s about to any time soon.  Obama has steadfastly stood by his AG, which makes you wonder what dirt Holder has on Obama that Obama’s grandmother didn’t. 

If Holder did not know about it, as he continues to insist is the case, surely he will acknowledge that it is something he should have been told about—presumably he would then have stopped it—and wasn’t.  If that is the situation, then what you have are rogue elements (or people in decision-making positions who lack the judgment of your average 8-year-old) within the ATF or elsewhere in the Department of Justice, and they should be fired.  But not only has that not happened, the supervisors responsible for running Fast & Furious—William McMahon, William Newell and David Voth—were actually reassigned (some say “promoted”--I'll leave that to others) in August.  The one exception was U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, who resigned after being questioned by congressional investigators. 

The obvious question is why has there been so little fallout?

If Fast & Furious was as unacceptable as Eric Holder now admits it was, and if he and the President are as clean on it as they insist they are, there is no reason not to have had a massive housecleaning over it.  That’s what being accountable is.  But as Lyndon Johnson once said of J. Edgar Hoover, “It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.”  The only conceivable reason not to have fired everyone in a leadership position associated with Operation Fast & Furious is to keep them—and most importantly, their mouths—under control, lest they point out the skeletons and implicate Holder and the President.

Newly-inaugurated President Barack Obama told his staff on January 21, 2009:  “The way to make government responsible is to hold it accountable.  And the way to make government accountable is to make it transparent so that the American people can know exactly what decisions are being made, how they’re being made, and whether their interests are being well-served.”

Right, Mr. President.

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