Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the House Oversight Committee again today. As with his previous appearances, we were treated to a litany of evasions and excuses. Long story short: he doesn't know what's going on in his department, and he claims to have had no knowledge of any gunwalking operations prior to the death of Brian Terry.
It's been over a year since he promised an internal investigation, and he has yet to provide any explanation or any proof of action. Representative Labrador pointed out that Holder continues to show up for Congressional hearings unprepared, and that he seems oblivious to happenings at Justice. Representative Farenthold took it a step further, asking Holder, "knowing what you know, do you think you're qualified to lead the Department of Justice?"
Holder's response? "If you're going to ask me to resign (…) you've asked the wrong question."
I don't think we are.
As much as he's using Operation Wide Receiver (ie. "Bush did it, too!") for traction in his backpedaling, Holder told Representative Ross that he was unaware of Wide Receiver until he started preparing documents for these hearings. He claimed to be completely unaware to any practice involving gunwalking (despite at least three prior operations) until February of 2011. Apparently, this guy can't be bothered to read all the memos and action item lists he gets.
There was a great deal of discussion as to whether further restrictions, or perhaps a federal gun trafficking statute, might have helped in this matter. As I pointed out yesterday, that's a stretch when the situation we're considering was created by the very people charged with enforcing our firearms laws.
In fact, there is a statute. It's the Gun Control Act of 1968, which stipulates a prison sentence of 10 years for conducting a straw purchase. Why isn't that working? Because it's not being enforced. During Paul Gosar's questioning, Holder likened the penalties for straw purchasing to a "traffic ticket." Several of the straw buyers in this investigation have been prosecuted, but received only probation.
And whose fault is that? The very department that Holder oversees.
In speaking to Representative Connelly, he claimed that the Assault Weapons Ban had a "positive" effect on trans-border violence, and suggested it be reinstated. He seems to have read Cummings' report, and he voiced agreement with the minority committee members, who suggested that this situation was a call for more gun control.
But this isn't political. Europa has always been at war with Oceania.
However, the Republicans didn't do a very good job of refuting that image either. Representative Labrador went off on a surreal and protracted tangent about the Marc Rich investigation to prove his point about Holder's disorganization, and there were petty arguments about rules and procedures in which Issa came off as a bit too authoritarian. That's the problem here: as long as this issue remains split along party lines, it can be cast as a partisan catfight to the public.
It's been 13 months, and nobody's been charged. Arizona US Attorney Dennis Burke was allowed to resign rather than face punishment, and despite taking the 5th to avoid self-incrimination, the chief of the Arizona criminal division has been allowed to dodge the bullet by resigning as well. Other parties have been transferred to different offices, but remain in government employ.
This should be commanding the same mindshare Watergate did, but it's barely registering with the public consciousness.