View 729 Wednesday, June 20, 2012
A House Committee has voted that the Attorney General is in contempt of Congress. The vote was along party lines, which is a pity, because the contempt is obvious and definitely indicated. This should not be a Party Lines affair. The Congress is the Grand Inquest of the Nation, and constitutionally is empowered to see that the President does indeed take care to see that the laws are faithfully enforced. There is no compelling reason for withholding the documents demanded by Congress in this matter.
To make it more interesting the President has bought into the ownership of Fast and Furious: he did so by invoking Executive Privilege in this matter, thus taking responsibility for the Attorney General’s refusal to hand over the papers. This make this contempt by the President, and a genuine Constitutional Crisis unprecedented since the Watergate breaking and Congressional subpoena of the Watergate Tapes.
That last affair ended with the resignation of a President and an unconditional pardon by his successor.
Nixon could have personally burned the Watergate Tapes, thus making it impossible for Congress to demand them. He chose not to do that, which would have precipitated an even more severe constitutional crisis.
This will be played for political points. It ought not be. The Constitution was clearly intended to allow Congress full powers of investigation, and that power is critical for constitutional government. Yes, the public has little confidence in the Congress, largely because everyone now expects grave matters like this to be voted along party lines; but is it still Congress that must decide whether public officials are covering things up.
The President is claiming Executive Privilege only for documents that came into existence after the Fast and Furious became public, and which pertain to discussions between the President and the Attorney General. This is very curious, and worth debate : is there some kind of attorney client privilege here? It’s worth debating.
But in that case, the Attorney General is still in contempt of Congress because Congress has demanded a lot more than just transcripts of personal conversations between the President and the Attorney General. To this moment no one knows who authorized Fast and Furious. Unless a Special Prosecutor is appointed we will never know – and probably not then. And it is a matter of importance, far more than the matter of who leaked Valerie Plaime’s connection to the CIA.
This affair will not end well for the Republic. The House has little choice but to declare the Attorney General to be in contempt. It then has the power to send the Sergeant at Arms to arrest the Attorney General and convey him to the warden of the District of Columbia jail to be held until purged of contempt, and proper return to any writ of habeas corpus would be just that: held by order of the House of Representatives. Of course this is not likely to happen. It has been very rare, although that kind of activity wasn’t entirely unknown during Civil War and Reconstruction days. But Constitutional crises do not usually end well. The Hayes-Tilden compromise, which ended Reconstruction and made a deal with General Nathan Bedford Forest to disband the (original) Ku Klux Klan comes to mind.
The investigations won’t end, the partisan spins will continue, and the question becomes – why? Just what is so mysterious here? Who really did think up Fast and Furious, and what was its real purpose? Conspiracy theories abound. Was the notion to send more guns to the drug lords in the hopes they would kill each other off? No one would want to admit that. It’s also hard to believe anyone would actually do such a thing. But it is one possible explanation: only why would the Attorney General act in contempt of Congress to protect someone who wanted to do that? Surely that was not its purpose.
So just why was Fast and Furious implemented? Who really wanted hundreds of assault rifles and other such weapons to be sold and allowed to be taken across an international border? In theory the weapons and ammunition were to be tracked, but the tracking wasn’t competently done. Why? The technology for doing it exists and isn’t that difficult. Was this failure simple incompetence or something more sinister? It is the right of the Congress to find this out; in whose interest is it to keep secret the origin and true purpose of Fast and Furious? Why does the Attorney General protect this operation?
Several thousand weapons and a lot of ammunition went to Mexico. Apparently we don’t know how many, or to whom they went, although we know that many ended up in the hands of the drug lords. And the Attorney General of the United States is unwilling to give Congress the documents authorizing this action, and claims he does not know who authorized the action in the first place. The President is standing by his man. And no one knows why.
Curiouser and curiouser. And it is far from over.
The President’s ‘reset’ in relations with Russia does not seem to have gone well, if we can judge by the frost at the G 20 meetings in Cabo. Of course the US is far less relevant in these matters, and is getting less so as time goes on.
Our long dying TV has deaded itself, and of course we’re about to go off for the weekend tomorrow. If you have enough problems some of them will cancel out: in this case we have long needed to replace the bedroom TV, a 19” flat screen that certainly predates 911 and is probably about a decade older than that. It sort of still works but just barely, and the remote doesn’t work at all and – well, we don’t watch much TV in the bedroom since getting the HDMI set for the back room.
So I will have to replace the back room 40”, and the 19” Westinghouse flat screen in the bedroom, but I am not confident in my ability to carry the 40” out, much less bring in something that large or perhaps a bit larger (but not much larger, 42” or so at most. I managed to bring in the current 39” from the front door, but I don’t think I could do that now – it would be a bit risky anyway. And of course we are going off for the weekend tomorrow.
What I can do is go out to Best Buy and get a 24” TV, possibly a tunable monitor which might be used to replace the Last Bottle up here in the Great Hall, possibly to replace the bedroom TV. Either way it would be useful, it can be installed tonight (just put it in front of the big TV), and await its permanent replacement next week.
One amusement: my bedroom TV has only a coax input and the cable box has only a coax output. Obviously it is pre hi-def, and I suspect I have been paying for hi def. Possibly not, But anyway I can get Time Warner to replace it with something a bit more up to date, and take away the old box and another I’ve been paying for but haven’t used in many years, and yes, I know, that’s a waste of money. I can only plead that changing the subject is difficult with me, and when something is out of mind it stays out of mind until something causes me to think of it. Apparently multi tasking is one of those abilities along with balance that 50,000 rad tends to burn out.
© 2012, jerrypournelle. All rights reserved.