The highlight of the exchanges today between members of the House Oversight Committee and Attorney General Eric Holder came when Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY) was given her time to question the AG. Her questions are important because she speaks for a district in New York, far removed from the border mayhem and violence connected to Fast and Furious. The fact her constituents are outraged goes a long way in describing how widespread the angst and disgust over Fast and Furious really is.
After opening her time by pointing out that Holder had frequently responded to charges in a dismissive way, by saying they were all part of a political game, or an election year charade, Buerkle said:
I think it’s important to recognize that you, as the Attorney General, with all due respect, need to be held accountable, or someone does, as to what happened. Of all the issues that face this country, this is the issue that I hear from my district so frequently about. In fact, today I have no fewer than 30 questions from folks in my district who want to know what happened, why it happened, and who’s going to be held accountable.
She then stated that she’d been “taken aback” by Holder’s haughty declarations to others on the committee, wherein he said “I am the Attorney General,” as if that meant he were above reproach. Said Buerkle: “With all due respect, yes you are [the Attorney General], but you are also accountable not only to the folks in my district, but to the American people.
Buerkle then played a video clip from a June 2011 hearing wherein the spokesman for Brian Terry’s family asked if the dragnet in the investigation of Fast and Furious would be set deep enough and wide enough to catch everyone involved, and would those involved face charges? After the clip had played, Buerkle looked at Holder and asked how far the investigation has come since June of last year, and whether “everyone in that operation who had to deal with [the weapons used in Terry’s death] will be brought up on charges for facilitating the murder of Brian Terry?”
Holder rambled and stuttered like Obama without a teleprompter:
We’re certainly working now to, it’s an ongoing investigation, this is a very sensitive time, I’m not sure I can talk an awful lot about where the investigation is. I’ve indicated that I think we’re pretty close to making some announcements.
…And with regard to people who were involved in Operation Fast and Furious, we are endeavoring to find out who made the determination to allow guns to walk. I am not at liberty to talk about weapons that were used during the actual incident.
(Call me crazy, but Holder’s answer seemed like little more than a long, circuitous way of saying “Nope, the investigation hasn’t come that far since last June.”)
Anyway, Holder finally quit trying to answer and instead started to clarify what he’d meant when he’d earlier declared “I am the Attorney General.” Said Holder: “I did not mean to imply that I should not be held accountable. But I also believe there’s a certain fairness component in this thing as well. …I am more than willing to admit mistakes when I have made them. …We need to put aside the political gotcha games.” At this point, Buerkle interrupted Holder and said, “Excuse me sir, my time is ticking away, and I have one more question.”
Buerkle then asked the best question of the morning:
I was one of the members [of this committee] who called for your resignation. I feel that [as head of the] DOJ, that you’re responsible for all activities that fall under your umbrella. You’ve denied knowledge of the program and that accordingly you should not be held accountable. My question to you here today is what more could have possibly gone wrong? …How many more Border Patrol agents would have had to die for you to take responsibility?
Holder reacted by painting the question as ridiculous, and added: “I mean, really, as a member of Congress, is that the way you want to be seen, or the way you want to be known?” (i.e., do you want to be known as the one who asked such an asinine question?)
The problem for Mr. Holder is that the American people don’t believe the question was out of line in any way. Moreover, the American people also took note of another important fact: Holder never answered the question.