Moments before the Obama administration asserted executive privilege in a political battle with a GOP-led committee in Congress, Republicans in the House of Representatives were prepared to take an extraordinary step on Wednesday by voting in a blatantly partisan committee to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.
Rep. Darrell Issa has complained that Holder had failed to produce documents related to the government's "Fast and Furious" program, which provided weapons along the border in an effort to track and stop the flow of illegal firearms crossing into the United States.
The failed gun-tracking plan, originally conceived in the Bush Administration as "Operation Wide Receiver," was terminated by Attorney General Holder, and the Justice Department has since turned over at least 7,600 documents to Issa's committee. But that hasn't stopped the GOP from charging forward against Holder.
Issa even interrupted the attorney general and lectured him that he was "not a good witness" when he met with Issa's committee. MSNBC's Chris Matthews compared Issa's committee's treatment of Holder to the "stop-and-frisk" policy often deployed against young Black men on the street by police officers.
Compare this to the way House Republicans fawned over JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon when he testified recently to explain how his bank lost more than $2 billion and defended his opposition to financial regulation.
Granted, Republicans have spent the past 30 years bending over backwards to cater to the interests of big business and demonizing government, but the Holder case is not about government accountability. It's about embarrassing and delegitimizing President Obama and his government.
When Congress wanted to investigate the activities of Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in 2007, Rep. Issa complained that it was a "political witch hunt." And the same congressman who now says he wants to get to the bottom of the gun-tracking program has made no effort to subpoena and question Justice Department officials from the Bush administration who started the gun operation years ago.
"When a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms told Issa's committee that tougher U.S. gun laws could help stop cross-border gun trafficking, Issa interrupted the agent and told him his comments "would not be considered valid testimony" in the hearing. We're not here to talk about proposed gun legislation," Issa said, lest he offend the GOP's benefactors at the National Rifle Association.
What's really going on here has little to do with how to stop illegal gun trafficking and a lot more to do with how to stop Barack Obama. Some Republicans just don't see Barack Obama as a legitimate president, and they will do almost anything to undermine him. To stop Obama, they have already shown their willingness to challenge his legitimacy, interrupt him when he speaks to Congress, heckle him during a speech, devote their time in office to defeat him, or even root for the economy to fail.
So Republicans will go ahead and tarnish the reputation of the nation's first Black attorney general, undermine the authority of the first Black president, and pass all kinds of unnecessary new voter ID laws to stop millions of Black and Latino voters from showing up at the polls in November. They will undermine confidence in our government just to gain power or hold onto it.
And they have the nerve to complain that Democrats are acting politically.
Keith Boykin is a New York Times best-selling author and former White House aide to President Clinton. He attended Harvard Law School with President Obama and currently serves as a TV political commentator. He will also be providing political commentary for BET.com each week.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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