Investigation Is Not A Witch Hunt But a Call for More Answers
There is no need for a resignation, but Obama should not try to cover up an investigation
October 14, 2011
While it's not a time for resignations, it's also not a time for cover-ups. What's needed are more answers. The 22-item subpoena issued on Wednesday by the House Oversight Committee is designed to get some.
Although Republican Rep. Darrell Issa's long-public stance in favor of aggressive congressional oversight raises Democratic hackles and fuels the media's skepticism about the motives of those pushing for the investigation, this Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) gun trafficking operation, which at minimum may bear some responsibility for the murder of a border patrol agent, begs for public inquiry.
If for no other reason than to exonerate the Justice Department and lift the cloud of scandal from the president because it's true: Attorney General Eric Holder "own[s] Fast and Furious." It's also true that Obama has long trusted Holder and should wrongdoing be discovered on his watch, the president would catch much of the fall-out.
President Obama should want to cooperate. Clear his cabinet's reputation. Diffuse any scandal. But like former President George W. Bush during the CIA-leak scandal involving Valerie Plame, which first broke in the summer of 2003, it's doubtful that either he or his administration will give anything more than lip service to the investigators.
Why? Bad timing.
While nearly all presidents attempt to stymie investigations that probe their executive branch appointees and programs because they tend to cynically perceive all oversight as an illegitimate overreach of either congressional or judicial powers, reelection campaigns up the incentives for presidents to stonewall.
Not only do they fear the revelations, but they fear the questions. They know that questions lead to more media and more media lead to more questions. They also believe the outcome will be bad no matter what the result because the media coverage will taint the "jury pool" (American voters) by giving life to baseless speculations and premature judgments. They want to give their opponents as little as possible to "hit them with" during the campaign.
The problem is this: When bureaucratic governing mistakes are covered up by partisans to save political face, conspiracy theories proliferate and public confidence declines. And while scandals only rarely bring down presidencies, the politics of mistrust they set in motion often do.
Although it's unlikely, Obama should view this investigation as an administrative inconvenience, and not a witch-hunt. If he doesn't, he should brace himself for a crisis of confidence.