Human Events Blog

Obama lies about the origins of Fast and Furious

Jake Tapper of ABC News reports on another whopper from Barack Obama at that increasingly landmark Univision forum on Thursday, in which Obama “falsely claimed that [Operation Fast and Furious] began under President George W. Bush.”

“I think it’s important for us to understand that the Fast and Furious program was a field-initiated program begun under the previous administration,” said President Obama, after the Univision hosts asked him why Attorney General Eric Holder hasn’t been sacked for his role in the scandal.  “When Eric Holder found out about it, he discontinued it.  We assigned an inspector general to do a thorough report that was just issued, confirming that in fact Eric Holder did not know about this, that he took prompt action and the people who did initiate this were held accountable.”

As Tapper points out, this is a blatant lie.  Operation Fast and Furious began in October 2009, nine months after Obama took office.  And while the Inspector General’s recently released report does include a suspiciously high volume of testimony from subordinates protecting Holder’s deniability by insisting they never told him what was going on, it’s profoundly disingenuous (to say the least) for Obama to suggest that Holder “found out about” the operation and then personally swooped in to “discontinue” it.  Operation Fast and Furious ended in a panicked frenzy after the death of U.S. Border Patrol Brian Terry, not due to any bold leadership from Eric Holder.

What Obama is doing here is echoing a false narrative constructed by his media sycophants, in which Operation Fast and Furious is deliberately confused with Operation Wide Receiver, an entirely separate program that implemented similar tactics in a profoundly different way.  Among the signature differences, the Bush-era Wide Receiver program included radio trackers in some of the guns that were “walked” across the Mexican border, while Fast and Furious made no serious effort to follow the weapons.  Wide Receiver was far smaller, and it was conducted with the knowledge and cooperation of the Mexican government.

But perhaps most significantly, Operation Wide Receiver ended in 2007.  And the one thing that pretty much everyone, across the partisan spectrum, can agree upon is that it was a failure.  The efforts to track those walked guns didn’t work.  The radio transmitters were actually introduced later in the program, after other, less direct tracking methods had proven inadequate.  The RFID devices didn’t work either.

It’s astounding that anyone at ATF, or in the larger Justice Department management structure, thought it would be a good idea to try again, with even less precise and careful methods.  There are plenty of criticisms to be leveled at every aspect of Wide Receiver, but every one of those questions only makes Fast and Furious look worse, rather than excusing it somehow.

President Obama could have told his Univision hosts that a similar program existed previously, or that Fast and Furious employed tactics that had already been “field-initiated under the previous Administration,” but that’s not what he said.  Obviously, if he had spoken truthfully, the follow-up questions would have destroyed him… so he lied.

And the question asked of him by the interviewers really gets to the heart of the matter: we’ve only been tumbling down the Fast and Furious rabbit hole for the past year and a half because Eric Holder is still there.  In times past – but not all that long ago – Holder would have been expected to take responsibility for the disaster and resign.  There wouldn’t even have been much serious discussion about it.  And it probably wouldn’t have been the end of Holder’s career.  He might never have been Attorney General again, but he would have earned respect for stepping forward, instead of hiding behind subordinates and claiming he doesn’t really know what the agencies under his purview are doing.

The death of Agent Terry would have called for a top-level head to roll, and Holder’s resignation would have contained the political fallout.  An investigation of the Fast and Furious debacle would certainly have gone forward, but we wouldn’t be talking about an essentially parallel investigation of the massive cover-up.  Holder’s replacement would have been given a certain presumption of credibility for dealing with the situation, and would have sustained it by firing more department heads.  And everyone in the Justice Department would have learned a valuable lesson about the perils of launching crazy “field-initiated” schemes.

Instead, the need to protect Holder and his top deputies, and firewall the White House from the scandal, have led to this bizarre and painful situation, in which a compliant media strenuously ignores a huge and deadly scandal… except for a few interviewers from a single network, existing just far enough outside the media bubble to ask Obama the question that should have been ringing in his ears since Agent Terry’s murder.  And Obama could not answer that question truthfully.

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