Is Eric Holder contempt vote over Fast and Furious about race?
Eric Holder on Thursday became the first US attorney general to be held in contempt of Congress. The story of how race became entwined in the debate over the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal is a parable of the Obama presidency.
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The debate in the House over holding Holder in contempt has broken down mostly along partisan lines, although 17 Democrats voted for the contempt order after the National Rifle Association warned that it would be grading lawmakers on the vote, claiming it’s part of a broader Second Amendment issue.Skip to next paragraph
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Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, said in a statement Thursday that the contempt move is "politicized and reckless," while conservatives say there are still disturbing questions about what higher-ups at the Department of Justice knew about a program that may have contributed to the deaths of hundreds of Mexicans and a US Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry.
But it’s Republican Chairman Darrell Issa’s relentless pursuit of Holder, even though he’s admitted there’s no evidence tying Holder or Mr. Obama directly to Fast and Furious, that has drawn criticism from minority leaders and activists.
“AG Holder was in essence ‘stopped & frisked’ without probable cause, and after he cooperated, he was made an example of,” Mr. Sharpton writes on the Huffington Post. “What Issa just showed us is that no matter what our stature in this world, someone can easily try to ‘put us in our place.’ What could be more outrageous?”
Some suggest that casting Republicans as modern-day Klansmen on a hunt for an errant black man will awaken an apathetic minority voting bloc, which could be crucial to the Obama reelection. But conservatives suggest that won't work.
“There’s nothing to prove anymore, and the Congressional Black Caucus may discover that their knee-jerk defense of Holder on racial grounds will not fly,” writes William Bigelow, a columnist for the Big Government website. “If they take their ball and go home, they may find that no one wants to play with someone crying racism any more.”
But Republicans, too, are aware that attacking an Obama cabinet minister with too much zeal can backfire. “It’s hard to believe Republicans relish the idea of voters seeing them imprison the country’s first African-American attorney general,” writes Alex Koppelman in The New Yorker.
A US attorney in Washington will now decide whether to file charges against Holder.
It’s partly Holder’s outspoken, sometimes in-your-face views on race that have made him an appealing target for conservatives – more so even than Obama, who has treated the inevitable matters of race more carefully and deliberately, says Professor Jillson.
“The president has always tried to deal with it not just in a responsible way, but in a way that buries the sharpest edges of race, whereas other people are much less capable verbally of handling these things in a way that leave people comfortable,” says Jillson.