On December 28th, 2010 various whistleblowers blew the “cover” on a covert Federal government activity. Variously known as Project Gunrunner, Project Gunwalker, and Operation Fast and Furious they don’t make anyone look good. The full scope of these activities has been percolating through the mishmash of stonewalling, delay tactics, and inevitable disgusting revelations of a generic ugly scandal. Percolating very slowly.
A scandal? What’s new? I suppose water is wet too? But this isn’t just any scandal. This one in particular is interesting. It involves guns, criminals in foreign countries, and a dead Border Patrol guard. Scandals about Enron stock and blowjobs are one thing. Facilitating dead bleeding cops on American soil at the hands of foreign criminals is a whole different level of wrong.
Also (and I know it’s cynical but I’ll cop to it) I wanted to know what would happen in the presses’ co-dependent relationship with Obama. Here is a scandal that left an honest lawman dead on the ground. It’s pretty hard to ignore a bloody corpse. Yet we have a president whom was installed by a press that practically worshiped his campaign in 2008. How would this compare to Nixon’s Watergate or Regan’s Iran Contra Affair? Nixon was an asshole and Regan was a conservative; would a modern day Woodward and Bernstein investigate a charming, black, liberal, president? Or would this unfortunate (but true) failure wallow around the internet among flat earthers and moon landing conspiracy nuts?
Furthermore, it is my experience that presidents fall victim to their hubris in their second term. You can set your clock by it. My pet theory is that most administrations simply can’t keep their house in order for a full eight years and so most get the scandal they sowed. The rest are torn down when their political enemies simply can’t be quieted once they’re a lame duck. Thus a scandal is manufactured for those few that didn’t thoughtfully provide their own. It’s not a particularity charitable theory, but I’m sticking with it.
So you’ve got a conundrum, a genuine “dead cop and smoking gun” tragedy that’s too absurd for any sane press to ignore. Yet you’ve got an administration that in 2008 could probably have strangled a kitten on stage and they’d have spun it in his favor. Also it’s too soon for the usual lame duck feeding frenzy. How long would the press bury it?
In short, I wanted to quantify the lag time between “public knowledge for freaks like me that pay attention” and “public knowledge for the terminally uninformed” (regardless of whether it’s low brow Wal-Mart cluelessness or Ivy League self delusion).
The story broke in December 2010. I, having no particular interest or news gathering ability, have been aware of it since early 2011. You don’t have to be a genius to find such information on the internet (and winnow the likely truths for the crackpot stuff). A trickle of news stories came out over the spring and summer of 2011. But it certainly hadn’t made it to coffee shop level of discourse.
All this time, I’ve never mentioned it in “polite company”. I’d sound like a batshit nuts paranoid fruitcake if I just happened to, say at a dinner party, blurt out “The BATFE allowed guns to go to Mexican cartels who used them to kill innocent people!” Not because it’s false. It isn’t. It just plain sounds too crazy to be true.
This is something that annoys me. Lots of things that are actually, verifiably, undoubtedly true sound crazy anyway. Until folks stir themselves to learn the true thing I’m easily dismissed as a kook. (I certainly look like one.) And it’s always easier to dismiss a kook than deal with the uncomfortable possibility that the world is pretty damn weird. Which is why I try very hard to discuss only weather and deer hunting in most social settings.
So why am I mentioning all this today? Because today (November 8th 2011) is the day! National Public Radio made a brief oblique reference to “Operation Fast and Furious”. It was short and made very little mention of anything damning. Almost like it’s routine for the Attorney General (Eric Holder) to testify before Congress that he doesn’t know about deliberately facilitated international arms smuggling. It was shorter and came after reports about allegations that a pre-nomination Republican presidential candidate (Herman Cain) was accused of sexual harassment two decades ago. Got that? The sitting Attorney General’s testifying to congress about Federal gun smuggling is lower priority than a candidate/talk show host’s 20 year old legal settlement. Really?
Therefore I declare that it takes eleven months and eight days for a whistleblower’s call to become something that even National Public Radio can’t ignore.
P.S. In case you recently came out of a coma (or depend on NPR for news) I’ll give a very crude overview of the scandal du jour. Apparently a complex of Federal agencies intentionally and successfully managed to allow weapons to be smuggled from American soil into a Mexican drug cartel’s hands. Hmm…bad guys with guns. It plays out exactly as expected. On December 14th, 2010 US Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in a shootout in Arizona with a weapon the BATFE knowingly allowed to be smuggled into Mexico. Lesson? Given enough power and sufficient hubris it is possible to scramble your brain until utterly insane actions like giving guns to Mexican crime syndicates sounds like a nifty idea. Humility and politics are enemies, which is why these sorts of cockamamie ideas gain flight.
FYI, that program was started under the Bush administration.
Indeed, the stupid idea originated before the election and it was allowed to continue after the election. Nobody looks good. Both administrations blew this one.
However, would NPR have sat on it for 11 months if Bush were in office today?
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