It was about midway through the completely predictable impeachment of Bill Clinton when I decided that the most fundamentally obsolete question that could be asked concerning anything in American politics any more was, "They really couldn't do that, could they?" This has held me in good stead ever since, especially while observing the behavior of conservative lawmakers. I watched the entire country turn against them in public revulsion during the prolonged Terri Schiavo fiasco and knew good and well that they were going to chase that "issue" right over the cliff. So, as this whole pursuit of Eric Holder has gathered speed, I had no doubt in my mind at all that, sooner or later, he was going to be the first cabinet official ever held in contempt of Congress, and that it didn't matter that the cheapjack grifter Darrell Issa already has said he doesn't think that any crimes were committed, or that the White House was in any way involved, or that Fortune magazine pretty much blew up the raison d'etre for the whole business over the weekend. I just assumed, based on long experience, that, once they opened the ball on Eric Holder, they weren't going to stop until they got at least a piece of what they wanted. This isn't because they're reckless partisans. It's because they're fking vandals who have the votes.
(Just a note: While that Fortune piece is indeed impressively detailed, and while I continue to think this whole thing is a kabuki performance for an audience full of people too lazy to get up and turn off their radios, it can't be denied that the Fortune investigation also smacks of the ATF's attempt to get its own story out there, and the ATF is an agency notable for being underfunded into some serious fkups.)
So 17 Democrats went over the side and voted with the Republicans. The NRA has managed to scare themselves up a "bipartisan majority" about which the Republicans can crow. The rest of the Democrats proceeded to walk out en masse and Holder is now the first cabinet member in history to be held in contempt of Congress. What could not happen to John Mitchell during Watergate, Caspar Weinberger during Iran-Contra, or Alberto Gonzales during the scandal over U.S. attorneys, has happened to Eric Holder over something hardly anyone thinks is a crime, and almost nobody really understands. This is a triumph for know-nothingism, for the rule of the talk-show and the black helicopter crowd. And the Democratic party doesn't have the faintest idea how to fight this.
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