At a Senate hearing Tuesday, congressional lawmakers quizzed U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder about his foreknowledge of the failed ATF sting dubbed Operation Fast and Furious. According to Holder, he was not aware that ATF agents were intentionally allowing guns sold from Arizona arms dealers to make their way across the border and into the hands of Mexican drug cartels until the news became public. However, lawmakers were able to provide proof during the hearing that Holder had received several memos alerting him at the time that the operation was taking place. Holder defended himself, arguing that although his office received those memos, it is impossible for him personally to be informed about every project the ATF is involved in at any given time.
Tuesday’s hearing was exemplary of the overall partisan nature of the criticism those involved with Fast and Furious are currently facing. At the hearing, lawmakers offering the most stringent attacks on Holder’s inaction were all Republican, including Iowa’s Sen. Grassley and Texas’ Sen. Cornyn. In fact, many Republicans have used Fast and Furious as one more in the growing arsenal of tools they are using to attack the Obama presidency.
Democrats, on the other hand, argue that it is simply unfair to use the ATF’s failure as a tool to attack Obama or Holder. This is because, regardless of whether either of these men had any information about Fast and Furious while it was taking place, this operation actually had its inception during the presidency of George W. Bush. Documents show that former Attorney General under Bush, Michael Mukasey was actually made aware in 2007 that federal agents were purposefully allowing arms sold in the U.S. to be exported to Mexican criminals. The documents show that ATF agents at this time were already using the term “gun-walking” to refer to the policy of watching idly while arms were figuratively walked across the border.
The fact that ATF agents have been involved in such a tremendously destructive project during both Obama’s and Bush’s presidencies should evidence the fact that this is a nonpartisan problem that requires individuals on both sides of the aisle to take responsibility for what occurred. Fast and Furious is emblematic of larger U.S. failures when it comes to border enforcement and the fight against violence in this region. And it is necessary for Republican and Democratic lawmakers to come together in a bipartisan effort to develop new policies for addressing these concerns.