Patterico's Pontifications

7/10/2011

Gunrunner Update

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:27 am

A lot of big developments have happened in the scandal.

Our first story is four days old. (Sorry, I’ve been busy.) Kenneth Melson, the acting director of the ATF, looks like he’s not going gentle into that good night. He appears to be ready to rage against the dying of the light of truth, and is apparently turning state’s evidence and becoming a whistleblower:

In a blockbuster development in the Operation Fast & Furious gun-running scandal, Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson secretly testified before House and Senate investigators on July 4 with his own personal lawyer present, former United States Attorney Richard Cullen, without the knowledge of the ATF or the Department of Justice. . . . Melson’s revelations raise even more serious issues not only about the operation itself, but about apparent attempts by the Justice Department to mislead Congress on the details of the operation.

Contrary to the Justice Department’s denials, according to Melson, ATF agents specifically witnessed transfers of weapons from straw purchasers to third parties without taking any further action. Melson claimed that it was not until the public disclosure of the operation that he personally reviewed the “hundreds of documents” related to the case. He said he became “sick to his stomach” when he learned the full story. Even more shocking is that some of the “gun trafficking ‘higher-ups’ that the ATF sought to identify were already known to other agencies and may even have been paid as informants” by agencies such as the FBI and the DEA.

Melson provided detailed information and documents to the Office of the Deputy Attorney General at the Justice Department. But that information was not given to Congress by then-Acting Deputy Attorney General James Cole. In fact, “Melson was not allowed to communicate to Congress” and “Justice Department officials directed [ATF’s senior leadership] not to respond and took full control of replying to briefing and document requests from Congress.” According to the letter Issa and Grassley sent to Holder, it was “two days after [Melson] told [Cole] about serious issues involving lack of information sharing” that the Wall Street Journal suddenly reported that Melson was about to be ousted by the Obama administration.

Meanwhile, a recently captured leader of the Zetas cartel says that, yeah, most of our weapons came from the U.S. Why, he adds, they were actually coming from the U.S. Government!

Meanwhile Thursday, Mexican police released a videotaped interview of Jesus Enrique Rejon Aguilar, in which the recently captured No. 3 leader of the Los Zetas drug cartel said “all the weapons” the Zetas use were “bought in the United States” and that “even the American government itself was selling the weapons.”

I will add that it appears to be commonly accepted that a Gunrunner weapon was found, not just at the murder scene for Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, but also at the scene of Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata:

At least three of those weapons, including two AK-47 assault rifles, later were found at the site of separate shootings that claimed the lives of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata, who was killed by Rejon Aguilar’s Zetas, and U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry.

Those of you with long memories might remember back to March 4, when that possible connection was made on my blog (due to a tip from a perceptive reader). Back then, it seemed like only a possibility. Now, it appears solid.

Always trust content from Patterico.

Legal Insurrection had a good post yesterday showing how Obama, at the same time he was trying to ban the sale of certain weapons, was presiding over an administration that was actively forcing gun dealers to sell those very same weapons to straw purchasers for Mexican cartels.

I believe that, with the debriefing of Melson, we will learn much more about DoJ’s knowledge of the operation, and the strongarm regulatory tactics used by the ATF to force gun dealers to participate in these unwise transactions.

Again: always trust content from Patterico.

The takeaway news of the day: Allen West says Obama must remove Eric Holder, or be seen as complicit in this operation.

UPDATE: New gunrunning scandal involving walking guns into Honduras?

The “grand bargain” as campaign ploy

Filed under: General — Karl @ 10:58 am

[Posted by Karl]

Ed Morrissey does a good job of explaining the apparent collapse of any “grand bargain” between Pres. Obama and the Congressional GOP regarding the public debt bomb. He’s no more partisan about it than the faux-objective Politico (seriously, even compared to the WaPo and McClatchy(!) coverage, David Rogers and Jake Sherman should be ashamed of their unbalanced hackery). But I want to go a step further to explain why the “grand bargain” is an extension of Pres. Obama’s re-election campaign.

First, as James Pethokoukis (who beat the establishment media like a drum on this story) suggests, there is little political downside for Pres. Obama in such negotiations, so long as he insists on major, unambiguous tax increases and opposes entitlement reform. If Republicans caved in to such a deal, it would demoralize the GOP base and possibly prompt Tea Party challenges, splitting the vote on the right. Moreover, a deal would help fool the casual, low-information voter that Obama cares about and is addressing the public debt bomb.

Second (and perhaps more significant), failing to reach a “grand bargain” is Pres. Obama’s current campaign strategy. You need not take my word for it. Instead, you can observe what Pres. Obama has done since before the midterm elections.

Consider the general political environment before the midterm election. The right and the Tea Party raised the political temperature on the issue of the public debt bomb. Pres. Obama punted on the issue by forming the Simpson-Bowles commission. After the election, he tossed their recommendations in the trash bin. However, in doing so, Obama created a politcal vacuum, which was filled by the House GOP budget devised by Rep. Paul Ryan. The left needed a response.

Accordingly, Pres. Obama (as he always does) gave a speech (which was not a budget, and has never been made into one). While much of the establishment media spun that speech as an embrace of the Simpson-Bowles recommendations, it was not. Simpson-Bowles sought to clothe its tax increases in the garb of the Tax Reform Act of 1986: lowering tax rates and eliminating deductions. But the Simpson-Bowles recommendations were not revenue-neutral. Even so, they were at least structurally similar to the House GOP budget, which proposed similar tax reform that was revenue-neutral. Any purveyor of Beltway conventional wisdom could see the type of deal to be struck.

However, Obama’s non-budget speech did not adopt the basic structure of the House GOP or his bipartisan commissioners. Rather, Obama proposed raising tax rates and eliminating deductions. Moreover, Obama’s proposed enforcement triggers would exempt more than 90% of government spending from his supposed automatic across-the-board cut. Combined with grossly hypocritical demagogy on entitlements, Obama’s speech was not a forerunner to a serious plan, but an attempt to rerun the Clinton ’95 re-elect playbook.

Anyone harboring any doubt over who is responsible for the failure of a “grand bargain” must consider Pres. Obama’s record. He avoided the debt before the election. After the election, he submitted a budget so absurd it got zero votes in a Democrat-controlled Senate. [Indeed, Senate Democrats have yet to submit a budget of any kind.] He has not moved from the positions he staked out in April. His position is not balanced, no matter how much the White House and the establishment media try to spin it as such.

Furthermore, there should be no expectation that Obama will budge on the budget. Obama’s non-budget speech was a tacit admission that he cannot run for re-election on his record, but must demonize his opponents with class warfare and MediScare. He would be willing to entertain a GOP surrender on his terms, because he likely calculates that the liberals put off by any deal will be outnumbered by demoralized conservatives and libertarians, while he gains casual, low-information independents. Otherwise, he has already announced his intentions. He will do the only thing for which he has shown any talent: campaign. Whether he can run a negative campaign running from his record, as opposed to standing as the blank slate of Hope and Change, remains to be seen.

–Karl

Day Twelve of Stengel-Gate: He Gains a Defender! (Update: A Document Only Wants Things When I Say it Does!) (Update: Ashford Shuts Down the Comments on His Post!) (Update: Ashford Tries to Justify Shutting Down the Comments)

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 3:40 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

Update: In the comments section in Ashford’s post, Brother Bradley and I have been challenging Ashford particularly the claim regarding emancipation.  We got him to admit that clearly they were referring to Congress when they were drafting the Fourteenth Amendment and he replies as follows:

[quoting me] Except you just said “I am talking about the thinking of Congress at the time of writing the 14th Amendment.”

And when was that?

Unless you are taking everything uber-literally, as if Congress, at exactly one moment (and only one moment) in time, together(!) wrote the 14th Amendment, and had shared a single thought while doing it.

Which is pretty much giving up the whole game.  He is basically admitting that Stengel was literally wrong (or if you prefer uber-literally, heh) and the only way to rehabilitate his statement was to imagine he meant something he didn’t actually say.

And for the record, when was this?  1866-1868.  And when was the Thirteen Amendment ratified?  1865.

Now you might wonder why I am saying that here, instead of other there?  Well, right after after putting up this post, asking me a specific question, he shut off comments on the post.  Mind you, the post right before it is still open to comments, so plainly he intentionally he shut down that post and that post only, because he got sick of us arguing with him.

Which is pretty funny, when you think about it.

Update: The comedy gold becomes more… um…  golden.  He now has an explanation for why he shut down the comments:

The ankle-biters seem to think that repeating the same fallacious argument over and over again amounts to moving the ball forward in some way, and I don’t have the time or inclination to respond to the same bad arguments five or six times.

Which is false, but also interestingly an admission that he was shutting it down purely because he doesn’t like our arguments.  The irony and hypocrisy is so thick you can cut it with a spoon.

(This will be viewed as a “victory” by the ankle-biters, but rest assured, it’s merely shaking them off to address more pressing things in my day).

No, Ken, the victory was when you admitted I was “uber-literally” right which is another way of saying the word “right.”  The fact you make that concession and leave me no chance to respond on your blog means you know you lost and didn’t want the coup de grace of pointing that obvious fact out on your own blog.  In real litigation, there are rarely “Perry Mason moments” when you finally get the person to just confess.  The best you usually get are moments like these, when your opponent’s behavior gives away the truth.

We now resume the original post, as is.

——————————————-

Regular readers know the story, but a momentary recap is worthwhile for those unfamiliar with the story.  A few weeks back, Richard Stengel published a terrible piece in Time magazine about the Constitution.  Apart from the philosophical problems I have with it, I was particularly appalled by the numerous factual errors in it and eventually wrote a piece outlining fourteen clear factual errors in the article and have been hammering the magazine on a nearly daily basis trying to embarrass them into either a correction or a retraction.

Okay, so are you caught up?

But one thing that I think is interesting in all of this is that as far as I know, no one on the left has stepped up to defend Richard Stengel’s terrible essay.  Surely they had seen my posts outlining fourteen clear factual errors Stengel had made, but no one stepped up and said, “it’s not this bad, and here is why?”

Well, that is until Ken Ashford of The Seventh Sense came along.  Of course even then he can’t bring himself to defend what Stengel actually said, so instead he has decided to pretend he didn’t actually say these things, by, ahem, creative misinterpretation.

For instance, let’s take this passage in Stengel’s piece:

In drafting the 14th Amendment, Congress was definitely not thinking about illegal immigration. At the time, the country needed a lot more immigrants, legal or otherwise. Congress was thinking more practically. It wanted to emancipate blacks and allow them to vote so that white Southern Democrats would not try to reverse the gains of the Civil War.

(emphasis added.)  I read that as Stengel declaring that the Fourteenth Amendment was meant to free the slaves and end racial discrimination in the franchise.  But, Ashford explains, there’s supposedly a nuance there that I missed:

When Stengel wrote “It wanted to emancipate blacks….”, the “it” clearly modified “Congress”, not “the 14th Amendment”.

Well, yes, “it” refers to Congress, but not Congress in general.  He wasn’t talking, for instance, about this current Congress.  He was talking about the Congress that drafted the Fourteenth Amendment and specifically when they were drafting the Citizenship Clause, which guarantees most people born on U.S. soil birthright citizenship.  Go to Stengel’s original piece and read the whole section it comes from, which is discussing illegal immigration.  The whole section is about nothing but the Citizenship Clause and was discussing their intent when drafting it. And he wasn’t discussing hopes and dreams they failed to enact, but explaining the goals and purpose of what they did enact, as he saw it, when they drafted and ratified the Citizenship Clause.  But that clause, and indeed the entire Fourteenth Amendment was drafted and ratified wholly after the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, which is the actual amendment that emancipated the slaves.

(more…)


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