What Are You Hiding, Mr. President?

Why the Romney campaign should go on the offensive over Obama's fast and furious cover-up.

The Obama campaign team is doing whatever it can to divert the public's attention away from President Obama's failed policies on the economy. Until the last few days, when the Obama campaign started re-focusing its demagoguery on trying to paint Mitt Romney's running mate Representative Paul Ryan as a cold-hearted monster about to throw grandma off the cliff, it had been accusing Mitt Romney of hiding the truth about his taxes and his time at Bain Capital.

“What is it that he’s hiding?” Obama's senior campaign adviser David Axelrod asked earlier this month, referring to Mitt Romney's taxes and refusing to disavow unsubstantiated, discredited claims made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that Romney did not pay income taxes for 10 years.

Last month, Axelrod accused Romney of being “the most secretive candidate that we’ve seen, frankly, since Richard Nixon.”  Axelrod complained that he “won’t release his tax returns, won’t reveal his bundlers, left Massachusetts with the hard drives from his computer. He believes in keeping the public in the dark.  If you don’t have anything to hide, why not just release that information?"

It won't be long before the Obama hit squad returns to that line of attack. But would Axelrod want this standard - if you don't have anything to hide, then just release the information - to be applied to President Obama?  Not likely, since it is Obama who has been an even more secretive president than Richard Nixon on matters of real public interest.

Case in point is Obama's spurious claim of executive privilege to withhold information from Congress on efforts within the Justice Department to hide the truth about the Fast and Furious gun-running operation. This operation reportedly allowed U.S. weapons to cross the border into Mexico in order to track where they ended up.  It was badly botched, resulting in a U.S. border patrol agent, Brian Terry, being killed by one of these guns, which had ended up in the hands of the Mexican drug cartel. The Justice Department, all the way up to Attorney General Eric Holder, has changed its story about who knew what really happened and when they knew it.

The House of Representatives voted a contempt of Congress citation against Attorney General Holder on June 28, 2012 for his refusal to turn over subpoenaed documents in the House's Fast and Furious investigation conducted pursuant to its constitutional oversight responsibilities.  Holder hid behind President Obama's assertion of executive privilege. House Republicans have now brought a civil lawsuit seeking to invalidate the executive privilege claim.

The Obama administration refuses to divulge documents that could shed some light on why the Justice Department took ten months to retract a false denial of the investigative tactics used in Fast and Furious. Holder himself had changed his story in testimony before Congress as to when he first became aware of the Fast and Furious operation. The documents being withheld from Congress by the Obama administration do not pertain to the details of the operation itself but to the efforts by Justice Department employees to evade responsibility for the fiasco that ensued.

In Holder's own words in a letter to President Obama requesting his intervention to shield the documents on executive privilege grounds, the documents involved the Justice Department's "response to congressional oversight and related media inquiries" about who knew what and when about Operation Fast and Furious.

“The assertion of executive privilege raises monumental questions," said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) who has led a Senate investigation into Fast and Furious. "How can the President assert executive privilege if there was no White House involvement? How can the President exert executive privilege over documents he's supposedly never seen? Is something very big being hidden to go to this extreme?"

In short, this sure smells like a cover-up.

Obama's assertion of executive privilege goes beyond Richard Nixon's attempt to do the same with respect to the Watergate scandal. Nixon at least was trying to protect White House communications to which he was a party, although to be sure they were evidence of the Nixon administration's own cover-up scheme.  He ultimately lost that fight in the Supreme Court, which issued a unanimous decision rejecting Nixon's assertion of "the general privilege of confidentiality of Presidential communications in performance of the President's responsibilities against the inroads of such a privilege on the fair administration of criminal justice."

Obama is trying to protect communications to which he was neither a party nor on which he was copied. Indeed, the White House has denied any involvement in the Fast and Furious operation. There was no claim that the documents at issue reflected presidential decision-making and deliberations. There was no claim that there was a need to protect the confidentiality of communications authored or solicited and received by White House advisors or their staff who have responsibility for investigating and formulating advice to be given to the president on the particular matter to which the communications relate.

There also was no claim of the need to protect the secrecy of sensitive military, intelligence or diplomatic information. The claim rests solely on the spurious rationale of protecting the deliberative process of Justice Department employees where there is already evidence of Justice Department lies and story changes. President Obama is simply protecting his crony Eric Holder and trying to keep embarrassing facts from the public during an election year.

While Romney's tax returns may reveal a clever businessman's use of every legally available loophole to keep his taxes down, the Fast and Furious documents are likely to reveal a cover-up regarding responsibility for an operation gone haywire that cost Brian Terry his life.

"Our son, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, was killed by members of a Mexican drug cartel armed with weapons from this failed Justice Department gun trafficking investigation," said Brian Terry's parents Josephine Terry and Kent Terry Sr. "For more than 18 months we have been asking our federal government for justice and accountability...it is very disappointing that we are now faced with an administration that seems more concerned with protecting themselves rather than revealing the truth behind Operation Fast and Furious."

Come clean, Mr. President. The American people, and particularly the Terry family, want to know what you are hiding.

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