Echoes of Watergate Reverberate Around Obama's "Executive Privilege"
June 21, 2012 • 12:10PM

The attempts yesterday by the Obama Administration to evoke "executive privilege" in the case surrounding Operation Fast and Furious is now being identified by numerous news agencies as being Obama's "Nixonian Mistake" which could turn the Fast & Furious scandal into "President Obama's Watergate", and have raised questions such as "what did the president know and when did he know it?". What is Obama trying to cover up? Could this topple the President?

The Telegraph ran an article today, June 21, titled "The Fast and Furious scandal is turning into President Obama's Watergate" by Tim Stanley. The article in part reads:

"On Wednesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt over his decision to withhold documents related to the 'gun walking' operation – documents that President Obama tried to keep secret by invoking executive privilege. The question of why the Prez intervened in this way will surely hang over the investigation and the White House for many months to come. Be patient, conservatives. It took nearly eight months for the Watergate break in to become a national news story. But when it finally did, it toppled a President…. Executive privilege is usually associated with protecting information that passes through the Oval Office. What did the documents reveal about Obama’s association with the operation? ...By refusing to sack Holder or push him to come clean, Obama may have made a very Nixonian mistake... Nixon’s guilt was in trying to pervert the course of justice by persuading the FBI to drop its investigation of the crime. Mistake number one, then, was to involve the White House in covering up the errors of a separate, autonomous political department. Mistake number two was that when Congress discovered that evidence about the scandal might be recorded on the White House bugging system, Nixon invoked executive privilege to protect the tapes. In both cases, it was the cover up that destroyed Tricky Dick – not the original crime. And, forty years later almost to the day, here we have Obama making the same mistake. Perhaps it’s an act of chivalry to stand by Holder; perhaps it’s an admission of guilt. Either way, it sinks the Oval Office ever further into the swamp that is Fast and Furious."

The Washington Times ran an editorial raising the questiong "what did the president know and when did he know it?", presenting the case as follows:

"President Obama's attempt to invoke executive privilege to forestall contempt-of-Congress proceedings against Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. failed. Instead, the claim elevates the dispute between the administration and Capitol Hill to a new and troubling level. The operative question now is, what did the president know and when did he know it? ... Mr. Obama's last-minute move to extend the umbrella of executive privilege raises the question of whether the president or his staff had extensive prior knowledge of the operation, because this privilege can only be invoked when the chief executive's office is involved... White House intervention gives the appearance that Mr. Holder's stonewalling was not to protect himself from a perjury charge, but to conceal hitherto unknown Oval Office involvement in Fast and Furious. This also may explain why Mr. Holder said that what should have been a routine investigation could lead to a 'constitutional crisis'."

And the Baltimore Sun on June 20 published the following op-ed, under the title "Fast and Furious: Obama's Watergate?"

"Those who remember the long national nightmare of Richard Nixon's Watergate scandal and doubt that it could happen today need only to keep an eye on current events. Any potentially high-level security threat to the nation such as the Justice Department's "Fast and Furious" program cannot be handed off to an attorney general who is one step away from being declared in contempt of Congress. There needs to be a thorough, totally independent investigation of this matter. Otherwise, the way it is being handled reeks of cronyism, not to mention the appearance of underhandedness by a president who promised transparency in government along with the tattered remnants of his hope and change mantra... Barack Obama could turn out to be one of the most hypocritical politicians in recent memory. He appears short-tempered, irritated and snappy in front of the press. If his policies and demeanor continue along this path, he could begin to draw comparisons to the president whose administration was taken down by the Watergate scandal."