It’s no secret that the past few weeks haven’t been good for our governor. Or maybe the past few months would be more accurate. OK, OK — it’s been a pretty bad governorship in general. Gov. Moon Lizard’s approval rating has never gone higher than the low 40s, and it’s not hard to see why. One day, he’s pissing off Cubans, an all-important voting bloc to Republicans. Another, he’s the butt of every joke in Spain. On yet another day, he instantaneously becomes loathed by every black member of the state Legislature (and at least a severe annoyance to every non-racist). Bloomberg Businessweek recently published a summary of these and other gaffes in which Scott’s own former campaign co-chair, Tom Slade, was quoted, “Rick Scott doesn’t seem to have any political skills at all.”
Yikes. But the good governor has larger problems than creating more enemies to supplement his already stupendous unpopularity. There’s also the whole being sued by the Department of Justice thing, as well as an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. If only Rick Scott could just tell everyone, “Screw you, guys, I’m in charge here and I don’t have to do what any of you say.”
You know, like Obama.
For the first time in his presidency, Obama invoked executive privilege today in order to prevent his administration from having to hand over to Congress documents relating to Operation Fast and Furious, the dumb-assed idea that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would knowingly allow firearms to be bought by frontmen for Mexican drug cartels, in order to track those arms up the chain of the cartel. Unsurprisingly, as the cartel chiefs are in Mexico amid what is essentially a war zone along that country’s border with us, the operation resulted in no high-level arrests, but did result in a lot of dead people, people killed by guns the ATF allowed to get into cartel hands. This would be a scandal in any administration, and unsurprisingly, the Republican House has been investigating like mad, led (somewhat laughably, given his own shady past) by the Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Darrell Issa.
After months of investigations and Attorney-General Eric Holder being questioned early and often, the president has invoked executive privilege to prevent Congress from obtaining any more records about the operation. Executive privilege simply means that, in certain cases, the executive branch can ignore congressional or judicial subpoenas, especially where national security is concerned. Unfortunately, the power has been used far more often for purposes having less to do with national security and more to do with avoiding embarrassment or the admission of illegality.
Most famously, Nixon used executive privilege to justify his refusal to turn over tapes to Congress that featured him and other White House officials discussing the Watergate break-in and the surrounding cover-up. Later, Bill Clinton used executive privilege to try to avoid testifying about Monica Lewinsky. George W. Bush dropped executive privilege four times in a month back in 2007 — first over documents by and about presidential counsel and famous Supreme Court flame-out Harriet Miers, then over testimony requested from Miers and White House Office of Political Affairs director Sara Taylor, then over documents relating to the death of football-star-turned-Army-Ranger Pat Tillman, and finally cited executive privilege when Karl Rove was called to testify about the U.S. Attorneys scandal.
Essentially, the recent history of executive privilege almost entirely involves covering up crimes and humiliations. And given what we already know about Operation Fast and Furious, the Obama administration is likely using it for the same execrable purpose. Which is why our governor needs executive privilege — he’s so awash in shame, humiliation, and possible legal misdeeds that he could really use a bullshit investigation shield to hide behind.