Conservative media outlets are credulously reporting House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa's claim that wiretap applications signed by senior Justice Department officials "prove" they "approved" of dangerous gunwalking tactics in the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious, contradicting prior DOJ statements. In doing so, they ignore that the DOJ has repeatedly stated that senior officials do not necessarily review wiretap applications themselves, but rather largely rely on summaries of those applications produced by line attorneys.
"Documents prove senior Justice officials approved Fast and Furious, Issa says," reads the headline of Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle's latest foray into reporting on the ATF's fatally flawed gunwalking operation.
Leaning heavily on Issa's just-released letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Boyle reports that Issa has obtained wiretap applications for that operation that were signed by senior DOJ officials. Boyle notes that Issa claims those documents "show that immense details about questionable investigative tactics were available" to those officials via those applications, supposedly disproving numerous DOJ statements that senior officials there were not privy to the details of gunwalking.
But there's one question that this sort of credulous recitation of Issa's claims does not address: Did those officials actually review the wiretap applications that Issa says contained that information? According to prior DOJ statements dating back to at least last year, the answer is no.
This is not the first time Issa has claimed that wiretap applications supposedly proved knowledge of gunwalking techniques on the part of senior DOJ officials. In February, his committee made similar allegations, claiming in a staff report that "Congressional investigators have learned about the information contained in one Wiretap Authorization and Wiretap Affidavit from Fast and Furious that Jason Weinstein signed. The Wiretap Affidavit presented Weinstein with the details of at least two instances in which ATF agents had witnessed illegal straw purchasing and the subsequent transfer of the purchased weapons to other individuals."
But Politico reported at the time that "Weinstein told investigators that it was his 'general practice' not to read the underlying affidavits in such cases but to rely on a so-called cover memo prepared by another Justice Department office." This was consistent with Politico's report last November in response to similar claims that the wiretap applications could have bearing on what senior DOJ officials knew of Fast and Furious:
The Justice official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said wiretap applications are reviewed by another DOJ office which writes a detailed cover memo that is usually the focus of review by Breuer's staff.
"What gets pulled out for their review is therough the lens of those two questions: necessity and probably cause," the official said.
In a letter that the committee's ranking member, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), released in response to Issa's letter today, he reiterated these points in even greater detail.
In Salon, Andrew Koppelman sets out the process by which the constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate made its way - via think tank issue briefs, op-eds, and blog posts - from being a completely off-the-wall notion to a nearly universal article of constitutional faith among conservative activists. This look back is even more important as a means of anticipating how the Right is likely to launch future attacks against Social Security, Medicare, and any number of health, safety and consumer protections. The assault on health care reform shows that the right's combination of established infrastructure, an activist and ideological segment of the judiciary, and partisan media is a powerful one. Progressives should remember how aggressively and effectively the right was able to deploy its view of the Constitution as a weapon, and meet future attempts to do so head on.
Koppelman's research shows that within a few months in mid-2009 the constitutional argument against health care reform went from nonexistent to a subject of mainstream discussion. Koppelman was unable to find any published claim that the individual mandate would be unconstitutional prior to a July 2009 Federalist Society issue brief written by two former Bush administration officials. In August 2009, conservative lawyers David Rivkin and Lee Casey, who regularly write on issues the right-wing legal infrastructure wishes to move into the mainstream, published a Washington Post op-ed attacking the mandate on constitutional grounds. On September 18, law professor Randy Barnett, who would play a leading role in the subsequent litigation against the act, first weighed in on the issue with a post on Politico. Koppelman notes that days later CBS News reported that "[i]n the last few days, a new argument has emerged in the debate over Democratic healthcare proposals," and that CBS mentioned that the constitutionality issue had emerged on The O'Reilly Factor and Fox News.
It is noteworthy that Fox News was out in front, driving the constitutional attack on the health care law into mainstream debate. Bill O'Reilly raised the constitutional issue on his show on September 9, over a week before Barnett, soon to become the public face of the cause, made his first public pronouncement. That night, in the "Talking Points Memo" portion of his show, O'Reilly said:
And finally it may be unconstitutional to force Americans to buy health care insurance, although Mr. Obama wants that and compares it to mandatory auto insurance. With auto insurance you have a machine that can do damage.
Could be unconstitutional to force you to buy this stuff. But if Obamacare passes, you will be on somebody's policy. That is certain. That's the memo. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 9/9/09, via Nexis]
For the past few months, just as many states across the country are passing voter ID laws, the Wall Street Journal has steadily denied that these laws disproportionally affect minority, as well as elderly, voters. Never mind that according to New York University's Brennan Center for Justice, upwards of 5 million voters -- mainly racial minorities, students, and seniors -- would be impacted by these laws.
But the Journal, along with other conservative media, continue to champion them. In articles and editorials, the Journal has made a habit of attacking Attorney General Eric Holder and his Justice Department for blocking these laws from being implemented in several states, claiming that Holder is "scaremongering" and playing "identity politics." In yet another editorial, the Journal wrote of Holder: "It would take a distinctive kind of naivete to believe there is no voter fraud in America." It also accused DOJ's civil rights division of "massag[ing] the data" so "it can charge bias" in blocking Texas' voter ID law.
Today, the conservative paper continued the trend, alleging that Holder and President Obama are using their "political power" to scare African-American voters. According to the Journal, Holder and Obama's voting rights concerns are nothing more than "racial incitement" and part of a "strategy" to re-elect Obama, adding: "And liberals think Donald Trump's birther fantasies are offensive?" The editorial continued:
For all of Mr. Obama's attempts to portray Mitt Romney as out of touch, no one has suffered more in the Obama economy than minorities.
Which explains Mr. Holder's racial incitement strategy. If Mr. Obama is going to win those swing states again, he needs another burst of minority turnout. If hope won't get them to vote for Mr. Obama again, then how about fear?
The editorial went on to assert that a speech to black leaders at a summit of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Conference of National Black Churches about the importance of voting and the significance of new voter ID laws was Holder "using his considerable power to inflame racial antagonism":
The Orlando Sentinel writes today on the gun lobby's efforts to make hay over gun rights prevention group Mayors Against Illegal Guns' program to fund public officials who work to reduce the spread of illegal guns (emphasis added):
Gun-rights advocates are squaring off against Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer for hiring a new city employee to spearhead the city's fight against illegal guns.
Dyer said the city is simply targeting so-called "crime guns" that end up in the hands of felons. But a gun-rights group argues that public employees shouldn't be trying to erode the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Are those employees truly working to "erode the Second Amendment"? According to statements from Mayor Dyer ("We have no interest in eroding citizens' Second Amendment rights. I'm a gun-toting hunter myself") and the employee, Linda Vaughn, as well as MAIG's mission statement and the policies MAIG supports (closing the "gun-show loophole" and preventing the passage of concealed carry reciprocity), no. All of that information is included elsewhere in the Sentinel's article.
Nonetheless, the Sentinel reports that the gun lobby views MAIG as "a group of gun haters whose agenda is more far-reaching," without stating outright that there is no evidence to support that contention.
In doing so, the Sentinel acts to privilege the lie. The story is based in its entirety on criticisms from gun activists and their contention that MAIG, Dyer, and the staffer are engaged in an effort to undermine the Second Amendment. But rather than state clearly that a group with a conservative political agenda is making baseless claims, the paper merely reports, "Group A says X, while Group B says Y." Who's to know which side is right?
Without that central premise that this program is supposedly intended to further a "gun hating" cause, the story becomes far less interesting. After all, mayors hire staffers to carry out their public agenda. Gun crime prevention is an issue of concern for many mayors, including Dyer, so they seek to hire staffers to focus on that problem full-time, just as they might hire staffers to oversee city efforts on disaster recovery or business development.
In this particular case, a non-profit foundation is willing to help out with the costs, saving the city money. This is far from the first time private money has been used to support public work - for example, the tax forms of the National Rifle Association Foundation reveal dozens of grants to local municipalities to fund gun range improvements and gun safety courses.
The right-wing website Daily Caller yesterday published an article by Jim Pontillo, the firearms manufacturer they have partnered with for their controversial gun giveaway promotion. The publication drew criticism last week following the revelation of Pontillo's past racially offensive and insurrectionist writings.
Pontillo's article for the "Guns and Gear" section is a list of the "Top 10 Guns You'll Find at the Neighborhood Liberal Gun Store" and disparages a wide range of Democratic politicians. Pontillo's list includes the "Pelosi Clinton Mini Derringer" ("Pull the trigger and this pocket pistol shrieks and cackles. No man can stand to be in the vicinity when this thing goes off.").
The Daily Caller's decision to publish Pontillo's political musings comes only a week after the website said his views were irrelevant, telling the Washington Post, "All that's germane to the contest is that he's a fully licensed firearms manufacturer. If we were giving away iPads, the political views of Apple would also be irrelevant." The Caller's decision to feature Pontillo's work follows their "Guns and Gear" section editor's disclosure that he and Pontillo came up with the idea for the Caller gun promotion together.
This is not the first time Pontillo has written for the Caller. In December he authored a rambling piece for the site criticizing "those who lament America's cultural evolution toward secular society" for "devoid[ing] the moral absolutes that served our Founding Fathers" and attacking "the political class and by the main stream media" for supposedly disparaging his customers.
During an interview on NRA News, Mike Piccione, editor of Daily Caller's "Guns and Gear" section, and host Ginny Simone spoke of "a team effort" between the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Caller to promote gun ownership. During the interview Piccione said he hoped to expand his online publication's controversial gun giveaway promotion by giving away a firearm to a Caller email list subscriber who signs up for an NRA membership.
MIKE PICCIONE, DAILY CALLER GUNS AND GEAR EDITOR: Check back though because we're going to do a few things. One thing I want to do is I want to give a gun to somebody that joins the National Rifle Association from the Daily Caller.
GINNY SIMONE, HOST: Alrighty.
PICCIONE: Absolutely. Join the NRA and we'll support you.
SIMONE: It's a team effort.
Piccione also admitted that the gun giveaway promotion was the result of a brainstorm session with far right-wing gun manufacturer Jim Pontillo.
The Caller at one point distanced themselves from Pontillo's political views when confronted with extreme and racial comments about President Obama made by prize gun manufacturer Pontillo, telling The Washington Post, "All that's germane to the contest is that he's a fully licensed firearms manufacturer. If we were giving away iPads, the political views of Apple would also be irrelevant." But the next day, Piccione told NRA News host Ginny Simone that he came up with the idea for the promotion with his "friend" Pontillo in order to "remind people" that Caller is "pro-Constitution" and "pro-gun."
During a May 23 appearance on NRA News' Cam & Company, John Frazer, the research director for the National Rifle Association's lobbying arm, attacked a new Violence Policy Center (VPC) study while failing to acknowledge that the main premise of the study is true: gun deaths now outpace motor vehicle deaths in 10 states.
[Violence Policy Center, 5/22/2012]
Using the most recently available data, VPC also demonstrated that nationwide motor vehicle deaths have declined over the last decade while gun related deaths ticked up during this period. VPC attributes this difference to successful regulation of motor vehicles and a lack of such regulation with regard to guns.
[Violence Policy Center, 5/22/2012]
In response to the study, Frazer was forced to make the contrived argument that only fatal accidents involving firearms should be compared to accidental motor vehicle deaths. At no point during the interview did he acknowledge that in a number of states the total number of deaths as a result of firearm use exceeded deaths resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle or that the gap between the firearm and motor vehicle death rate is narrowing.
FRAZER: What [VPC] are talking about is a pure apples and oranges comparison. They are comparing total numbers across the board, which is a completely invalid comparison because obviously most vehicle deaths are accidents. So if they really want an aggregate comparison they should compare motor vehicle accidents to firearmsaccidents, and firearms accidents are at their lowest point in recorded history.
But an aggregate comparison is exactly what VPC did.
Just one day after the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) disbanded its Public Safety and Elections Task Force that was responsible for model voter ID and "Kill At Will" self-defense legislation like that linked to Trayvon Martin's death, a new organization emerged to carry the torch for the implementation of voter ID laws nationwide.
In an April 18 press release, the innocuous-sounding National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) heralded "the formation of a 'Voter Identification Task Force,' intended to continue the excellent work of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in promoting measures to enhance integrity in voting." According to NCPPR chair Amy Ridenour, "conservatives will kick up our support for voter integrity programs. We're putting the left on notice: you take out a conservative program operating in one area, we'll kick it up a notch somewhere else. You will not win. We outnumber you and we outthink you, and when you kick up a fuss you inspire us to victory."
NCPPR's press release ominously concluded with a claim that NCPPR was prepared to pull a metaphoric gun on its political opponents: "Unlike [ALEC critic] the Center for American Progress, the National Center for Public Policy Research eschews the use of violent references such as 'War Room.' We are, however, inspired by a particular passage in the 1987 movie 'The Untouchables': 'They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way.' Indeed." So much for eschewing violent references.
It was only fitting then that the National Rifle Association, the former private sector co-chair of ALEC's disbanded Public Safety and Elections Task Force, would give NCPPR free publicity. During the May 22 edition of NRA News' Cam & Company, NCPPR adjunct fellow Horace Cooper appeared to discuss his organization's voter fraud hysteria.
The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal and employees of Fox News have repeatedly shielded the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) from criticism without disclosing that parent company News Corp. is a member of that organization.
Since mid-April the Journal has defended ALEC, a shadowy conservative organization backed by corporate giants that tailors model bills for state legislatures, in two editorials and also published two op-eds attacking the group's critics. Fox News likewise highlighted the criticism of ALEC in at least five April segments, with Bill O'Reilly describing its opponents as "very, very vicious" and questioning whether they were engaging in "blackmail." The network even hosted ALEC's communications director to defend the group. In none of those segments or articles was News Corp.'s ALEC membership mentioned.
This morning the Center for Media and Democracy, which rigorously monitors ALEC, reported:
Documents obtained and released by Common Cause show that News Corp. was a member of ALEC's Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force as of April 2010. Adam Peshek, who staffs ALEC's Education Task Force, told Education Week that News Corp. has been a member of both ALEC's Education Task Force and Communications and Technology Task Force since January 2012.
ALEC has come under fire in recent months for promoting model state legislation for restrictive voter ID laws and Kill at Will self-defense laws similar to the Florida statute cited in the Trayvon Marton killing. Progressives have responded by urging legislators, corporations, and organizations affiliated with ALEC to cut their ties. At least 19 corporate or non-profit members and 54 state legislators have left the group as a result of the campaign.
News Corp.'s conservative media entities have pushed back against this campaign, claiming that progressives are "playing the race card" as part of a "remarkable political assault," and lauded companies that have yet to disassociate themselves from ALEC. But they have not disclosed that their own parent company is one of those ALEC members.
In 2010 News Corp. drew criticism -- including from shareholders -- following the disclosure that the company had donated $2.25 million to GOP-linked groups including the Republican Governors Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. After that information was revealed, Fox News offered only intermittent disclosure of those donations during their reports on gubernatorial races and the chamber.
The company subsequently adopted "a new policy to publicly disclose corporate political contributions annually on News Corporation's corporate web site." Any ALEC membership fees paid by News Corp. are not indicated in their disclosure of corporate political contributions for 2011, which lists only contributions to candidates for office and political action and party committees.
The Law and Economics Center (LEC) at George Mason University School of Law is perhaps the one institution that brings together Charles Koch and Mickey Mouse. Koch's foundation, along with dozens of corporations, funds LEC. The Law and Economics Center, once labeled a "key ally" by the tobacco industry, organizes all-expenses-paid seminars for federal and state judges. LEC touted the location of one seminar as "sunny" and being known for its "great weather and proximity to Disneyland." At these seminars, the judges are exposed to a curriculum with a "free-market, anti-regulatory bent." As Fox News and other right-wing media conduct a ritualized freakout over the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals conference in Hawaii, the Law and Economic Center's activities, which shape how judges understand the law, as opposed to where they hold their meetings, deserve scrutiny.
Not much interesting can be said about the Ninth Circuit conference brouhaha. As authorized by a federal statute, the various federal judicial circuits routinely gather their judges and the lawyers who practice in their courts for panel discussions and other educational activities. They meet somewhere in the circuit. For example, the Seventh Circuit, which includes Illinois, met earlier this month in Chicago. Similarly, Hawaii is part of the Ninth Circuit.
The Law and Economics Center's judicial programs are a different matter altogether. One judicial ethics watchdog has described it as "the nation's longest running and largest junketing program for federal judges." LEC was heavily involved in the tobacco industry's efforts to defeat cigarette litigation, and an internal Phillip Morris memo once listed it as one of the company's "Key Allies." Other tobacco companies also contributed to LEC, and Altria, the corporate successor to Phillip Morris, is a current donor.
The Law and Economic Center has provided a solid return on investment for its corporate donors. It once boasted that many judges who participated in its programs reported that doing so "totally altered their frame of reference for cases involving economic issues." Puffery? Perhaps, but it is difficult to minimize one federal judge's frank confession that he based a ruling in an antitrust case on the ideas he was exposed to in an LEC seminar:
U.S. District Judge Spencer Williams attended a LEC seminar while presiding over a predatory pricing case. While he was attending the LEC seminar at the Key Biscayne Hotel in Miami, the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff in the amount of $5 million which, under the law, he was bound to triple to $15 million. Instead, he returned from the seminar and overturned the jury's verdict. He later wrote a letter to LEC that read in part: "As a result of my better understanding of the concept of marginal costs, I have recently set aside a $15 million anti-trust verdict."
The Daily Caller wants to give you a free gun. A free gun with the Bill of Rights inscribed on the slide, presumably so that not all of your patriotism has to go downrange.
These weapons are made by Jim Pontillo, the owner of FMK Firearms. In addition to making guns, Pontillo moonlights as a lunatic conservative writer. We pointed out yesterday that he's written a smattering of columns for Human Events, one of which extolled the patriotic ardor of modern-day secessionists. And it turns out that, until recently, Pontillo blogged enthusiastically at his website, ForMyKountry.com.
Pontillo's writing bears all the hallmarks of fringe right-wing craziness, to include:
I am looking forward to [Obama's] inaugural address where the "coolest" "rock-star" Commander-In-Chief we've ever had wows us all by doing a fly-by around the newly repainted "Black House" and lands softly at the podium using nothing but those big ears for the flight.
As for Obama, I cannot see how he can expect to get any kind of majority among white America when his most fervent supporters hate white America.
Barack Obama will do very nicely for himself as a politician who represents a narrow and prejudiced group, he'll make lots of money and probably enjoy a long life in public service, but he will never be President of the United States; that job requires he represent all Americans, not just the angry black ones.
For president, he's done.
Poorly considered defenses of the Confederacy:
The American character, from the pilgrims on, has been defined by a special reverence for individual independence and individual right. Recalling the Civil War, the slave issue aside, it is natural to understand the Confederate rebellion. A resistance to government power is integral to the American DNA.
Favorable comparisons of Arizona's SB 1070 to the attack on Fort Sumter:
Arizona's SB1070 is a preemptive strike; a warning to a despotic administration that the American people are only going to tolerate a limited amount of assault on their sovereignty, it is a precursor revealing dissatisfaction turning to action.
Whether or not SB1070 is proper or right is really not the point. The question is...
Are Americans beginning to feel as intently in 2010 that its government has unjustly pushed them, as did the Confederate citizens of 1860?
Pontillo has also published some creepily bizarre stuff that transcends mere fringy-ness and is actually pretty alarming. Like his one-act play about the Virginia Tech massacre (written from the point of view of the murder weapon). And his belief that "we should send the U.S. Military down to Mexico, seize their oil fields, and confiscate the proceeds until the Mexican government changes its policy of encouraging their population to come here for work and send money home, all subsidized by American taxpayers."
This kind of conspiratorial and extremist thought permeates American gun culture, from small-time gun nuts like Pontillo to the highest levels of the NRA, and is enabled by the Daily Caller, which is handing out dangerous weapons just to get a little bump in traffic.
UPDATE: Slate's David Weigel asked Caller Editor-in-Chief Tucker Carlson about Pontillo's column calling Arizona's SB 1070 "a warning to a despotic administration that the American people are only going to tolerate a limited amount of assault on their sovereignty." Carlson responded to Weigel, "A little rebellion once in a while isn't a bad thing."
UPDATE X2: Erik Wemple of the Washington Post contacted the Daily Caller about Pontillo's "racier opinions." The Caller responded: "All that's germane to the contest is that he's a fully licensed firearms manufacturer. If we were giving away iPads, the political views of Apple would also be irrelevant."
UPDATE X3: The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence released a statement condemning the Daily Caller for promoting Pontillo, given his "inappropriate and dangerous" commentary: "That Tucker Carlson and the Daily Caller would promote a man like firearms manufacturer Jim Pontillo to their readers is a testament to how far the American Conservative movement has moved to the right in the last several years."
Right-wing news site The Daily Caller has come up with an innovative new method of attracting people to sign up for their email updates: Each week through Election Day new registrants will be eligible to win a free handgun. And not just any handgun; the weapon in question is "engraved with the Bill of Rights."
The gun's manufacturer, Jim Pontillo, has attacked American progressives for supposedly seeking to promote communism in America and claimed that "people calling for secession" are not "fanatics who hate America" but are instead acting "in the Founding tradition."
This ad is currently running on the website's NRA-sponsored "Guns and Gear" page:
Clicking on the image diverts readers to the landing page for "The Daily Caller Gun Giveaway," which states:
The Daily Caller will be giving away one gun per week until Election Day -- November 6, 2012.
The FMK9C1 is an American-made high capacity 9mm designed by Jim Pontillo and manufactured in California. Each gun is engraved with the Bill of Rights and comes in one of three colors.
To enter this week's contest, simply sign up below to receive updates from The Daily Caller. Our DC Morning emails are an informative and amusing way to keep up with the latest news.
For many American citizens who embrace a political philosophy which swings left, collectivism, socialism, and ultimately communism is the idealist utopia they aspire to capture and promulgate across America. For these people, For My Kountry, means to ridicule excellence, to fear prosperity, and to blame others for individual failures.
It is an ideology which springs from mankind's weakest tenets...jealousy and envy. It is an ideology which attempts to tear all down to one low and "equal" or "fair" level. It is an ideology incapable of raising anyone or anything upward. Most of all, it is an ideology without any understanding of American culture or our American Founders' dream of creating a country free from government tyranny, open to individual initiative, and most important, insuring to all citizens those inalienable rights guaranteed to mankind by God.
From the May 22 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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The Senate is scheduled to consider the nomination of Paul Watford, one of President Obama's stalled judicial nominees, on May 21. Journalists covering the debate on the nomination would do well to consider the judicial vacancy crisis that is denying many Americans their day in court, Watford's record, and the bipartisan support his nomination has received. They need not, however, devote much attention to the so-called "Thurmond Rule." The "rule," which some have argued is a reason for the Senate to slow or even halt the confirmation of judges during a presidential election year, turns out to have been so inconsistently applied over the years that it is less a rule than a free-floating excuse for obstruction. In the face of a judicial vacancy crisis, such a vague and standard-free "rule" deserves little weight.
There is a real judicial vacancy crisis in the federal courts, with more than more than 75 judgeships currently vacant. Over 30 "judicial emergencies" exist, in which vacancies leave courts so understaffed that cases pile up and people and businesses seeking justice are faced with lengthy delays in having their cases heard. The crisis is in large part the result of unprecedented obstruction President Obama's nominees have faced. Presidents Clinton and Bush had just over 200 lower court judges confirmed during their first terms, but after three and a half years of the Obama presidency, the Senate has confirmed only 145 of his judicial nominees. The vacancy crisis will persist, and deepen as a result of additional retirements, unless the Senate picks up the pace.
The vote on Paul Watford's nomination could say a lot about whether it will do so. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has broken a threatened filibuster of Watford's nomination, and a vote will take place today. Journalists covering the vote might want to look into to Watford's record as a former Supreme Court clerk and the endorsements he has received from leading conservative and libertarian lawyers, including leaders of the Federalist Society.
Some have also raised the so-called Thurmond Rule (attributed to former Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Strom Thurmond) as a factor to consider regarding nominations. Already in January 2012 Senator Charles Grassley, the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, invoked the rule as a justification for an even slower pace by the Senate on judicial confirmations. Journalists need not, however, spend much time puzzling over the so-called rule in trying to understand either Watford nomination or the Senate's broader role in the nominations process.
During a May 18 appearance on Fox's America's Newsroom, conspiracy peddler Katie Pavlich made a number of far out claims concerning how the doctrine of separation of power relates to the ongoing investigation of the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious by congressional Republicans.
As you may recall from high school civics class, separation of powers refers to the system of government we have in the United States where the authority of the federal government is divided among three co-equal branches. This equilibrium between branches of the federal government is maintained through the system of checks and balances established by the U.S. Constitution.
But in Pavlich's world, the legislative branch reigns supreme and the Department of Justice must supply any and all documents requested by House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) during his committee's investigation. This ridiculous theory would disrupt the system of checks and balances and is refuted by Congress' own research department and court precedent concerning the right of the Executive to withhold certain types of information.
KATIE PAVLICH, TOWNHALL NEWS EDITOR: Not to mention you have the Justice Department engaging in a full on cover-up, the latest in Eric Holder refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena, which they have the authority to issue and Justice Department has to comply with it under the terms of the Constitution. It's just another way of proving that they really have a lot to hide here.
BILL HEMMER, HOST: You also know there are tens of thousands of documents that have been given internally to an IG -- an inspector general -- why is that not sufficient? Explain that?
PAVLICH: Well the Inspector General actually worked for Eric Holder during his time as a U.S. Attorney in Washington D.C. so there is a conflict of interest there. And everything that the Inspector General is privy to, Congress is also privy too, and the Justice Department investigating itself on this matter, they are willing to go to the lengths of covering it up internally.
PAVLICH: Speaker Boehner did push President Obama this week to tell his Attorney General to start complying and getting to the bottom of Fast and Furious. In fact, this investigation has been going on for more than a year now. We deserve answers. And President Obama, as the Commander in Chief, has a responsibility to tell his Attorney General, "Congress has the authority to subpoena you and you have to comply with that."
In the span of a few minutes, Pavlich butchered a number of basic principles concerning how our federal government operates. It was pointless of Pavlich to mention that the Department of Justice's inspector general used to work for Attorney General Eric Holder in order to suggest bias on his part, because the Department of Justice's inspector general also works for Holder presently. That is what (non-presidentially appointed) inspectors general do; they serve as politically independent individuals within government agencies for the purpose of conducting internal investigations. Furthermore, the president's responsibilities as Commander in Chief relate to command of the military, not the president's ability to oversee federal agencies as Pavlich suggested.
But the biggest error made by Pavlich -- one that she repeated three times during her appearance -- is that the Department of Justice must turn over every single document requested by the House Oversight Committee in order to be in compliance with Issa's subpoena.