What President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder knew about Gunrunner (or Gunwalker), the project that came to be known as “Fast and Furious,” is not of consequence here. What is of consequence here is what they should have known.
From World Net Daily, we learn that Gunrunner can be traced back at least as far as February of 2009, when President Obama authorized $10 million for it via the stimulus package. His signature on that document renders his subsequent denials of any knowledge of Gunrunner questionable at best. And on April 2, 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech at the Mexico/United States Arms Trafficking Conference in Cuernavaca, Mexico, in which he boasted of overseeing the implementation of Gunrunner.
While there can be little doubt about Obama’s and Holder’s knowledge about Gunrunner in 2009, they both continue to deny any knowledge of it. Obama says that on March 22, 2011, he heard when he read about it sometime earlier this year (2011). Holder said on March 2, 2011, that it was a few weeks before that date when he first heard about “Fast and Furious.”
So with their continued denials, let’s turn our attention to what they should have known. For guidance, we turn to an essay written in 1998 by Jonathan Wallace at The Ethical Spectacle. In his essay Wallace states (I paraphrase) that responsibility cannot ultimately be delegated, that it always resides with the leader or person in charge. Obama, as the person in charge, (and Holder, his designated responsible person (fall guy?) maintains he is innocent of any wrongdoing because he claims he did not know about the operation. But Obama can still be held responsible because of what did he know or should he have known. This concept holds a leader responsible for giving the order, or being aware of an intended action and failing to stop it, a concept attorneys call “intent.” Further, he can be blamed for failing to ask the right questions, or to set the right standards for the organization, a concept called “negligence.” There is a third legal theory which is relevant here: “absolute liability”. Under certain circumstances, the law calls a party to account for an outcome regardless of intention or negligence.
Power in any organization is invested in the chief executive, and delegated downwards. That power consists of authority and responsibility. Both may be delegated together, but while delegated, they are still retained by the chief executive. When an executive attempts to evade blame by blaming his subordinates, he is behaving weakly and exploiting a misconception of the nature of power. An executive’s statement blaming his subordinates may be translated as: “I am not a leader.” Authority without responsibility creates monsters. People who can make decisions for which they can never be held responsible have the potential to be destructive of the organization and of the lives of its members. Does anyone remember Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and Special Agent Jaime Zapata from ICE? Both died from weapons that were sent to Mexico from the United States via Gunwalker.
Instead of Obama and Holder taking responsibility for their actions and actions of people under them, they prefer to have us believe that there is a dearth of leadership in the White House, at the Department of Justice (DOJ), and at the Phoenix office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). And they want us to believe that field operatives could act with impunity and without any supervision. And, Glenn, being a military type, I am certain that you are familiar with the phrase, “You can delegate authority, but you cannot delegate responsibility.”
So however he tries to avoid responsibility, Obama (and Holder) cannot duck it. As Jonathan Wallace says, “An executive’s statement blaming his subordinates may be translated as: ‘I am not a leader.’” And the more he protests (lies?), the more Obama shows what kind of “leader” he is. BTW, Igor, the word “leader” is in quotes because it is said sarcastically.
But that’s just my opinion.