The 1970s-era cliche “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” may not ring true, but it’s hard to refute its twisted twin: “Government service means never having to say you’re sorry.” Just ask Eric Holder.
Asked during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday whether he would apologize for the Justice Department’s role in the Operation Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal that led to the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, the U.S. attorney general refused. Instead, he hid behind Washington weasel words: “I certainly regret what happened to Agent Brian Terry.”
To express regret over an event is to say, “I wish it never happened.” Implicit are the accompanying words, “but it’s not my fault.” To apologize is to say, “I’m sorry that it happened, and I take responsibility.” The gulf in meaning between regret and apology is wider than the Rio Grande that Agent Terry was patrolling when his life was cut short last December by Mexican drug-cartel members equipped with Fast and Furious firearms.
Deploying his best bureaucratese, Mr. Holder continued: “It is not fair, however, to assume that the mistakes that happened in Fast and Furious directly led to the death of Agent Terry.” Then, perhaps torn between his instincts for officiousness and humanity, he added, “I can only imagine the pain that his family has had to go through, in particular, his mother. I am a father and have three children myself. We are not programmed to bury our kids.”
The nation’s top lawyer is not programmed to apologize, either. Instead, he dodged responsibility for the mayhem that grew out of Fast and Furious. In the operation, federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) recruited “straw purchasers” to buy guns in the United States - illegally - and smuggle them into Mexico for resale to drug cartels. The purported intention was to track the guns to cartel hideouts and bust the bad guys. Yet the feds never had a way to track the weapons, numbering around 2,000, which then were used for murder and mayhem on both sides of the border.
In typical Obama administration fashion, Mr. Holder blamed the failure of the nation’s law enforcement to halt gunrunning on a lack of money and urged senators to fully fund the ATF. Not finished, he turned the tables on critics of the botched operation, rebuking them for playing “gotcha games.”
Mr. Holder makes no apology for his practice of wielding his authority to shape the nation’s laws in accordance with President Obama’s vision of a postmodern nation in which American exceptionalism is no more. From his exoneration of the New Black Panthers’ voting-rights violations to his efforts to grant American legal rights to accused foreign terrorists, Mr. Holder appears determined to turn the judicial system against the Americans he is sworn to protect. Dozens of lawmakers have called for his resignation, but even this is unlikely to bring an end to the Holder humanity gap.