Someone Please Explain to Soledad O’Brien That Attorney General Holder is NOT “Exonerated” Regarding Fast and Furious

So much attitude, so little comprehension…

[I apologize to all for not posting anything yesterday. I was handling back-to-back seminars, and had to drive a long distance in-between. by the time I got back home late afternoon, I was too wiped-out to write anything coherent, and that state persisted until I went to bed. I’ll be trying to catch up today.]

CNN’s partisan hack morning anchor Soledad O’Brien was smirking and raising eyebrows to beat the band yesterday morning, as she announced to her audience that the Inspector General’s report on the Justice Department’s deadly botch of its so-called gun-walking scheme, codename Fast and Furious, had “exonerated” Attorney General Eric Holder. I suppose I am giving O’Brien the benefit of a considerable doubt here in assuming that she knows what the word means, but to exonerate is to free from blame or responsibility. The 471 page report does state that there is no evidence that Holder knew about the operation before it had gone horribly wrong, as some Republicans had maintained. On the other hand, it also states that there is no evidence that Holder knew about the operation before it had gone horribly wrong.

Holder is in charge. When a non-partisan investigation determines that 18 high ranking deputies in a federal agency have probably engaged in serious misconduct deserving discipline, including Justice department lawyers who approved wiretap requests without reading them, that does not “exonerate” the man at the top. To the contrary: it shows that the Department is mismanaged, that procedures are weak, and that officials are either not doing their jobs or are incapable of doing them. In this instance, this led to people getting killed.

In her zeal to avoid ever tipping off the public that all isn’t smooth sailing in the Obama Administration, O’Brien (and others…Soledad wasn’t the only one. CBS. for example, says Holder was “cleared” by the report. That’s a bit better; “cleared” can mean cleared of actual wrongdoing. But it also implies blameless, and that is not accurate ) actively misinformed the public, not just regarding the IG’s report and the meaning of “exonerated,” but also regarding the concepts of leadership, management, and ethics. If those under the authority of a leader fail in their responsibilities over a long period of time, the leader is accountable. If they are not well-trained in their jobs, the leader is accountable. If he does not know what is happening in his own organization, he should know, and is accountable for what happens as a result of his lack of knowledge and oversight. If a leader cannot exercise sufficient oversight and management because an organization is too big and unwieldy, as Holder has told Congress is the case with the Justice Department, that does not exonerate him from the responsibility of either solving that problem, or resigning and allowing somebody with better management skills to try to do the job right.

That a massive breakdown in operations, management and procedure like Fast and Furious can occur in an agency never exonerates  the leader in charge. It is always an indictment of the leader in charge, and his fitness to lead.


Spark: CNN


Graphic: French Creoles

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

4 thoughts on “Someone Please Explain to Soledad O’Brien That Attorney General Holder is NOT “Exonerated” Regarding Fast and Furious

  1. Jack doesn’t the last sentence of your second paragraph simply restate the sentence preceding it? If that’s the case, and it was done deliberately—for emphsis, say—then the “on the other hand” part makes no sense. Or am I misreading it?

    • You’re not getting my point, or my mordant wit. Yes, Holder didn’t know what was going on, and that is a basis for him avoiding accusations of malfeasance. But he didn’t know what was going on, which is also proof of misfeasance. The finding cuts both ways, which is why I repeated it in two different contexts.

  2. Quick point, you write, ‘On the other hand, it also states that there is no evidence that Holder knew about the operation before it had gone horribly wrong. ‘

    It’s worse than that. The report indicates that even after the operation had gone horribly wrong, after the death of Border Patrol agent Terry, Holder still did not know anything about the operation. It’s bad enough that he was not briefed on the operation before things got out of hand, but it’s far worse that even after things got out of hand he was still in the dark.

  3. A finding that the chief law enforcement officer of the land did not know what had been going on in his office for months after it being published begs belief or belies candor, Regardless, IMO by this time an ethical public servant of Holder’s calling would have stepped aside, as Jack suggests. That Holder hasn’t paints him as less than a qualified leader than he appreciates.

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