Color me confused. Two days ago, the Obama Administration signaled its intent to trim the budget of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive (and Really Big Fires) by $160 million. The first to go: the last to arrive. Project Gunrunner. For those of you who haven’t been following our coverage, that’s the ATF’s gun-running interdiction program mired in scandal, a travesty of justice that may have led to the murder of a U.S. Border and Customs agent. Good riddance to bad rubbish and not before time. Cut off the diseased limb. That kind of thing. Right? Only now the Washington Post reports that the Obama administration has suddenly reversed their decision. And the paper that broke the Watergate scandal is cheering the decision. Not to coin a phrase, but WTF is that all about? Check it out . . .
The administration wisely – and in this political climate, bravely – appears to have had a change of heart. “As part of the president’s commitment to strengthening core law enforcement and homeland security functions – even as we make tough choices across the government – the 2012 budget includes robust support for Southwest border security, including an increase above current funding levels for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives,” according to Margaret L. Reilly, a spokeswoman at the Office of Management and Budget. In plain English: The administration is promising to increase the ATF’s budget beyond the $1.13 billion currently included in the 2011 continuing resolution. OMB declined to provide the exact dollar amount.
OK now I’m Machiavelli. Only three things could have convinced Obama’s minions to stay the executioner’s axe. One, they’re just plain stupid. Two, as Tigard at carolinashootersforum.com suggests, the ATF needs the extra cash for upcoming legal fees. Or three, this is a quid pro quo.
If so, for what? At the risk of donning tin foil millinery, it seems that the White House is buying the ATF’s silence on their complicity in the Gunwalker scandal. There. I’ve said it. It’s out there.
Of course it would take a genuine investigative journalist to get to the truth of the matter. Someone like Woodward or Bernstein or Woodward and Bernstein of the WaPo’s glory days. Yes, well, the Post has its head so far up the ATF’s you-know-what they’re waving at their readers through the agency’s nose. Or something like that. Or something like this . . .
Refusing to further gut the ATF is an important, but ultimately small, gesture. Assault weapons and related accessories, including the kind of high-capacity magazine used in the shootings just outside Tucson, should be banned; the gun show loophole for background checks should be closed. We hope the president’s course correction on the ATF is but the first of many steps to combat the rash of gun violence that has for too long afflicted this country and its neighbor to the south.
If there’s one thing the ATF needs right now, it’s gutting. Meanwhile, I’m gutted. My journalistic sensibilities were forged by the Watergate-era WaPo. Never mind. The truth will out. As TTAG’s legal eagle Chris Dumm will reveal tomorrow.