It’s been almost a year since U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot down in cold blood by a Mexican drug thug, using a weapon provided to him through the largesse of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms. In military and LEO circles, it’s been a tradition since Revolutionary War times for the commander to write a letter of condolence to the family of the downed soldier, Marine, sailor, airman or officer. Yesterday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder finally got around to sending out a letter of condolence to the family of Agent Terry. Sort of.
I don’t know about you, but if I had my tail in a very big wringer (Congress) and I was on the spot for a colossal cluster-f**k like the ATF’s Fast and Furious follies, I think I’d be taking every available opportunity to dot my i’s, cross my t’s, and play it right down the middle. But then again, I’m not the Attorney General of these United States.
This Tuesday past, Holder testified – again – before Congress, on the ATF shenanigans. Asked if he wanted to apologize to the family of Agent Terry, he demurred, stating that he “regretted” what had happened. You can argue (and I would) that Holder not only failed to accept responsibility – he went so far as to deny it completely. Try this on for size: “it’s unfair to assume that mistakes from Fast and Furious directly led to the death of Agent Terry.”
Surprisingly, the media (at least those who are aware of the story and cover it) slammed Holder over his insensitivity, refusal to step up and take responsibility and his overall weaseling out of taking the hit for Terry’s death. In response to that criticism, Holder pulled a semi-about face and sent a letter to the Terry family. You can read the full text of the letter here. But allow me to summarize the key points in the text:
- Sorry for your loss.
- We’re committed to bringing those that murdered Terry to justice.
- Fast and Furious was a huge mistake.
- We won’t let it happen again.
- It’s not my fault – soon as I learned about it, I told my guys to cut it out.
- I’m investigating how this op got so far off the reservation.
- Blame the “river of guns” thing – we need to crack down on guns!
- I don’t mind Congress investigating, but I do mind them scoring political points with this.
- Thanks for writing to me, and again, I will do everything in my power to bring Terry’s killers to justice.
Um…yeah. Notice anything missing? Like “we screwed up and I take responsibility for that”? Or “I apologize for not reaching out to you when this first happened.” Or perhaps, “heads will roll, and the people that authorized this operation will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” To add (additional) insult to (grievous) injury, the letter was released to the press before the Terry family received it.
Yep. A sincere apology would be nice. Taking responsibility for Terry’s death would be better, even if Holder believes he himself is blameless. It would also be the stand-up thing to do. But don’t hold your breath. I don’t see America’s Top Cop takin’ the hit for this any time soon.
In the nuanced world inside the Beltway, there are always ulterior motives, degrees of guilt, private agendas, and greater goods to worry about. Here in flyover country, we stick with “right” and “wrong.” Clearly, Agent Terry’s death was wrong. Clearly, someone authorized a poorly thought-out operation that caused that death. And clearly, someone in authority needs to stand up and take responsibility for this tragedy. Sadly, this particular nuance has escaped the Attorney General and his advisors.
There comes a time when you need to set aside worry that your words will put you in legal hot water, and just do the right thing. Eric Holder had one, slim chance to do the right thing for the Terry family. He failed.