The Fast and Furious Debate Question Jim Lehrer Must Ask

On Wednesday night at 9:00 p.m. ET, PBS NewsHour Executive Editor Jim Lehrer will take the stage to moderate the first of three presidential debates between Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.  This is the domestic policy debate and is structured around six topic areas, each topic will be 15 minutes long and will begin with a question and a two minute response by each candidate.  

On September 19th it was announced by the Commission on Presidential Debates that, "subject to possible changes because of news developments, here are the topics for the October 3 debate, not necessarily to be brought up in this order: The Economy - I, The Economy - II, The Economy - III, Health Care, The Role of Government, and Governing.

This week's incredible investigative reporting by Univision revealed even more troubling details about Operation Fast and Furious and the 1,961 guns that the President Obama's Justice Department allowed to illegally enter Mexico.  This program led to the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry and added accelerant to the fire that is the Mexican drug cartel turf wars. 

This program was conducted with blatantly lacking oversight of the weapons and without the knowledge and cooperation of Mexican authorities. In a July report, Congress found that 122 Fast and Furious guns had been seized at crime scenes in Mexico. Univision found an additional 57 Fast and Furious guns that were seized as the result of crimes.

We have a sitting Attorney General of the United States in Eric Holder being held in contempt by the House of Representatives, a former National Security Council staffer quickly shuttled off to Iraq and then placed out of Congressional reach by the Administration, and a President exerting executive privilege over the scandal.

If there is one non-economic domestic question that Mr. Lehrer must ask it is about the President's culpability in Fast and Furious. What should Mr. Lehrer ask?

Mr. President, your administration instituted an operation entitled "Fast and Furious" in which guns were allowed to be purchased and smuggled into Mexico without the  knowledge of the Mexican government.  A scandal has erupted around how this operation was run because of the number of guns and lack of monitoring of these weapons that reached the hands of violent criminals and drug cartels in Mexico. This program has led to the death of at least two U.S. Federal agents and an untold number of Mexican citizens in very grizzly crimes. How do you justify your exertion of executive privilege, hiding of witnesses from Congress and continued support of Attorney General Eric Holder who oversaw this program?

The question about Fast and Furious brings in a number of factors. It deals with the imperiousness, the governing style and expansion of executive power of the Obama administration. It deals with the issues of gun control, border security, government corruption and incompetence, and has foreign policy implications as well.

This is a much bigger domestic scandal than Watergate's botched burglary and it's cover-up. This administration's decisions led directly to scores of murders and other violent crimes on both sides of the border. The story has largely been left to the new media to investigate and the Spanish language channel Univision is putting the English language press in the United States to shame. 

Lehrer has the opportunity to force the President to answer tough questions about the blood that may be on his and the Attorney Generals hands.  If Lehrer doesn't ask about Fast and Furious he should never moderate a presidential debate again. If Lehrer ask the question, then it is up to Governor Romney to ask the follow up question that needs answering, "Mr. President, what did you know and when did you know it?"

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