As the heat wave sets in, voters are bound to insist on one niggling detail: What the hell is Fast and Furious?
Or, more like what you’re probably now hearing on the streets or on a variety of urban to rural radio talk shows attempting to make sense of it all: Why is Congress concerned about a movie?
Initial searches of the term are bound to bring up the grueling five-part box office action series and overkill brainchild of director Justin Lin and writer Chris Morgan. After the first two, those of us who actually like to think when we watch a movie will actually tap out. But, for those who’ve followed Fast and Furious with fan-like intensity, you probably know the set of flicks merging the worlds of illegal street racing, bank heists and crime cartels has grossed $700 million in the U.S. and over $1.5 billion worldwide.
And thanks to Congressional Republicans, hat tip to House Government Reform and Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-CA), they may just break the billion marker in the U.S. as interest is revived. Part Six is already scheduled for 2013 – but, why not insert Part 5.5 while you’re at it by simply cutting out a new script based entirely on Issa engineering contempt votes against Attorney General Eric Holder?
That’s the big the risk for House Republicans looking for a political narrative that energizes its base into November 6th. No one outside the base, or that shrinking population circle of audience share listening to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others, really understands what the fuss is all about. All they know is the brand – American voters, as you know, are much “dumber” than ever … at least according to retiring Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY). “Society has changed,” Ackerman recently told Bloomberg Businessweek. “The public is to blame as well. I think the people have gotten dumber.”
Which means as a Hill Republican, you risk playing fire with an issue most people don’t care about, much less know about. The expectation is that Congress should be focused on such things as job growth and the larger economic picture. Yet, behold, with headlines blazing all week about Fast and Furious, it doesn’t really look that way. Congress seems to have head-locked itself into a frenzy over Fast and Furious at the expense of other pressing business.
This is, in many ways, an attempt at 2010 redux. Summer of Town Halls meets Summer of Corrupt Attorney General and stonewalling Administration holding back on important documents – despite the fact said documents were released last checked. This is what (we guess) Republicans hope to mobilize a base that’s not all that excited about their nominee Gov. Mitt Romney. The GOP desperately stretches to find an explosive narrative that can stick, a tale so sordid and twisted that voters can’t help but vote on conscience on the fateful day ahead.
The problem is that looking for that perfectly corrupt and criminal tale of a president gone AWOL on the Constitution is a difficult ask. Indeed, this is one of the more boring Administrations in modern political history, its Executive at the top one of the more deliberative and cautious fellows to ever take seat in the Oval Office. It has managed to be scandal-less with moments of controversy driven by either hungry reporters trapped in slow news cycles or the occasional descent into gaffe-prone incompetence. Sometimes, we catch the White House red-handed in the act of blatant politics, calibrating messaging and policy for the purpose of pushing a few percentage points on a poll – but, who doesn’t do that?
Lacking gifts from the scandal gods, Republicans dig deep and can only find an outrageously flawed program created by Bush Administration simpletons. Holder’s Justice Department gets caught simply trying to close it out after rightfully recognizing it had no business being implemented in the first place. If Holder is guilty of anything, it’s not so much holding back on the truth as it is showing how irritated he was even talking about it.
We’ve been down this road before: 1998. The year of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment. Congress wastes inordinate amounts of time and resources on what turned into a supermarket tabloid, a political circus in which House Republicans were not really concerned about the alleged perjury in the case. Ultimately, it was about inflicting a political wound so massive that it would take Democrats decades to recover from it.
But, when you play fantasy sports, you only end up with fantasy outcomes. Democrats hammered Congressional Republicans at the polls during midterms that November, nearly retaking their majority and forcing House Speaker Newt Gingrich out of a job within weeks.
Where this ends up may be a matter of what polls say over the next week or two. Initial polls from Rasmussen and Fox News show a significant number of Americans wanting Holder to resign – but, for what? The survey questions aren’t really getting into whether voters know what they want him fired for, and there’s no focus on the real question of how important it is to them.
But, what we do know is that the creators of Fast and Furious are about to make another windfall at the box office. No word on whether they vote Republican, though.