If you glance across any of the precincts of the right-wing chattering classes today, you will have the eery experience of being transported through the looking glass back to 1974 and the height of the Watergate scandal. That’s how exercised our wingnutty friends have become over the great issue of this era, Eric Holder’s stonewalling of Darrel Issa’s demands for a document dump related to the “Fast and Furious” gun walking operation, and now the president’s assertion of executive privilege against their release.

F&F does sound like it was a mess, albeit one that simply followed tactics developed and used in ATF operations during the Bush administration. I generally tend to assume all sorts of sordid and ineffective practices pervade everything remotely related to the the border-centered “war on drugs,” which is one reason I wish we’d more or less call it off.

But there’s something especially weird about conservatives raising such a ruckus over what you’d expect many of them to consider eggs broken in making a holy omelet–or over victims of gun violence, for that matter. Is the current hysteria just reflexive hyper-partisanship? Is it displaced fury at Holder for his opposition to GOP voter suppression efforts? Is ATF-hating (remember Wayne Lapierre’s reference to its agents as “jackbooted government thugs”) just systematic now? Or is this all about the bizarre conspiracy theory–which few of the people in full shriek today mention–that F&F was actually aimed at discrediting U.S. gun dealers and hence justifying a crackdown on the Second Amendment?

Beats me. But since this saga is about to produce a contempt of Congress vote that will likely pass the House on a party-line vote, perhaps we’ll get an explanation soon from someone on the Right who doesn’t seem to think it’s self-apparent this is the biggest scandal since Teapot Dome.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.