A Trifecta of Scandals – What, Me Worry?

by Sydney Williams Last Thursday, standing under an umbrella with Turkish […]

US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameronby Sydney Williams

Last Thursday, standing under an umbrella with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Obama, dripping with condescension, sounded like a combination of Claude Rains playing Captain Louis Renault in “Casablanca” and John Banner as Sergeant Schultz from “Hogan’s Heroes.” He several times reminded the drenched press that he was Commander in Chief, but forsook any responsibility for and disclaimed any knowledge of the IRS, AP or Benghazi scandals. In fact, he was “shocked, shocked” that such happenings could be occurring under his watch and he professed to “know nothing.”

How ironic those pleadings sound for a man who on his first day in the White House promised an administration that would become “the most open and transparent in history?” Besides, he is supposed to be the smartest man in the room, not the dumbest.

While mainstream media has shown some concern over the phone tapping of Associated Press reporters, they have essentially given the President a pass on the more serious scandals. On Saturday, the New York Times in an article about acting IRS chief Stephen Miller’s Congressional testimony, which they buried on page A12, clearly stated their prejudices: “Republican charges range from the clearly questionable to the seemingly specious and they grow by the day.” (In a show of incredible hubris, Mr. Miller was recently ousted, but remains with the Agency until June – approximately the time he was scheduled to leave.) The Times editorial board, it was clear from their lead editorial on Sunday, still think of Mr. Obama as the “smartest guy in the room” – this despite the fact that he is essentially inarticulate without his ever-present Teleprompters. Jacob Weisberg chairman of Slate Group and writing an op-ed in the Financial Times, noted in a piece about the possibility that the Obama Administration used the tax system to harm its opponents, asserted: “This surely did not happen.” Sunday’s lead editorial in the FT exonerated Mr. Obama from any blame for any of the scandals, laying all the malfeasances on unsupervised underlings – the implicit suggestion being that government should be bigger with better and more powerful supervisors. The President is the Teflon Don of political scandals.

The disingenuous Mr. Obama is no stranger to the iron fist in the velvet glove. He was reared in the rough and tumble of the Chicago school of politics. He is a gifted speaker and can lift his supporter’s passions. In the Illinois State Legislature, he smoothly argued that there was no need for a second opinion when there is a question as to whether a fetus, delivered in a late term abortion, may be alive at birth. One had to listen carefully to understand what he was truly saying. In Cairo, shortly after taking office, he claimed a new beginning; yet relationships with the Arab world, if anything, have grown worse. As President, Mr. Obama is the principal purveyor of the nation’s culture. He sets the standards. His demonization of the rich and the Tea Party were surely heard by IRS employees. His refusal to call the killings at Fort Hood by Major Malik Nadal Hasan an act of terror has been inexcusable. He permitted Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to illegally chase campaign dollars from the very companies she is charged with regulating. Fast and Furious was a program that went horribly wrong and resulted in the loss of an American life, yet no senior official has accepted responsibility. Attorney General Eric Holder is another man who plays the role of Sergeant Shultz with amazing accuracy.

There is no way of prioritizing Benghazigate, the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) shakedowns and the Associated Press phone tapping as to which has been the most onerous. All indicate an Administration whose focus is on winning regardless of the cost, whether it is the loss of life in Libya, the creation of a de facto enemies list for the IRS, or snooping on the Press in such a way so as to discourage “unnamed sources” in the Administration or Congress from e-mailing or phoning contacts in the media. How can one possibly believe that a man who purported to almost single-handedly kill Osama bin Laden have no knowledge as to events in Benghazi eight months ago? This is a man who likes to remind his audience that he is the Commander in Chief, but perhaps that position provides cover when things go wrong. How could he and his Secretary of State have stood with the families of the four dead and blamed their deaths on a video that they knew was not the cause? Common sense tells us that an attack by Islamic Terrorists, including al Qaeda, just did not accord with the story Mr. Obama had been telling – Osama bin Laden is dead, and al Qaeda is in retreat. If he had authorized the use of force to try to save the men on the roof of the annex that would have been tantamount to an admission that terrorists were behind the attacks. Saving them was not part of the story line. The subsequent cover-ups were simply lies.

Using the IRS as a mechanism for eviscerating one’s enemies is despicable. It is what Richard Nixon did when the heat became intense during the Watergate investigations. Mr. Obama’s response was not unlike Mr. Nixon’s when the latter spoke to the nation on August 16, 1973. The essence of his excuse was captured the next day in a Washington Post headline: “Nixon Denies Role in Cover-up, Admits Abuses by Subordinates.” Sound familiar? As I was told years ago, s**t rolls downhill! The Watergate hearings began on May 17, 1973, yet it would be fifteen months before Mr. Nixon resigned. That is unlikely in this case, not because Mr. Obama does not deserve the same fate, but because Democrats are far more entrenched in Washington bureaucracies and in the media than are Republicans. Who wants to dislodge a man who strives to make government ever bigger when one’s future career depends on an ever expanding bureaucracy? And the media long ago gave up their job as an independent fourth estate, in favor of advocacy for an ideology.

It is possible that the AP revelations will get the media’s attention, but I wouldn’t want to bet on it. Whitewash, not illumination, is more in their line.

At Ohio State University in early May, Mr. Obama warned of those who believed government was “nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that is at the root of all our problems…that tyranny always lurks just around the corner.” Yet, two weeks later, and after the lies and overreach by government, he is embroiled in scandals and controversies that threaten his administration. He shows no remorse and expresses no shame. His staff have become masters of evasive tactics. Were the situation less dire, it might even seem humorous. The woman who was in charge of the group in Cincinnati responsible for singling out conservative groups for extra attention has been promoted to be responsible for the IRS’s enforcement of Obamacare. What sort of message does that send to those who are increasingly concerned about the role of government in our lives? Dislike for taxes is not limited to “patriots” and “Tea Party” members.

Mr. Obama is the polar opposite of Ronald Reagan whose famous line about the nine most terrifying words: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Everything Mr. Obama stands for involves a bigger, more intrusive government, something that can only be built on trust. Yet, ironically, he is the author of forces that threaten its dismantling. One can spread blame around like manure, but the President is the one who is responsible for the culture emanating from his White House. Speaking under the umbrella at Thursday’s press conference, he persistently reminded people of who he is – “That’s why I will stay focused as your Commander in Chief,” and “…I don’t think the American people would expect me as Commander in Chief…” Yet he suggested that, despite this awesome power, none of his advisors keep him apprised. He only learned of the IRS scandal when we did –in the newspapers! A man with all that power should have better control over the agencies that report to him. But perhaps he did? Perhaps tyranny is no longer “just around the corner?” Perhaps Mr. Miller, Ms. Lerner and Mr. Shuler were simply carrying out his orders, or those of men and women who were working for his re-election? Like Alfred E. Neuman, he responds, “What, me worry?”

“The Thought of the day” by Sydney Williams




The views expressed on austriancenter.com are not necessarily those of the Austrian Economics Center.

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