That thud you keep hearing is the ghost of Harry S Truman throwing the sign that once sat on his desk in the Oval Office – the one that said “the buck stops here” – as one person after another, from the President himself to various aides and advisors to media sympathizers and excusers, pretends that Obama is an innocent bystander in the scandal-a-day administration he is running. The man is not a wall hanging; he is the CEO of the world’s largest and most powerful enterprise, and he is hardly new to the job.
Five govt departments – that’s five – are either breaking the law, lying to us, or both. But to hear the apologists, the president is a modern-day Sgt Schultz. No matter that the IRS’ selective treatment of conservative groups was known about during the fall campaign, if not before; no matter that the handling of Benghazi seems the very definition of cluster; no matter that HHS appears involved in a shakedown of companies for the purposes of promoting Obamacare; and, no matter that even some supporters have found the AP phone tapping a bit nettlesome.
Feigning ignorance is one tactic for avoiding malicious truths, but it holds little water when the tactic is deployed by the man who we are repeatedly told is the smartest human being to ever walk among us. How can someone who supposedly knows so much actually know so little? Indifference is part of the answer; after all, one may not have time for the petty details of scandal in the face of a difficult fundraising schedule. The rest is foreseeable consequences, much to the lament of the many who listened to the sizzle of the ’08 campaign rhetoric yet ignored the substance.
Of the scandals in the mix, the one involving the IRS is by far the most damaging as it speaks to a level of bureaucratic rot that is breathtaking. That the agency targeted conservative groups filing for non-profit status is inconsequential; the issue here is not about who, it’s about what. The story would be equally disturbing if a Republican administration had been putting the screws to liberal public interest groups seeking non-profit status. The IRS’ role is to collect taxes that are legitimately owed, not to act as a political goon squad toward people who exercise their First Amendment rights in a manner the administration of the moment finds objectionable.
No agency operates on the premise of you-are-guilty-until-we-say-otherwise more so than Internal Revenue, and this is the very bureaucracy that will determine if your health insurance is up to snuff and fine you if it isn’t. When an arm of the federal govt is allowed to blatantly disregard a basic Constitutional right, and force some citizens to ring up healthy legal bills in the process, that’s not just misconduct or wrongdoing or some other sanitized term. It is a crime that demands jail. Not reprimands or reassignments or any of the usual DC weasel-worded ass-covering that follows embarrassment. Jail.
When the Watergate story broke, indictments were brought forth, trials were held, people were sentenced to prison, and a president resigned in shame. This makes the Nixon years look comparatively tame. At some point, and one would think that more than four years would be sufficient time, you become responsible for the organization that you oversee. The shelf life for blaming your predecessor has expired, the standard tactic of blaming the opposition party has lost its traction, and claims that you have limited authority while your actions show otherwise is a lack of self-awareness on a weapons grade level.
A sizeable block of partisans and their allies in the media are dedicated to deflecting, if not dismissing, any and all criticism of this administration, as is no other president has had his detractors. And were there just one problem in the mix, discounting the uproar as “politics as usual” would be easy. But this is four separate incidents involving five Cabinet-level agencies. It strains credulity to claim that each is the work of underlings acting independently, that no one at a senior level knew anything about anything, and, least of all, that the president had no knowledge of these activities.
This leaves two options – either the president doesn’t know what’s going on or he does. The former asks you to believe he is clueless, a hapless figurehead hopelessly outmatched by the demands of the job he continues campaigning for long after having won it. The latter paints him as malevolent, a dark figure who will use the coercive power of govt to muzzle dissent and bring opposition to heel. Neither is particularly enticing; I leave it to you to determine which is applicable and which is worse.