NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- I offer thanks to the late, great Groucho Marx for that title quotation, which appears to aptly describe what we are now learning about our current Federal Executive branch.
Through the early Obama presidency, although I was never a “true believer” on ideological grounds, I waivered in my assessment of its character, hoping for the best for the American people. As events unfolded, concern grew.
Was this administration as venal, cynical, paranoid and anxious to punish perceived enemies as that of Richard Nixon? (Evidence existed.) Or, was this administration as incompetent and feckless as that of Jimmy Carter? (Evidence existed.)
Recent events, scandals and reminders of behaviors, speeches and events during both the 2008 and 2012 campaigns and since then now indicate that this administration can be defined by both of the above and worse. The self-serving venality of the Nixon administration combined with the incompetence of Carter’s seems to be joined together with a concerted effort to undermine the Constitutional freedoms of our citizens in a manner never exhibited by any administration in the lifetime of most Americans.
As recent events unfold and secrets are exposed, we are being introduced to patterns of speech and behavior that range from spin (efforts to frame issues that promote your side and diminish your opponent’s) through denial (it never happened or no one knew about it), obfuscation (attempts to distract and mislead), and outright lying (we all know what that means).
Consider these most recent news stories which constitute a trio of scandals now buffeting the administration and defining its character and substance.
1. The oldest, from September 11, 2012, is the terrorist attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the resulted in the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and at least 3 other Americans.
2. The disclosure that “conservative” groups applying for 501(c)3 or 4 status that had names including Tea Party, Patriot, 9-12, We the People, etc. were, by the powerful IRS, profiled and targeted for abusive and illegal treatment in order to prevent them from raising money and supporting issues and candidates. This discriminatory treatment also included those whose missions were to teach the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, Christian organizations and Pro-Israel Jewish groups and who knows how many others who were perceived by the current administration as “not to their liking.”
3. The secretive tapping of Associated Press and other legitimate journalists’ phone records, e-mail accounts, and comings and goings by the Department of Justice.
Start with the Benghazi scandal, which actually began months before the 9/11/12 terror attacks on two US facilities in Libya. Staff had requested beefed-up security based on warning of imminent terrorist attacks but were denied. After and during the attacks, the administration began its denial of culpability by concocting a preposterous story that the attacks and murders were predicated on a You Tube video short. The amateur American film producer’s video poked fun at the Prophet Mohammed. (Though the administration’s fairy tale – pushed by the President, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Ambassador Susan Rice on multiple TV news programs -- has been discredited, the video maker was arrested and remains in prison.)
The Administration’s dismissal of this horrendous, violent event, despite undeniable evidence to the contrary, has been a study in denial, spin, obfuscation and downright lying.
Within the past few days, a large group of e-mails communicating between the State Department, White House and CIA have been released and have confirmed collusion about defining the attacks with the deliberate objective to cover up the real facts before, during and after. The White House, State Department and CIA have all been proved to be involved, despite constant protestations of ignorance and innocence.
Regarding the chilling targeting of the immense power of the IRS towards groups and individuals deemed to be in opposition to the mission and objections of the current administration, words can barely describe. This began occurring in either 2009 or 2010, depending on what sources you seek out.
Conservative groups began reporting the abusive and extraordinary attempts of the IRS to gain confidential information about member individuals, their thoughts, activities, and reading habits, as they applied for tax exempt status in order to receive contributions and pursue mission-stated and legal activity.
In 2011, the then head of the IRS admitted the problem, and he said it had been stopped and would never surface again. That was a flat-out lie under oath to Congress, which by the way, is a Federal crime. The delaying of the IRS to grant the tax exempt status to groups perceived as out of kilter with the ideology and decisions of the current administration continued and were prevalent during the 2012 election cycle. In the meantime, identified progressive and liberal groups received tax exempt status in short order.
By the way, large dollar donors to the 2012 Mitt Romney campaign were subject to IRS audits and investigations despite no record of tax evasion or past wrong doing.
As recently as this week, Lois Lerner, head of the IRS office charged with evaluating and approving the requests to become 501(c) 3 and 4 organizations, was called to Congress to testify. She did the unprecedented: she read a speech declaring her total innocence, then claimed 5th amendment rights not to testify and incriminate herself.
This is the scandal/conduct that most Americans who pay attention find the most frightening and egregious as we understand the awesome powers granted to the IRS to intervene in our lives and punish us, including stripping us of property and throwing us in jail.
Nearly as fearsome and powerful over our lives is the Department of Justice. Secretive (and probably illegal) actions of the Justice Department to monitor journalists, their sources, and their seeking information to report have recently been revealed.
Almost comically if it were not so tragic, is that the Justice Department is relying on the Espionage Act of 1917, legislation pushed through by the Wilson Administration during World War I, to ferret out spies and censor news reports that were considered anti-war. It is archaic, largely forgotten until now, and never been used take down a journalist.
The court-approved subpoenas granting Justice’s FBI to monitor the communications and movements of journalists – in defiance of the requirements to notify them of the request for subpoena – is especially alarming regarding our right to know what OUR government is up to. That’s supposed to be the job of the press/media.
And yet, Attorney General Eric Holder lied under oath to Congress (Federal crime) within the past few days, saying not only did he not having any information about anything in his department apropos to anything, but specifically testifying that he had zero knowledge of any attempt to interfere with a reporter’s ability to do his/her investigative work in order to keep the people informed. And then it came to light that he’d signed the request for subpoenas.
In case any American has forgotten, we are established as a Constitutional Republic -- a representative democracy of the people, by the people and for the people. We are not subjects of the State. The State is supposed to be subject to us.
In these scandals, and they have been preceded by others that haven’t gotten the attention they’ve deserved such as the “Fast and Furious” Mexican gun walking scheme and certain executive grabs for powers over Congress, we now know that the current Executive branch of our government exhibits a profound distain for the individual freedoms and rights guaranteed to us by the US Constitution, especially those in the Bill of Rights.
Within this column alone, you’ve read of violations of the right to freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of the press, freedom of religion . . . and that just contained in Amendment 1. How about the right to privacy in one’s home, papers and effects against unreasonable search and seizure afforded in the 4th amendment?
I’d be falling down laughing at all the creepy but inept anti-American buffoonery of the current administration as they arrogantly assert their self-assigned “privilege” to treat us like a bunch of kindergarteners if it were not so blasted frightening and powerful. This is the behavior of a third-world banana republic regime working the levers of the most powerful country in the world! (Am I next for a subpoena for asserting my point of view in this on-line column?)
Up until recently, comedians pretty much avoided jokes at the President’s expense. One evening this week, late night TV comic Jay Leno said that the White House had been caught so many times with its pants down that disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner, now running for New York City mayor, was a fitting “face” of the Democrat Party. He went on to joke that even the president’s teleprompter had to invoke the 5th amendment. Funny?