I believe in bipartisanship, I really do. I think that things work better in a government operated by two opposing political parties who share solutions to real problems.
I just wish that the Obama administration hadn’t combined Jimmy Carter’s hand-wringing incompetence in addressing foreign challenges with the nasty paranoia of Richard Nixon’s approach to domestic critics.
As the deceit characterizing the administration’s response to the murder of four U.S. diplomats in Benghazi becomes clearer, we should remember some facts about this catastrophe. Remember that Christopher Stevens was the first American ambassador to be killed in the line of duty in 33 years. The two previous victims, Adolph Dubs and Francis E. Meloy Jr., were killed by Islamists during the Carter administration, which quickly and publicly condemned the acts as terrorism and took appropriate steps to reduce the size of our missions in Afghanistan and Lebanon respectively, and to protect those diplomats who remained.
Remember that, when the U.S. embassy in Tehran was attacked and diplomats held hostage, the Carter administration initially dithered, but eventually decided to attempt a rescue. It was poorly planned and ended in lethal failure, but at least they made an effort. And to his last day in office, Jimmy Carter insisted that the militants who seized the embassy were in the wrong.
Contrast this with the actions of the current administration, whose agonizingly slow reveal is making White House Press Secretary Jay Carney sweat like a novice halfway through his first Bikram Yoga session. He may not think the Obama administration’s characterization of the Benghazi murders as an act of film criticism gone wrong rises to the level of scandal, and he may be right. It may be simple incompetence. Disregarding repeated requests for additional security before, and repeated attempts to collude on political spin after, the murders may not be scandalous. But they do show an administration obsessed only with the effect these murders will have on its image, rather than their impact on U.S. interests in the region — or on the families of those who died.
Insisting that “nothing could be done” in the unfolding Benghazi attack may not be scandalous, but it is disingenuous — to say the least. Aviano military airfield is 1,050 air miles from Benghazi, and sports two F-16 air wings; expeditiously dispatched, these planes could have been over Benghazi in time to have saved at least two of the lives lost through inaction. Jimmy Carter could give this crowd a lesson in resolution.
Separately there is the serious business of using organs of the U.S. government to surveil and intimidate American citizens. Mr. Carney and his boss initially attempted to explain the use of the IRS to harass and thwart conservative organizations as the result of a few “rogue agents,” disturbingly reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s “third-rate burglary” line on Watergate. This approach having failed, the administration has now begun to throw its employees to the wolves.
Poor dumb unnamed schmucks in the Cincinnati IRS office were the first scapegoats, but it didn’t stick. The idea that low-level officials would take it upon themselves to violate the law, punishing selected groups for their political beliefs just didn’t pass the smell test.
Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller was next, fired on May 16. In answering questions about the firing, the President said of the IRS’ malfeasance: “Americans are right to be angry about it, and I’m angry about it…” One is reminded of Vichy French police captain Renault in “Casablanca,” who was “…shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here!” while collecting his winnings.
Miller may have been lucky. In March of 2012, then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman testified to Congress that the IRS “was not targeting conservative groups,” so when it comes time for perjury charges, he’s pretty much at the top of the list. It’s clear now that higher-ups in the IRS were aware of the goings-on in Cincinnati, which ceased only when it was clear they were on the verge of being uncovered. Lois Learner, director of the IRS office of tax-exempt organizations, is still laying low.
Why did it take so long for the impotence of Benghazi and the illegality of the IRS to come to light? Part of the answer lies in the proper functioning of the press. Traditionally a watchdog on the government and a guardian of the people’s rights, over the past six years it has become a defender of the government and an apologist for the most egregious abuses committed in the name of advancing the cause of liberalism. One only hopes that the Obama administration’s current espionage attempts against the press will remind doubters that even a love object can betray, and that infatuation sometimes blinds.
And that blindness is dangerous.
Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column for the Summit Daily News.