From 5/21/13

Prologue
I try to write blogs that shed light on areas and points that others do not cover. In the last ten days, there was so much written and spoken of the scandals that are hitting the administration, that there is only a little that I can add. However, these points are too important to ignore, even at the risk of repetition.

What is clear is that the culture of this administration is being exposed here. Some call it corruption. I call it—ideology. There is no corruption in the sense of personal gain. But there is the notion, as I wrote many times before, that the goal justifies the means. Thus lying, hiding facts, covering up, and more is all for a “good” cause (according to “all the president’s men”), and thus is OK. Let me make it clear: No it is NOT OK!

Whether or not there will be any lasting effects on this administration, it is too early to tell. The normal players are playing their normal roles—Democrats defend ferociously and dogmatically with very little desire to get to the truth; Republicans are unbelievably weak and disorganized; and the media? That is the big question. They are showing some signs of a slight change of attitude toward this administration and president but I suspect that very quickly they will go back to their comfort zone of defending the president, ignoring his blatant lies, and focusing their attention on the Republicans.

The Scandals

1. Benghazi
I wrote about Benghazi about ten days ago and really nothing changed. It received more media attention due to the combination of the riveting and emotionally (made for TV…) testimony of Gregory Hicks, and the fact that the other scandals gave “scandals” as a whole, a critical mass, but I suspect that soon, in the absence of clear specific revelations as to who was behind the cover up, it will die.

2. IRS
The Friday hearing regarding the IRS was amazing. So much was written on it that I will focus on a few points only:

  • George Miller, the acting IRS commissioner, is the most objectionable and hostile witness that I have ever seen in a congressional hearing. Many times I’ve complained about how docile and cowardly these witnesses usually are. He went to the other extreme—a complete liar who should be prosecuted. Someone should remind him that his obligation in such a testimony, and generally to congress, is to say the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The emphasis is on the whole truth as he clearly parsed his words carefully so as to avoid telling the whole truth by a mile, both in the hearing a year ago and again now. Very few times do I develop personal animosity to people generally, and people I do not know specifically. I admit that this is such a time.
  • Amazingly, time and time again, Republicans were not able to explain the issue in a nutshell here. The issue is very simple: 10% of all applications by various entities for the coveted tax-free status during the period in question were selected for “special” attention and further investigation. That is perfectly normal and correct. The fact that “only” 33% of that sample (of the 10%) had the “key words” in their name is neither here nor there. Miller made a big deal of this fact (that only 33% were key-words related) in an effort to show that this vindicates the IRS’s approach. In doing so, he lied, again, and he showed how contemptuous of Congress he is, thinking that they are all stupid. The fact that Republicans could not counter this preposterous contention shows that they probably deserve this attitude. The simple, very simple, point in this scandal is that 100% of all organizations that had the “key words” in their names received the “special attention.” While all the rest of the groups were sampled, as is normal. About 7% of all other applications were sampled but 100% of those with the “key words.” That is the issue. All the key words were conservative-type key words (Tea-Party, Patriots, Constitution, etc.). EVERY organization with these words and phrases in their name was selected. All other organizations had about 7% selection rate—that is the atrocity. That is what the IG report says.
  • The other element of the scandal is of course what happened to these groups once selected. There is no clear evidence of that yet but it seems obvious that in addition to being subjected to 100% selection, the organizations with the “incriminating” names received much deeper analysis than even the “normal” special-attention organizations. In many cases, this additional attention and questions that they were being asked involved baseless demands. In most cases, their applications were delayed considerably longer than anybody else’s.
  • The fact that the IRS created that list of key-words and gave it the acronym “BOLO” is telling. BOLO is a police and law enforcement term for criminals that means “Be On the Look Out.”
  • Miller and his subordinate, Lois Lerner, colluded to plant a question on this matter in a Friday afternoon meeting of the ABA (10 points to those who EVEN know what ABA stands for without going to Google…) in order to try and control the message, the way the news is disseminated. And this was just a few days after Lerner was in front of a congressional hearing and “forgot” to mention this matter. This is another scandal, of course.
  • Miller purported to not know the names of the people who came up with the brilliant idea to create these “key words” list and to have 100% of organizations with these words in their name moved to special attention. This is ridiculous. He comes to a hearing on the subject; he has been dealing with this subject internally within the IRS for over a year; he knows how explosive it is, yet he does not have the names, or does not remember? Give me a break. He is a liar.

More revelations will come through in the next few weeks. But I can tell you the bottom line now—there will not be a direct link to suggest that the president knew or should have known about it before the elections. Heads will roll, public condemnation will come from all across the political spectrum, but nothing will change.

Why? Because this is another case where the president achieved his goal by filthy means. Yes filthy. Not illegal as such but really dirty.

3. AP
I am very ambivalent regarding this “scandal.” There are no good sides here. They are all bad.
On the one hand, the deputy AG obtained records of telephone calls, not the contents of the calls, just who called whom and when. That seems entirely appropriate given that he is trying to find out who leaked, according to the AG, one of the most serious damaging leaks to national security on record.
On the other hand, he could have discussed it with AP beforehand as per the guidelines, as AP could not do anything to change this information. It is stored at the telephone companies, not at AP. It happened a year ago, so why not discuss it beforehand? There is no critical time issue here.

On the one hand, AG Holder recused himself at the time as was appropriate (maybe he is the leaker?); on the other hand, we now find out that this recusing was not officially done. There is nothing in writing, no clear terms of it. In effect, he had it both ways. This is unprofessional and really unacceptable coming from the TOP law enforcement officer of the United States. Would the FBI accept such a weak excuse from a subject of investigation? “I told them that I am not involved.” That is it? Where is the proof? Where are the guidelines? Really bad.

On the one hand, the leak WAS indeed very damaging. It was the leak that led to the recognition that the U.S. (it was actually the UK I believe, but they cooperated with the CIA) had a mole inside AQAP—this is worth millions and many lives. This is an unbelievable scandal and whoever leaked it should be tried as a traitor. On the other hand, we find out that the administration was going to leak the information anyway as it seems that the agent was burned, having failed to detonate the bombs. So who is at fault here?

This comes against the background of an administration that leaks national security information as a matter of course to glorify itself and the president. And on the other side a news agency, AP, which is the most liberal, left-leaning press outlet of them all. The AP has betrayed their job and their professional standards a long time ago.

I say, A POX ON BOTH THEIR HOUSES!

4. Fox News
To make matters worse, by far worse, it seems that the administration has taken an even more aggressive action against Fox News and its reporter James Rosen. They actually obtained access to his PRIVATE e-mail account and read all private e-mails for a period of sixty days or so. That is in addition to obtaining very wide-ranging phone records, as they did in the AP case. What makes this matter much worse is that the leak in question was minor, meaningless. No serious national security implications here. On top of that, the FBI, in order to obtain that far-reaching warrant, implicated the reporter as a criminal, flight risk, etc. just for doing his job.

This is bad, really bad. This is clearly an effort to intimidate reporters and news networks that are trying to do their jobs. It is both totally unjustifiable to start with, and a huge overstepping of established procedures.

This is what the media should focus on: Holder did not recuse himself here. He should be held accountable. Unbelievable. This is Nixon all over again.

5. The Hidden Scandal—HHS
Probably the worst scandal of them all, and the one least discussed in the media, is what Kathleen Sebelius is doing as HHS secretary regarding the implementation of the ObamaCare. It is well established now that she has been going to various corporations around the country “asking” them for donations to help the implementation of the Act. So consider this:

  • The implementation of the act is woefully behind schedule and is suffering huge obstacles.
  • The budget to implement it has run dry and HHS is asking Congress for more money, which Congress, surprise, surprise, is rejecting out of hand.
  • The secretary of HHS goes around the country to corporate entities that she supervises and controls as they are all involved in the health industry and have direct or indirect involvement in ObamaCare and asks them for donations in the tens of millions of dollars range.

If this is not protection money or straight-forward extortion, what is it? To me this is probably the worst scandal of the current crop and most typifies the ideological bent, “the goal justify the means” approach of this administration. Unfortunately due to all the other scandals, this is not getting much attention in the headlines. It is however the worst breach of good governance of all of them. Indeed it is corrupt to the core.

The Players

Democrats
As always I am amazed by how cohesive, on point, and ferocious they are in their partisan message and attack as the best line of defense. Most of them are eloquent and articulate their case beautifully. Even those that are less so are still on message.

So what is their message and tactic?

  • We do not know the facts—we will investigate and find out.
  • In time the “we will investigate” becomes stale (see Benghazi) so the talking points change to “it is old news,” “there is no there, there”. Etc.
  • “We do not know as we are absolutely not allowed to get involved.” This administration, when it suits it, is the most hands-off administration ever. You simply cannot find them doing ANYTHING or even knowing anything on everything…
  • Divert attention to non-relevant points such as the non-adequacy of the tax code, which may or may be not be right, but is not the issue here. Even if it is not adequate it should have applied to liberal groups too.
  • Attack, attack, attack: Republicans are doing it only for partisan reasons and Republicans are twisting the facts. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black…
  • If all else fails, and it does in many cases, ignore the question and just say what you want to say anyway.

If you want a good example of all of the above, watch the appearance of Dan Pfeiffer, senior advisor to the president, on Fox News Sunday last Sunday.

Again, what is lacking in all of the above is a sincere effort to get to the truth. Why?

Republicans
I said it before and I will say it again—it is astonishing how lacking of media skills and even political skills they all are. They talk as if they have coal in their mouths, they are all over the place, and they cannot articulate a common stance or pursue a point. They get bogged down in nonessential details, they fear staking a claim or making a clear point on anything. They are simply not convincing. Their fear of the media is legendary and palpitating. It is simply painful because the truth and the facts are on their side.

The great Rep. Ryan, the ex-VP nominee, the Republicans’ point man on all things policy and the acclaimed “wonk” cannot even explain to the public why is it that the IRS action is so atrocious. In the face of a simple question regarding the fact that only 1/3 of the groups were “key words” groups, he goes into a diatribe about “we do not know, we will investigate,” etc. Why not simply answer that they were 100% of the conservative groups (as I explained above), and in addition, they were treated even worse than the other 2/3 in the sample (as I explained above). Why can he not say something CONVINCING? As a general note, Paul Ryan is a great disappointment. He started disappointing me during the election campaign. His performance during the debate with Biden was amateurish and pale and hearing him now I am convinced that he is a bureaucrat at best. He never was and cannot be an executive. Mitch McConnell is only slightly better, afraid of making any point with conviction or strength. Always hiding behind the wall of “we will investigate, we need to know the facts,” etc. These are two of the most prominent Republicans currently. Wow…

Media
Given the accumulation of scandals, even the heavily biased media is becoming a shade more like what media is supposed to be. Better, but far from good. Even staunch supports of the president understand that they cannot just ignore what has happened and are being somewhat critical. This is still miles away from being fair and objective, and light years away from treating the president with the same ferocity as they would have and did a Republican president faced with such a trifecta of scandals.

Chris Wallace, anchor of Fox’s Fox News Sunday, is still scared of his own shadow when interviewing Democrats. He is so frightened to alienate them and is so grateful to have been given a breadcrumb that he is treating them with kid gloves. For Fox, an appearance by an administration official on any of their news shows, even though second level, is unusual. This administration is trying to freeze Fox, which is a scandal in itself. Clearly the media as a whole would not have tolerated if say Bush was boycotting say NBC.

David Gregory on Meet the Press tried to be a bit more aggressive with Dan Pfeiffer and indeed asked some good questions but when Pfeiffer simply ignored them—he went on. Afterward when the Republican on the programs just hinted at some wrongdoings by the administration, Gregory was aggressive in defending the president. He never said a word when Pfeiffer attacked Republicans totally baselessly and shamelessly. Yet he was remorseless in attacking anyone on the Republican side that was trying to make a logical conclusion from these scandals to impact the president. Is this his role? To defend the president? He thinks it is. One needs to watch the entire show this passing Sunday to understand how extreme he is when defending Democrats against Republicans’ assertions, yet allowing Democrats to badmouth and attack Republicans while staying silent.

MSNBC are really at pains when they have to say something mildly negative about this administration and president so they dilute it with strong attacks on Republicans flowing from the talking points generated by the administration. It was funny to hear one particularly ignorant media person refer to the fact that the IRS was justified in aggressively pursuing all groups that have the name Tea-Party in their name for further investigation because the name includes the word “party,” which is an indication of political activity. I would recommend that she goes back to read her history again. The Boston Tea Party has nothing to do with a political organization—it was “party” as in celebration, festivity, and not as in grouping of a political nature. Just thought I would mention that…

The White House press is clearly unhappy with Jay Carney who has clearly lied to them and is being a master of evasion and of saying nothing. It is funny to watch press briefings with him. He just keeps saying, “I do not know, we are not responsible, ask anyone else but me,” etc. What is the president of this country responsible for?

On the conservative side (mainly the WSJ), the condemnation of this president is getting stronger and more aggressive. My only question is, where were you until now?

The President and His Administration
A lot has been written and said over the last ten days. I have been saying it for years now. This president is hostile to business and is aggressive beyond any precedent against people who do not agree with him or try and stand in his way (see Supreme Court, republicans, business sectors that do not cow in front of him, etc.). He has broken all standards of decorum and dignity as president. His language is aggressive and rude, he does not hesitate to attack his opponents using language that was, until he came on the scene, taboo for a president or a political leader that respects himself. He will do everything that it takes to get what he believes in. There are no holds barred.

In spite of it all, the accumulation of these scandals does bring to the fore his aptitude, or rather his inaptitude, as a leader. He knows very little, he gets involved rarely, he was not hands-on in Benghazi, he did not know about the IRS until we did, and he is removed from the AP scandal too. Did he also recuse himself? Perhaps permanently as the leader and CEO of this nation? Or as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces?

Can you really believe that about ten months ago, the counsel for the treasury heard that the IRS’s IG is investigating the accusation of a serious bias against conservative groups by the IRS? The acting chief of the IRS knows the extent of the problem, and they all keep mum about it. They do not discuss it themselves; they do not report it to their superiors. It is unbelievable.

Furthermore the WHITE HOUSE counsel hears about it about a month ago, this time she gets details, there is no way to cover the extent of the scandal or be vague about it. Yet she still tells the president NOTHING. Surely she knew that this would erupt and be a huge scandal, so why did she not tell the president a few weeks ago? Wouldn’t that be the natural thing to do?

This stretches belief. There is only one explanation for it. Having last year, on purpose, created the plausible deniability circle around the president, they wanted to maintain it and allow him to maintain the deniability, even at the risk of appearing foolish (hearing about such a scandal taking place in his administration under his nose, from the media).

Of course, we will never know if someone walked to the Oval Office one day last summer and told the president what was happening, will we? There are no more tapes in the white house since Nixon.

The fact that the acting chief of the IRS would lie to Congress about it, that the various legal counsels that knew about it shoved aside their legal training and did not report it, ostensibly, to higher ups, even the fact that the IG kept it under wraps for so long—all point to all of them acting like pure partisan hacks and not conscious civil servants. There was only one goal here: delay the scandal to after the elections at all costs.

What Now?
There are two possible scenarios for what will happen in the next few weeks/months. The most likely is that all will subside and come back to normal. This president and his team are masters of the political campaign, which this is to a large extent; the media is supportive of them, indeed submissive and malleable by them. Therefore, it is very likely that they will successfully endure the next few weeks without any lasting damage. There is, however, also an option that could cause the cracks in the shield to become like a hole in the dam: that more and more “whistleblowers” will come forward, that some, however few, brave reporters will try to get to the bottom of things and will expose this whole ideology-bent, no holds barred, “the goal justify the means” administration.

We will see.

Epilogue
Whatever the outcome is, I have been saying for years now that this president, while not personally corrupt, is, with his ideology, aggressiveness, and hostility, corrupting the entire governing system of this country. In that respect, he is more nefarious and poisonous than Nixon was. In addition, he is inept as an executive, lacks leadership, and has the wrong ideas and agenda. A terrible combination.