Ruminations, May 19, 2013
The there there
***Referring to the Benghazi fiasco, President Obama recently tried to refute his administration’s culpability by saying, “There’s no there there.” Cute but wrong
There is a “there there.” Someone whose name became well-known covering the Watergate scandal is Bob Woodward, and Woodward has distinguished himself over the years covering the presidency. He believes that there is a there there. Here’s what Woodward said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” last Friday: “You were talking earlier about kind of dismissing the Benghazi issue as one that’s just political and the president recently said it’s a sideshow. But if you read through all these e-mails, you see that everyone in the government is saying, ‘Oh, let’s not tell the public that terrorists were involved, people connected to al Qaeda. Let’s not tell the public that there were warnings.’ I hate to show, this is one of the documents with the editing that one of the people in the State Department said, ‘Oh, let’s not let these things out.’ And I have to go back 40 years to Watergate when Nixon put out his edited transcripts to the conversations, and he personally went through them and said, ‘Oh, let’s not tell this, let’s not show this.’ I would not dismiss Benghazi. It’s a very serious issue.”
I wonder what he meant by that
Many years ago, I worked for a company that went through reorganization. Our group was shifted over to the executive vice president. Shortly after that, I got on the elevator and there was the executive VP. He said “Good morning, Rob.” I later related this to a colleague and the colleague said: “He said ‘good morning?’ I wonder what he meant by that.”
The executive VP meant it as a greeting – nothing more. But the point is that when you are of sufficient stature, anything you say may be interpreted by your subordinates to be loaded with hidden and not-so-hidden messages.
Four years ago, Arizona State University refused to bestow an honorary degree on President Obama. Obama said in his prepared remarks: “…I do think we all learned an important lesson. I learned never again to pick another team over the Sun Devils in my NCAA brackets. … [ASU] President Crowe and the Board of Regents will soon learn all about being audited by the IRS.”
I wonder what he meant by that? Is it possible that someone at IRS, someone who is a loyal supporter of the president, interpreted the president’s remarks as encouragement to audit those who disagree with the president? After all, the IRS has to audit someone, why not pick on those who are disrespectful to the big guy? It’s possible.
In April, 2012, the Obama campaign Website identified Frank VanderSloot as a Romney donor who had a “less-than-sterling” record. Within two months of the Website’s posting, VanderSloot received a notification from IRS that they were going to audit him and audit his business. And two months later, the Department of Labor told him that it would audit his business, too. The audits came to nothing – except for the legal and accounting bills VanderSloot had to pay in his defense — $80,000. I wonder what Obama meant by “less-than-sterling?”
Peggy Noonan, in her Saturday column in the Wall Street Journal, reported that “Hal Scherz, a Georgia physician, … told ABC News: ‘It is odd that nothing changed on my tax return and I was never audited until I publicly criticized Obamacare.’”.
Dr. Anne Hendershott wrote articles in religious publications and the Wall Street Journal calling into question the legitimacy of Catholic groups that supported Obamacare. Hendershott, who files a joint return with her husband, was called in by IRS for an audit. The fact that Hendershott was specifically told not to bring her husband makes one wary of the purpose of the IRS audit. If it was intimidation, it worked. Hendershott has stopped writing articles.
Coincidences? Maybe these are, but there are many others who were audited after publicly opposing Obama.
Remember the KGB, the Stasi and the Gestapo? Part of the success of these organizations was due to the fact that they had extensive files on individuals and that the individuals knew if they strayed from approved behavior, these secret police organizations would be quick to respond. The IRS has not stooped to beating recalcitrants or midnight raids. But they do have extensive files, can confiscate your assets and imprison you.
When the IRS intimidates people, there is a problem. And even if the problem didn’t start at the top, the solution sure does.
The biggest little scandal in Washington
It seems that the preponderance of the media is telling us that Benghazi is just a political spat, IRS is an unfortunate screw-up, but the White House accessing the phone records of Associated Press reporters – well, that’s the big deal.
That’s understandable. What happens to you personally always seems like a big deal and it’s difficult to put the personal in perspective; after all, it is personal. But the media has it backwards.
Look at it this way:
• Benghazi – the best case is that is that four Americans were killed due to a lack of preparedness on our part. The worst case is the same as the best case but add to it that the Administration lied about the cause due to their political aspirations.
• IRS – the best case is that some conservative groups were singled out due to overzealous IRS agents. The worst case is that a policy and tone set in the Administration sought to intimidate and inefffectualize conservative groups in order for Obama to be re-elected.
• AP – The best case is that the Administration sought to discover who was leaking critical and secret information to the press. The worst case is the same thing. In fact, in this case, it appears that the Administration actually sought to de-politicize the situation because the news AP reported was that the CIA foiled an al-Qaeda plot to “destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb with a sophisticated new design around the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden.” This news is a political plus for Obama and the fact that the Administration took extraordinary steps to prevent its publication and recurrence indicates that the breaking of the story was indeed thought to be a threat to American security.
Now, the AP story does indeed need investigation. If the Administration went too far, we as a nation need to take corrective action. But that’s it.
The Benghazi and IRS situations have far more potential for politicizing foreign and economic policies and, by extension, shutting down discourse in America. And those are major concerns.
Quote without comment
Former Representative Dennis Kucinich (D, OH), discussing the IRS political situation on Fox News Sunday, May 12: ”I’m a liberal Democrat. I’m not someone who’s celebrated Tea Party politics. But we cannot – this is not tolerable – we cannot have a condition in America where people’s politics are the basis for IRS attacks. … The tone is set from the top. That’s the problem we have to look at here, the tone that’s set.”