Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

May 21, 2013

Trio of Washington scandals create tumultuous atmosphere for Obama

The broiling controversies of the Benghazi scandal, the IRS wrongdoing, and the questionable seizure of Associated Press telephone records by the Department of Justice have forced those on the left and those that don’t pay much attention to what goes on in the political realm to recognize that our government indulges in improper and oppressive behavior. And this tumultuous atmosphere has spawned some wild and crazy things.

Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program and vociferous gun control advocate, had an epiphany brought on by the federal government’s improper behavior. During a roundtable discussion on the show he said, “My argument (for gun control) is less persuasive today because of these scandals.” He went on to explain that “People say, ‘Hey, if they do this with the IRS, asking people what books you read, then how can I trust them with information about my Second Amendment rights?’” There was general agreement among the show’s other participants.

Another unusual thing was former White House senior advisor David Axelrod’s defense of President Barack Obama. He said that the president can’t be held responsible for what underlings do. The reason is that our government is so large that no one person can control what all of the two million executive branch employees do.

He’s right: government is way too big and far too powerful. David Axelrod is a limited government guy. Who knew?

But the fact that government is too big doesn’t relieve the president of the United States, whomever that might be at any given time, of the duty to manage the executive branch and keep it within its constitutional limits, and to always respect the citizens it serves. Plainly, Mr. Obama has not done that.

In our highly-charged political environment, not everything that the president’s loyal opposition calls a scandal is truly a scandal. But conversely, everything that Mr. Obama’s sycophantic fans wish was not a scandal isn’t a scandal, and their efforts to explain them away often border on silliness. (Scripps Howard) columnist Reg Henry ably demonstrated that with inadequate attempts to downplay a few of them and make them go away.

Of the Fast and Furious debacle Mr. Henry said it “was a crackpot scheme to trace guns to Mexican drug cartels, but it was a hard sell because, as you know, guns don’t kill people.”

He is obviously correct about it being a crackpot scheme, although that characterization does not do justice to this colossal idiocy. And his sarcastic comment about guns not killing people unintentionally conveyed the truth.

But he’s totally wrong about whether Fast and Furious is a scandal. Not only did the Justice Department fail to achieve the fundamental goal of this misadventure — to trace the guns they provided to the Mexican cartels — but an American border patrol officer was murdered with one of them. That indeed is a scandal.

Next, in trying to wish away the green energy fiasco, he states, “The Solyndra scandal involved a big waste of public money, but the real offense seemed to be that the administration was promoting solar power. Oh, the horror.”

So-called “public money” is money taxed away from taxpayers ostensibly to be used responsibly and for beneficial purposes, not so that billions can be wasted on the personal whim of the president to prop up a preferred industry, one that is so unstable that it cannot succeed even after being propped up. Mr. Henry is apparently unaware that it is neither within the president’s nor the federal government’s authority to decide which industries succeed and which do not.

In reference to what he called “Benghazi-gate,” he cautions us that “it’s far from clear what the president knew and when he knew it.” But again he misses the point. What makes Benghazi a scandal is not what Mr. Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton knew and when they knew it, although that certainly deserves an explanation, it’s the fact that his administration and/or her department disgracefully failed to provide requested and needed security upgrades before the attack began. Had they acted properly it just might have prevented all four of the murders that resulted from the attack on the Benghazi consulate. And then, there’s the video smoke screen to explain.

Some believe the Obama administration overtly engineered the effort by the IRS to target conservatives, Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations. But others blame this oppressive behavior on a “culture of suspicion” of conservative organizations created by President Obama’s near-continuous public criticism of those individuals and organizations. After all, if the president repeatedly makes public statements saying these people are up to no good, shouldn’t good bureaucrats try to please the boss and go after the bad guys?                                   

President Obama told graduates of The Ohio State University earlier this month that “you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems. ... They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.” But the swirling controversies that demonstrate actual government tyranny render that advice dangerous and unworthy.

James H. “Smokey” Shott, a resident of Bluefield, Va., is a Daily Telegraph columnist.

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