May 22 2013
All the President's Scandals: One Common Theme
National Review’s Jim Geraghty makes a point this morning better than I did yesterday (my post was headlined “What Do the IRS and Media Spying Scandals Have in Common?").
In a post bearing the headline “All of Obama’s Scandals Are Ultimately about Information Control,” Geraghty goes through the various scandals and shows that each is based on the goal of hiding information from the public.
This holds true from the alleged order forbidding deputy chief of mission in Libya, Gregory Hicks, from speaking with a member of Congress (!) to preventing tea party groups from gaining tax exempt status to treating journalists as criminals. Do read Geraghty’s run down on each scandal. He concludes:
All of these actions involve an effort to control information.
Some parts of this administration focus on preventing information that is contrary to the administration’s agenda from getting out, or hindering its distribution, and making sure that the only information that goes out supports the perspective of the administration. Other parts leak confidential information designed to attack the reputations of those holding perspectives the administration opposes (NOM, the nine conservative groups) or other whistleblowers (ATF agent Dodson).
I was inclined to dismiss the press scandal as the least of three evils. It was bad, sure, but compared with Benghazi, where people died, and the IRS scandal, which makes 1984 seem tame, it seemed less important. I am beginning to see it as quite significant: the control of the flow of information has never been in the hands of the state in our tradition of government. The Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of the press. It was so important that it led off the list of rights.
Sure, the national media turned itself into an Obama fan'zine. But we still have the First Amendment, whenever the national media cares to avail itself of this right. And the Obama administration’s actions were a shocking violation of that amendment. Added to that, the administration particularly went after the one news organization that wasn’t willing to lick its boots—Fox—with hammer and tongs. The Justice Department reportedly seized the phone records of no fewer than five Fox reporters. In the case of James Rosen, the government seized his parents’ phone records!
USA Today, hardly an organ of the right, has a piece on how chilling the Obama leak investigations are in the eyes of journalism advocates:
The monitoring of the Fox News reporter, which was unsealed in court documents in 2011 but went unnoticed until a Washington Post report published this week, marks a startling expansion on the war on leaks by the administration, according to some free press advocates….
Gregg Leslie, legal director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said documents filed in support of a search warrant in a leak prosecution involving Kim mark the first time a reporter has been classified as an unindicted co-conspirator or a participant in an alleged crime for seeking information.
Of course, the press watchdogs quoted can’t refrain from working in a dig or two at a private citizen now residing in Dallas. But it is nevertheless clear to the impartial reader that the Obama administration’s actions are unprecedented. I begged my fellow conservatives to refrain from using the W-word yesterday. But Noemie Emery has such an interesting comparison of two presidents that I am going to close by breaking my own rule:
Forty years [after Watergate], all would be different but would still be, in some ways, the same. The press, the glitterati and the establishment worshipped Obama, who was almost too confident, but he had a tic that was missing in Nixon: He was an ideologue, bent on mass transformation, in his mind, a man of historic importance, on a mission that nothing should stop.
When people and things did try to stop him, he found this untenable and did all that he could to stop them. He called opposition a "fever" that had to be broken, and try to break it he did.
Like Nixon, he enabled an ambience in which lies and law-breaking were common, and perhaps expected. Liberals denied that their hip youngish leader was at all like the dour, dorkish Nixon, who wore wingtips when he walked on the seashore.
But others demurred.
Like Tricky Dick, Beautiful Barack overreached. Mistakes were made. Both Watergate and the scandals engulfing President Obama were unnecessary. President Obama would likely have been re-elected even without the assist from the IRS. And the press? He had the voluntary, almost total compliance of most of the mainstream media. But it wasn't enough. That is what I find frightening.