One of the more bizarre aspects of the current deluge of Washington scandals is that their very numbers permit President Barack Obama to finesse and continue to play a role as No. 1 observer and chief political fundraiser.
The almost weekly additions to news of the administration’s dereliction of duty and corruption diffuse public concern and deflect the critics including the Republicans [with what appears poor staff work].
There is no zeroing in on substantial targets to maximize the political effect.
It would take, indeed, a Solomon to distinguish which one scandal is of more serious concern for the well-being and adequate functioning of the Republic.
All threaten the trust and confidence in a limited government once inherent in the traditional and unique American constitutional system.
- Would it be the incompetence of the Bureau of Firearms, Tobacco and Alcohol – the name no more anachronistic than its operations apparently – which so bungled an effort to track Mexican drug cartel weaponry that it ended up supplying guns for the murderer of American agents?
- Or would it be a State Dept. security apparatus so politicized by the maybe 2016 candidate for president that it neglected to prepare in chaotic Libya for an attack on the anniversary of 9/11? Or worse still, who gave a still unaccounted “stand down” order in the military chain of command – is it not headed by the president-commander-in-chef? – dishonoring the U.S. warrior code requiring that no man be left behind? Instead, four brave Americans, an ambassador and three of his defenders, were left to die at the hands of especially barbaric opponents.
- Or is the use of the world’s most efficient tax-collecting system and therefore its most powerful bureaucracy to harass and inhibit political opponents?
- Examining charges of pedophilia and prostitution and an assortment of other “minor” offenses among American diplomats will, presumably, continue to be swept under the diplomatic red carpet. Betwixt the repeated denials of knowledge of the workings of their own bureaucracy and admissions of guilt, so-called “acceptance of responsibility” has become a meaningless cliché. No one gets fired, some get promoted, and others are put on “administrative leave” continuing to pull down inflated salaries and bonuses. And former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who told us “what differences does it make” that she and others lied to the public about the origins of this major disaster, ends her tenure at one of our most important government bureaucracies apparently unscathed.
- The Obama administration has even shot itself in the foot – and created a serious constitutional issue – by its illegal pursuit of a largely docile media. Conspiracy to injure U.S. national interest is not, of course, outside the bounds of investigation of the media, especially when such an old paranoid anti-American voice as The Guardian is involved. The footnote is critical that the Attorney-General of the U.S. – after being turned down by two judges – charged in his search warrant for a Fox reporter’s personal papers and communications that he was in pursuit of a criminal charge under the espionage law. His claim now he never had any intention to pursue it but simply a ruse to get the judge’s permission is a cardinal offense for our major executive law-enforcer. How many more violations of the law, from contempt of Congress to charges of perjury, must there be before he goes.
The latest “scandal” to sweep Washington is, indeed, of a different character although critics and some analysts have largely confounded it with the others in the public discussion of the generally rising tide of incompetence. A scalawag with a largely manufactured if elaborate résumé has somehow been able to loose publicly details of highly guarded national security secrets. Ironically, there may be a benefit from his shenanigans by forcing a re-examination of the never ending problem of government secrecy for national security as against the right of citizens in a free republic to know how and why their government is spying on them.
But it is abundantly clear that the authorities, in order to prevent more 9/11s and, hopefully, the even more demanding prevention of Boston Marathon Bombings, must cast a wide net. In a digital age when terrorists use the internet to evangelize, to recruit, to offer weapons for lone wolf candidates, and to plan their atrocities, vast worldwide data compilation including from the domestic scene is required. However difficult, one has to assume that this is a method to avoid even more and larger incidents. The episode also has brought into question the growing reliance of the government on “Beltway bandits” with their contractual access to government secrets but what appears to be an inability to protect them.
The scandals, covered in its own inimitable way by a mainstream media as a willing culprit through its outrageous partisanship with the President, have had a devastating role on public opinion. They have increased cynicism about political life, further discrediting the Congress. But they have even inevitably eaten into the rockstar adoration the U.S.’ self-anointed media, bureaucratic and Hollywood elite has lavished on Mr. Obama.
With details of each of these violations of the public trust being obscured as the next one comes tumbling out, the difficult job of periodically reexamining governance in any democratic society and making reforms is being taxed to its fullest.What is certainly happening, however, is that the important domestic and foreign policy issues are being ignored or manhandled.Mr. Obama’s continuing war against American business is further aggravating the incredibly difficult job of restoring maximum employment as the economy tries to adjust to the ever-expanding ramifications of the digital revolution.
Abroad the President’s team continues to disparage the accomplishments of U.S. leadership in the post-World War II era, seeking to substitute corrupt and incapable international organizations for American leadership.
In the Mideast Mr. Obama is hoisted on his own petard, having denounced the interventionism of the previous Bush Administrations and precipitously ended commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan assuring minimum continued U.S. regional influence, he is now forced to confront the perilous decision-making of intervention in Syria.
He neglected possible opportunities earlier on to take advantage of the opposition to the Assad Syrian regime – as with his earlier refusal to exploit growing popular antagonism to the mullahs in Iran.
Now Mr. Obama is forced to try to affect the outcome of events in Damascus with jihadists and their allies playing a larger and larger role in the opposition to Assad. Not to do so is to risk an explosive regional war in the area involving one of his announced most trusted colleague, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey as well as Israel and the Arab states. Or worse still, a failure to turn the Assad regime out would install the long arm of Iran on the Mediterranean in Syria and through Hizbullah in Lebanon and crown it the region’s hegemonic power over much of the world’s oil supply.
Meanwhile, Washington for the first time since 1945 is not playing its traditional role as conciliator in the Europeans’ greatest economic crisis since postwar reconstruction. That’s despite the fact the U.S. sells three times more to the Europeans than to China. This absenteeism is, granted, largely because of the debilitated situation in Washington’s own economy but it is also part of the Obama lead from behind which given scant priority to a proposed trans-Atlantic free trade agreement.
In East Asia, the Obama administration’s has neglected its principal ally at a time when the Japanese for their own reasons [namely aggressive Chinese and North Korean neighbors and an effort to energize its economy] are now poised to play as equal partners. The absurdity of repeated formulaic pronouncements on North Korea have now permitted that failed state to go on the offensive diplomatically as it continues its mass weapons buildup. Wishful thinking about China’s beneficial role in taming Pyongyang is only part of a passive and unrealistic attitude toward a half dozen major outstanding issues with an unfair trading partner and rapidly arming and aggressive Beijing.
All this poses the question as to how much the U.S. – and the world – will pay for another three years of its all-powerful chief executive as an observer above the fray substituting for leadership.