WHAT DID OBAMA KNOW AND WHEN DID HE KNOW IT?
Former Vice President Dick Cheney aptly summed up President Obama in a Fox News Sunday interview with Chris Wallace. Cheney said of Obama, “he’s got no credibility.” That indeed is the plight of Obama and, sadly, as it reflects upon the nation, our plight as well. Surrounded by scandals that could not occur on such an enormous scale without White House knowledge and involvement, the question posed during the impeachment proceedings for President Nixon following the Watergate scandal should once again be front and center: What did the President know and when did he know it?
It is difficult to believe that the IRS targeting of conservative groups preceding the 2010 congressional and 2012 presidential campaigns occurred without White House involvement. It is likewise difficult to believe that DOJ warrants to obtain phone and email records for, among others, AP reporters and Fox News reporter James Rosen were likewise performed without White House involvement. The White House was, of course, intimately involved in expansion of the NSA spying program to obtain millions of Americans email correspondence and phone records. The breadth and gravity of the scandals now unfolding make the Watergate break-in and cover-up appear a minor caper by comparison.
The illegal actions of the executive branch reveal an administration run riot where political espionage, discriminatory treatment and reprisal became customary within whole divisions. Anyone who has worked within the federal bureaucracy, as have I, knows that the commencement of a systemic effort to delay and harass conservative groups or to intimidate journalists does not occur without clear direction from superiors. In the case of the IRS scandal, the facts confirm that the IRS Commissioner, the same one who visited the White House over 157 times, knew of and condoned the discriminatory treatment of conservative groups by the tax exempt division. We presently lack definitive proof that the IRS Commissioner received instruction from the White House to engage in the effort, but it is very hard to believe that he did not receive that instruction. The selection of political hacks like Lois Lerner and Sarah Hall Ingram by the IRS Commissioner to run the tax exempt division could not have occurred without the IRS Commissioner’s awareness and appreciation for their histories of partisan abuse of government power.
Bureaucrats are ordinarily quite risk averse. Within the bureaucracy there is an ever present fear of scapegoating, a fear that actions taken will be second guessed by superiors, so very few go out on a limb unless specifically ordered to do so. No one under the President would dare take a blatantly political action like the discriminatory treatment of conservative groups by the IRS or the targeting of journalists by DOJ unless sure that those actions were expected by superiors. In turn, superiors would not order the illegal actions unless assured that, in the case of the IRS, the Commissioner, and, in the case of DOJ, the Attorney General had ordered the measures. In turn, neither the IRS Commissioner nor the Attorney General would break the law for partisan ends and order the abuses unless assurances were given from the White House that the President wanted the actions taken.
Likewise, we do not see the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder most likely because both Holder and the President know that Holder’s actions in authorizing or condoning surveillance of journalists antagonistic to the Administration served the interests of the President. It is difficult to believe that the President was unaware of Holder’s actions or that Holder would undertake them without either prodding or reassurance from the White House.
The American people should demand that those responsible for the law violations and abuses of power be held accountable. Congress should not only investigate the law violations but should appoint a special prosecutor to bring charges against all responsible. If the Attorney General and the former IRS Commissioner are ultimately prosecuted, they will likely reveal more information concerning the connections to the White House as part of a plea deal.
The self-proclaimed most “transparent” government in history has proven itself not only to operate largely in secret but also to be willing to break the law for partisan ends. As the scandals continue to unfold, revealing what we know now to be but the tip of the iceberg, we must remain mindful of the fact that none of it could have occurred had the President demanded from those in government service that they act in a transparent fashion and adhere to the highest standard of ethics. Rather, the executive branch typically reflects the moral compass of its leader, the President. If the President is willing to do almost anything to win re-election and throughout his tenure to assassinate the character of opponents, and the President desperately wants to intimidate, and know who the sources are for, journalists critical of his administration, those desires reverberate throughout the leadership and get translated into actions. Only if underlings know that the pressure from the White House is great for specific action like IRS discriminatory treatment of conservative groups or surveillance of critical journalists will they dare engage in such activities.
Even then, only people of shallow character pursue them rather than resign when asked to break the law. One dereliction of this kind might be attributable to a single or small group within government who are renegades but when the derelictions are systemic, when whole divisions engage in them, there can be little doubt that the orders came from on high and, most likely, from the White House itself.
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As the American public increasingly learns of the wanton violations of law and civil liberties by this administration, as they learn of how little respect key administration officials have had for our rights, and as they watch as those responsible continue to hold their government positions and face little if any accountability and punishment for the law violations, they will increasingly place the blame where it ultimately deserves to be placed, with President Obama. As President, he must take responsibility for the actions of his administration, even if he were ignorant of them, which seems highly doubtful. In the end, however, we are likely to discover ties to the White House that make the blame clear. Sooner or later, almost all Americans will come to appreciate that without White House direction none of this could have occurred on such a large scale.
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