Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Putting scandals in order

Posted By Victor Davis Hanson 
A system of voluntary tax compliance cannot survive a dishonest IRS. Lois Lerner and company have virtually ruined the agency. For the foreseeable future, each time an American receives a tax query, he will wonder to what degree his politics ensures enhanced or reduced scrutiny — or whether his name as a donor, activist, or partisan has put him on a watch list.
Worse still, when a high commissioner of the IRS takes the 5th Amendment, it sends a frightening message: those audited go to jail when they refuse to testify; those who audit them who do the same do not.
The Associated Press/James Rosen monitoring by the Obama administration was creepy not just because it went after a heretofore obsequious media, but because Obama’s lieutenants alleged that the reason was aiding and abetting the leaking of classified material.
Of course, disclosing top-secret information and thereby damaging the national interest is no small thing. But was leaking the real reason that Eric Holder lied under oath when he assured his congressional inquisitors that he was not monitoring the communications of Americans — after he had done just that in the case of James Rosen of Fox News?
No modern administration has leaked classified data like the Obama administration. Do we remember a frustrated Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warning White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon “to shut the f— up” for disclosing the secret details of the bin Laden hit?
Or was John Brennan’s effusive blow-by-blow description of the Navy SEAL team protocol worse? Or for that matter, why did David Sanger and David Ignatius seem to have access to classified details about the bin Laden document trove and the Iranian Stuxnet cyber-war campaign? The obvious answer is that after the midterm election of 2010, a panicking Obama administration worried about reelection, and especially polls that suggested the president was weak on national-security issues.
To rectify that image, politicos began leaking the nation’s most intimate secrets to remind the public that, behind the scenes, Obama was a veritable Harry Truman. The problem with the AP was not that it leaked, but that it did not leak in a fashion and at a time of the administration’s own choosing. In other words, the Associated Press was a competitor when Obama wished a monopoly on the leaking franchise.
No one knows much about the NSA mess. But already there are some disturbing developments. How can Director of National Intelligence James Clapper outright lie under oath without consequences after he assured the Congress that the agency did not monitor the communications of American citizens?
After the president’s press conference last week, an embarrassing paradox arose: the president promised all sorts of new NSA reforms. But why now, and for what reason the sudden worry? After all, Obama offered no new protocol to ensure that classified matters did not end up in the hands of a high-school dropout and highly ideological computer hacker like Eric Snowden.
Instead, the president de facto made Snowden’s case. It was only because of the illegal acts of Snowden that Obama promised future measures — not against the next Snowden, but against abuses promulgated by himself. Consider the logic: Snowden is supposed to be a criminal for leaking a top-secret intelligence gathering operation, but in response to that illegal conduct, Obama for the first time promises to address just the sort of abuses that Snowden outlined.
With enemies like Obama, the lawbreaking Snowden hardly needs friends.
Of the four most prominent scandals — and by “four” I do not wish to deprecate “Fast and Furious,” or EPA Director Lisa Jackson’s fake email persona, or the arbitrary non-enforcement of the law, from ignoring elements of Obamacare to granting pre-election amnesty by fiat to over one million illegal aliens — Benghazi is by far the most disturbing; the scandal is insidious.
Four Americans were slaughtered under conditions that we still cannot fathom. It was rumored but not confirmed that Ambassador Stevens in extremis was either raped or brutalized, though those details remain murky — given that the assassination of an American ambassador is rare, and the vicious brutalization of his person is unprecedented. Witnesses of the attack on the CIA annex have either disappeared or gone silent. The families of the deceased have received conflicting accounts of how loved ones were murdered. All that we know for now is that the entire scene of the caskets arriving on U.S. soil — from the melodramatic assurances that the perpetrators would shortly feel American retaliation, to the demonization of Mr. Nakoula as the cause of the deaths — was a lie, and a cynical one at that.
Military protocol?
The American military takes incredible risks to come to the aid of its own beleaguered. When it does not — consider Wake Island in World War II — a national scandal erupts. For now, we know that those under assault requested aid; that sending such help was imminently feasible; and that no one yet can explain why such succor was not sent.
We are left with the suspicion that some official surmised that the reelection campaign did not want a Mogadishu-style shoot-out less than two months before the election, or a messy Libya, or the risk of beefing up security. The reelection mantra was instead that Osama bin Laden was dead; al Qaeda was nearly defunct; and that the “lead from behind” removal of Moammar Gaddafi had helped to energize the Arab Spring and lead to a new age of reform. No wonder someone ordered a stand-down to preserve that fantasy.
“Leading From Behind” has led to “Leaving Them Behind.”
If Obama can monotonously “spike the ball” on Osama bin Laden, cannot he offer a little clarity to the families of the deceased? Nearly a year after the murders, what happened to Obama’s reelection boast that he would bring the perpetrators to justice?
Barack Obama, Susan Rice, and Hillary Clinton all falsely swore that the obscure amateur video maker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was guilty of prompting a mass riot at Benghazi. Nakoula — petty crook and loud opponent of Islam — was a fall guy right out of central casting.
A favorite topos of Barack Obama — consider the al-Arabiya interview, or the Cairo speech — is his courageous and principled opposition to supposedly ubiquitous Islamophobes. Beating up on the unsympathetic Nakoula killed two birds with one stone: it reminded the world that the multiculturalist Obama would not tolerate anti-Muslim thought on his shores, and it propped up the sinking narrative of an extinguished al-Qaeda.
There were absolutely no professional consequences for publicly lying — to the nation, to television audiences, to the relatives of the deceased, to the United Nations — that the Nakoula video was the cause of the deaths of our Benghazi personnel. Barack Obama was reelected. Hillary “what difference does it make” Clinton retired from the secretary of State post to congratulations and media frenzy about her likely 2016 presidential campaign. Susan Rice was promoted to National Security advisor.
There is almost no one left at his 2012 post. In addition to the above, General Carter Ham, in charge of Africa Command, has retired. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has retired. CIA Director David Petraeus has resigned.
How did it happen that just nine months after the attack, most all of the relevant decision-makers — Clinton, Ham, Panetta, Petraeus, Rice — have vanished from their jobs?
Ron Ziegler Redux
Jay Carney cannot be believed. He lied when he said that there were only “stylistic” changes made to CIA talking points, when in fact the administration’s revisions were both major and predictably aimed at serving a false narrative. Carney also did not tell the truth when he repeated on several occasions that Mr. Nakoula was the culprit for the violence, a fact that he knew at the time was false. And when Carney deprecated Benghazi as a “phony” scandal, we heard the ghost of Ron Ziegler stonewalling with “third-rate burglary.”
The Engaged President
We saw minute-by-minute pictures of Obama in command surrounded by advisors during the bin Laden raid. Why not the same level of photographed attention on the night of Benghazi? In a nutshell, in one operation we sent lots of soldiers after a few enemies, and in the other, lots of our enemies were sent after a few of our soldiers. Saving trapped Americans from a pre-planned al-Qaeda hit is not a photo-op in a way a preplanned American attack on al-Qaeda most certainly could be. Otherwise, I have no idea where the president was during that long tragic night, only that we will never know until he is well out of office.
“National Security”
The hallmark of most recent American presidential scandals — whether Watergate or Iran-Contra — has been the evocation of “national security” and often the supposed role of the CIA that must preclude full disclosures. For now, almost a year later, no one knows what exactly the CIA was doing in Benghazi, only that hiding whatever it was doing — perhaps gunrunning confiscated weapon stockpiles to insurgents of some sort in Syria — was of utmost importance, at least in the political context of late 2012. I have read the accounts of the original CIA talking points, reviewed the public statements of Gen. David Petraeus both before and after his resignation, collated the assertions of top administration officials — and the narratives cannot be squared. Someone at some point flat-out lied and thought it critical to hide American activity in Benghazi.
A False Campaign?
The election of 2012 may well have been altered by the Benghazi cover-up, in ways that transcend debate moderator Candy Crowley’s puerile and unprofessional efforts to shield Obama from Romney’s questioning about the deaths. Imagine the fallout on voters had we been told from the very beginning that an al-Qaeda affiliate had stormed our consulate — ill-prepared and unable to obtain needed beefed-up security, reliant for safety on local suspect tribal militias, in a country that had deteriorated into a failed society after our Libyan bombing — and slaughtered four Americans, apparently stationed in Benghazi to help in some way a covert CIA operation.
So here we have it: a beleaguered “consulate” that was refused additional security and relied on local militias, apparently due to administration worry over destroying an Obama campaign narrative of a reborn Libya and dying al-Qaeda. A CIA operation of some sort supplied something to someone, but what and why and to whom, we are not supposed to know. Four Americans, the very best the country had to offer, are dead, denied assistance when assistance could have saved them — the why and the how and the when of it all we are not told. We fear it might have been a crackpot cost-benefit analysis: four lives versus another Mogadishu and an Obama November defeat.
We know only that the dead were far more heroic than the leaders who chose not to aid them.
And in reaction to all this, we jail a petty video maker, who makes the perfect scapegoat as a supposedly right-wing Islamophobic hate monger whose take-down advances our president’s politically correct narrative of Muslim outreach. That yarn required a president, secretary of state, and UN ambassador to lie repeatedly. When we ask questions, witnesses are browbeaten, the knowledgeable fade into the Washington woodwork, the luminaries have all left their offices, and we are left with “phony” scandal and “what difference does it make.”
All in all — the mother of all scandals.

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