Obamagate: The Focus Is Barack Obama
In Part One of this series, published on Monday, I used the word “Watergate” seven times, openly comparing the scandalous Obama administration to the scandalous Nixon administration.
I didn’t know the half of it.
Just hours after Part One ran, we all learned the disturbing news of the rogue Justice Department wiretaps on the Associated Press. Now, even the liberals in the MSM are in an uproar, and the chief target is Attorney General Eric Holder. Former MSNBC anchor David Shuster tweeted, “I want him fired,” and even a veteran liberal such as Esquire’s Charles Pierce agreed: “Holder must go."
Speaking for the prognosticating pundits, Laura Rozen tweeted, “Hard to see how this ends without Holder leaving one way or other.”
Let’s hope, and the sooner the better. Those of us who can’t help thinking about Watergate redux will, of course, be forever comparing Holder to Nixon’s surveillance-crazed attorney general, the notorious and criminal John Mitchell.
Holder has his own long pedigree as a cover-upper, too. Back in the 90s, as deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, Holder was in charge of shutting down the investigation of Clinton campaign finance violations. Who can forget all those Chinese agents, Indonesian bankers, and even Buddhist monks who were financing the Clinton re-election campaign with money that came from who-knows-where?
Holder squelched the suggestion of Charles G. LaBella, the leader of the Justice Department anti-corruption task force, to establish an independent counsel to further pursue those cases. LaBella resigned soon thereafter. And for the last four years, Holder has been a similar kind of praetorian guard for this President.
Yet once again, those who seek to know the full truth about what has happened to America during the Obama years need to keep their eye on the key figure. And that key figure is not Eric Holder, any more than it is Hillary Clinton. Instead, the key figure is Barack Obama.
As I put it in the sub-headline of Part One, “The Focus Must Be Obama, Not Clinton.” And so now, in Part Two, I will similarly declare, “The Focus Must Be Barack Obama, Not Eric Holder.” Holder may indeed be another John Mitchell; both Holder and Mitchell were older than the presidents they served--and indeed, Holder and Mitchell had been mentors, respectively, to Obama and Nixon in earlier days. By all accounts, Holder has a close relationship with the President; along with Valerie Jarrett he is in the first circle. And so Obama will miss Holder when he is gone. Of course, in his day, Nixon missed Mitchell, too, but that didn’t stop them from parting, as Mitchell went off to jail.
Yet even if Holder leaves, the problem will stay--because the problem is Obama. As I wrote in Part One, “the ultimate question” is “what did the President know?” And, we might add, when did he know it, and what did he do?
Those were the key questions of Watergate, and they are now the key question in the many facets of what must be called “Obamagate.”
So who is Obama? My answer is that his presence in the White House represents the triumph of Chicago politics. The real Obama found his true calling on the streets of Chicago; he might have said the politically correct words from time to time, but for the most part, his career has been characterized by one thing--ambition. And ambition of a hard-edged and ruthless kind; everyone but himself is expendable.
So the real Obama, is, indeed, a lot like Nixon, hiding his scandals behind the facade of his underlings. Each underling, of course, is a chess piece to be sacrificed as the game might require. Obama, like Nixon before him, has a lot of underlings. Others are starting to see the Nixon-Obama parallelism, too: Yesterday, Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith, a journalist who leans left, published a GIF--a tiny animation--showing Obama morphing into Nixon.
So what is Obamagate? What are its facets? Let’s look at the three main areas in turn:
First, the Associated Press story. Yes, the AP has been identified as the first victim of the Mitchell-ized Holder Justice Department, but it’s a safe bet that more journalistic victims will be identified. As The New York Times makes clear in its report, the fact that the Justice Department won’t answer queries as to whether or not other media outlets were tapped as well speaks volumes. After all, the Times was digging on the very same story, concerning the identification of a Yemeni plot in Spring 2012, aimed at blowing up US passenger jets.
Obviously it’s vital that the US Government maintain its counter-terror effectiveness, but it’s equally obvious that the executive branch must work closely with the coequal legislative branch. And that doesn’t seem to have happened at all; that’s why even Sen. Harry Reid, Obama’s leader in the Senate, would not defend the DOJ actions.
Even more important than Congress, of course, is the law itself. It’s devastatingly obvious that the administration has followed the law... only when it suits them.
Last spring, myriad leaks sprang from the administration; reporters in several publications were suddenly privileged to learn of the marvelous things the Obama administration had been doing to combat terror through drone strikes, to kill Bin Laden, and to stop Iran’s nuclear program. I believe, and have publicly asserted, that Tom Donilon, the national security adviser at the White House, was responsible for these leaks--the leak campaign totally fits his political modus operandi. And I was not alone in that belief.
Still, the leak-campaign seemed to going well for the Obama’s re-election campaign--every day the voters were being reminded that we had strong, effective, and resolute commander-in-chief. But then Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, and others pointed out that all these leaks of classified information were endangering American lives and, in fact, undermining the effectiveness of the programs being trumpeted.
Confronted with a backlash against the leak-campaign, Obama called upon--you guessed it--Eric Holder to lead an “investigation” of the leaks. Predictably, nothing much happened with that investigation--at least not before the election.
Now we are learning, of course, that the Justice Department was investigating. But Justice wasn’t investigating, say, Donilon; it was instead investigating the AP. How ‘bout that? Don’t investigate the people dispensing the classified information; instead, investigate those who were receiving it. And the focus of the investigation, it appears, is not Stuxnet or the drones, but rather, the attempted plane-bombing from Yemen.
Indeed, as Fox News pointed out on Tuesday night, John Brennan--then the White House homeland security adviser, now Director of the CIA--was busily briefing reporters on the Yemen success.
In other words, the Obama administration was investigating reporters for digging on the Yemen matter, even as the Obama administration was busy taking credit for the Yemen matter. And they said Nixon was tricky.
Now that’s Nixonian.
Second, the IRS story. The revelation that the IRS has been malevolently targeting conservative groups violates the basic social contract of the country--that we are all treated equally, before the law, and before the tax collectors. Meanwhile The Washington Post reports that the investigation of conservative groups was spread across the agency. It wasn’t just a few bad apples in Cincinnati; Cincinnati is the hub of all these tax-status adjudications, and the work was shared with other offices in two locations in California and the headquarters in D.C. That’s, at least, what we know so far. (Even Jon Stewart can’t defend the Obama administration on this one.)
No doubt more is coming; on Tuesday, the left-leaning investigative group Pro Publica reported that it had been offered confidential tax documents for 31 different conservative groups.
Its seems likely that the IRS knew exactly what it was doing in aiming at the right; it was carrying out the clear wishes from the top of the executive branch. And the proof is in the disparate impact of the IRS investigations. It was groups with “Tea Party” and “Constitution” that were being investigated, not groups with “Green” or “Progressive.”
And while some might stubbornly insist that somehow this disparate impact was just a coincidence, the Obama administration itself argues that disparate impact, which is a legal term of art, is proof of discrimination. According to Eric Holder’s Department of Justice, the numbers themselves prove the case; that is, if the numbers on, say, jobs or contracts show that one group or another is getting less, well, then, case closed.
Yes, Holder & Co. have been pursuing a radical doctrine of numerically presumed guilt on discrimination cases, but who has time to worry about that now, amidst all these other scandals. We can simply say that the disparate impact of the IRS actions clearly shows a discriminatory effect on right-of-center groups.
Yet even as the Obamans pursue their doctrinaire numbers game, we can still think back to instances where they seem to have gone out of their way to hurt enemies and favor friends. For example, remember Frank VanderSloot? He’s the big Romney donor who was audited three times, and he says that he is not the only one.
By contrast, we can compare the VanderSloot case to that of Malik Obama, the President’s half brother. His application for a tax-exemption was approved--by the same Lois Lerner, the senior IRS official at the Cincinnati office in charge of tax-exempt groups--within a month; one observer called it “an unprecedented timeline that stands in stark contrast to conservative organizations who have been waiting for more than three years, in some cases, for approval."
Now that, too, is Nixonian.
To be sure, not everyone sees the IRS story as a big deal. Carl Bernstein was once the lesser half of the Woodward-Bernstein reporting team during Watergate, although he long ago sank into mere hackery. That hackery was on full display Monday, when he told--who else?--MSNBC that he “can’t imagine” that anyone in the White House was involved in the IRS scandal . That’s not exactly the reportorial instinct at work, is it? The old joke for reporters is, “If your mother tells you she’s your mother, double-check her.” Fortunately, Bernstein had the courage to hold the Nixon administration accountable; unfortunately, that courage has now been replaced by sloven sycophancy of Obama.
Third, the Benghazi story. On Monday, Obama declared the Benghazi investigation to be “a political circus” and, indeed, “a sideshow.” Piling on the derisive dismissiveness, he then added, “There’s no there, there.” Listening to Obama, and also to Jay Carney, I am reminded of Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler’s dismissal of Watergate as a “third-rate burglary.”
Benghazi is still the heart of Obamagate, because it reveals so much about the real Barack Obama. So let’s stop looking around at molehills and start staring straight ahead, to the mountains in front of us.
First mountain: Where did the idea that the Mohammed video on YouTube was the cause of Benghazi come from? Whose idea was that? The video is not mentioned in those dozen-times-rewritten talking points--so who put that idea into the mix? We know it didn’t fall from the sky--so who did it?
Second mountain: What was the president doing the night that Americans were dying? As I mentioned in Part One, the absence of any sort of documentation of the President’s whereabouts that night is truly chilling.
In the case of both mountains, we can see that the administration’s true goal seems to be political preservation--make things up if need be and drop them into the narrative; meanwhile, keep the President out of the narrative.
The President and his team clearly believe that they can defend themselves by simply recalling that they did, in fact, mention the “T” word, "terror," here and there in the wake of Benghazi. But that’s like saying that if a defendant in a case said one true thing, then everything he said was true. A single grain of truth in a vast field of mistruths does not make the field honest.
Everyone knows that the message of Susan Rice, et al. was that Benghazi was the unfortunate consequence of something bad, most likely the Mohammed video. As Hillary Clinton said on January 23 in her famous rant, “Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided to go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”
What difference does it make? Why does it matter? Why it matters is simple: The truth makes a difference. The truth matters.
So for Carney to keep harping on uses of the word “terror,” is, well, as we Irish say, blarney.
Yet also because I am Irish, I am haunted by tragedy and injustice. A few months ago, I sat in the green room at Fox with Charles Woods, the father of Tyrone Woods, one of the four slain Americans at Benghazi. The elder Mr. Woods recounted for me how at the September 14 service for the four dead at Dover Air Force Base, the President, the Vice President, and Secretary Clinton had all told him, “It’s terrible what happened, and how that terrible video caused it, and we’re gong to get that person who did it!” And now we know it was all invented. A fabricated cover story to get the President over his re-election hump.
Yet the President, Carney, and all their stooges continue to call the Benghazi investigation a “sideshow.”
Okay, so that’s the Obama story, and they’re sticking to it.
Yet others, normally supportive, begged to differ. On Tuesday, The Washington Post awarded the President the high dishonor of “Four Pinocchios” for his Benghazi statements on Monday.
And again, that is Nixonian.
Moreover, the cover-up of Benghazi--and that’s the right word for it--began on September 11, 2012. It was not until September 19, eight long days after Benghazi, that Matt Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center testified that Benghazi had, in fact, been a terrorist attack.
In the meantime, in those days after the 11th, the administration was feverishly writing and rewriting those talking points and doing everything else it could to cover up the truth about the death of Ambassador Stevens and his three heroic defenders.
Clearly, the Obamans were hoping that the furor over Benghazi would cool down. And that was their miscalculation. Even Tom Brokaw, no friend to conservatives, has been moved to observe:
You cannot explain away Susan Rice’s performance on those five Sunday talk shows on September 16, in which she said it was not a terrorist attack and grew out of a domestic demonstration of some kind. She completely underplayed it and rewrote the script.
And that, of course, was the administration line: Benghazi was a murky incident, quite possibly caused by that evil Mohammed video on YouTube.
Indeed, everywhere the President went, even after Olsen’s September 19 admission, the President was still pushing the Mohammed video line. Before the whole wide world on September 25, 2012, the President spoke to the United Nations General Assembly and declared, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” In effect, the President was saying that whatever happened at Benghazi was not his fault, or the fault of his administration, but rather the fault of some guy with a camera in California.
Thus we come to a sordid sub-chapter of Benghazi, which is the most dishonorable and most dishonest in which we see that the Obamans were opportunistically eager to scapegoat the maker of that stupid video, one Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian-American Coptic Christian. The Copts, of course, having been oppressed by Islam for more than a thousand years, have plenty of reason to loathe Islam. And whether or not we agree with Nakoula’s views, he has a right to hold them. As Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote in 1929, “If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought--not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”
Yet of course, to those of a Nixonian cast of mind, First Amendment protections can easily be steamrollered. So the investigative furies descended on Nakoula; he was arrested on September 27, supposedly for violating the terms of his probation (the violation, we might note, was being on the Internet), although it’s fair to say that nobody worried about Nakoula’s digital violations before the video. Nakoula was ultimately sentenced to a year in jail; to this day, he sits in a federal correctional facility in Texas.
Indeed, Nakoula has been the only one punished for what happened in Benghazi that night. More than eight months later, none of the killers have been “brought to justice,” as the President promised.
At the time, many people thought that the Obama administration was simply trying to do everything it could to tamp down anti-American fervor in the Muslim world. Some might have shrugged and thought to themselves, “Well, something had to be done to keep more Americans from being killed. And if this fellow Nakoula is the sacrificial lamb for reasons of national security, so be it.”
Yet of course, no American should be treated that way, for any reason. And so it’s just one more obscene hypocrisy for Carney to prattle on about how the President loves the First Amendment and values an “unfettered media” when, in fact, Nakoula is in fetters for exercising his First Amendment rights.
National Review’s Rich Lowry recently summed up part of the situation in a piece entitled, “The Benghazi Patsy”: “Nakoula deserves a place in American history. He is the first person in this country jailed for violating Islamic anti-blasphemy laws.”
So yes, Nakoula was railroaded into jail for making a video. Yet now we can see that the “blasphemy” charge was a false flag. The assertion that Nakoula needed to be jailed to mollify Muslims was a ruthless diversion from the real mission; the false narrative had to be protected.
The real objective had nothing to do with the safety of Americans or the national security needs of the US, but, rather with the re-election needs of Barack Obama. It wasn’t the Mohammed video had led to the deaths of any Americans in Libya. Now we know that the attack was plotted by Al Qaeda, pure and simple, which had aimed all along to hit the US on the anniversary of 9-11.
As the pollster and strategist for George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign which challenged Nixon, I suppose I have a special bias against morally corrupt incumbents who use their power to manipulate and bamboozle the voters. It was during this time last fall that it became clear that I was seeing a replay of the Nixon administration and what I lived through in 1972. Indeed, my own past brushes with the Nixon henchmen were more personal than just the McGovern campaign: It is with pride I can claim to be the youngest person to be named on Nixon’s fabled “enemies list.” That experience taught me to react strongly against anything like that, regardless of party or president.
Back on September 28, for example, I argued:
The administration is hoping that if it can put enough time between the actual events of 9/11/12 and the ultimate public understanding of those events, the impact of the realization--that the US was unprepared for terrorism on an obvious terrorism anniversary--will be thereby softened.
And writing about Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, I continued:
Romney could turn this election around if he could go on the offensive on multiple fronts, against Obama supporters in the media, and--even more crucially--against Barack Obama on the Middle East.
I further wrote on October 15:
We now know that within minutes of the Benghazi attacks, the Obama administration knew that the attacks were, in fact, acts of terrorism, and not at all mere mob violence. And that’s when the cover-up began; the goal was to kick the can of culpability past Election Day. Unfortunately for the Obamans, they needed a two-month cover-up to get them past November 6, and they got only a one-month cover-up.
Despite a steady string of scoops, many of them from Fox News, in October, Romney pulled back in the third debate, letting Obama skate away from his culpability. Romney’s staffers had told him that he was going to win anyway, so why risk looking mean? And with Romney’s dismissal of the Benghazi issue, the mainstream media felt further justified to dismiss Benghazi, too.
Yes, Romney was regrettably craven, and for that, he not only lost an election he could have won, but earned himself permanent ignominy as someone who put political calculation--incorrect political calculation, at that--ahead of his patriotic duty to raise important concerns.
So yes, Obama won his re-election bid. Indeed, he won by a comfortable margin, as the myriad weaknesses of the Republican consultant class--which I detailed at CPAC in March--became glaringly evident. Yet as we can now see, it wasn’t just the incompetence of the Romneyites that was on display; it was also the malevolence of the Obamans--although that was mostly hidden. The administration had managed to keep a lid on three big scandals--wiretapping, IRS, and Benghazi--through Election Day. And so he won re-election, just as Nixon had won, four decades earlier.
Yet as Richard Nixon learned in the wake of his triumphant 1972 re-election--he carried 49 of 50 states that year--victory does not immunize an incumbent from ultimate accountability. Indeed, victory can addle the minds of the victors with hubris and arrogance, making them less able to defend themselves.
We are now seeing an encouraging reality about American politics: No matter how hard you try, no matter how ruthless you might be, you can’t keep a secret. The cover-up might work in the short term, but not for the long term. And that means, as Nixon learned, that even the greatest political victory can turn into ashes--and it can also prove lethal.
Next: Watergate and Obamagate.