This goes under the “what did you think would happen” category. If you under-staff Administration agencies and prevent appointment of officials to lead them you, will get inefficient government. I am not a big fan of bureaucracy but bureaucracy is essential to the functions of government. All three of the current controversies POTUS is facing are due, in one way or another, to the intentional weakening of government that seems to be the top priority of today’s conservatives. None rise to the level of scandals despite the comparisons GOP mouthpieces are making to Watergate and Iran-Contra.
On the AP scandal I am rooting for AP. If a government agency has a leak, they need to fix it. They should not go after the press which is only doing what a free society needs for it to do. I find it very interesting that conservative pundits seem troubled by this one. They are the ones who say security is the highest priority and that government in DC should fix leaks. Some seem forced to sympathize with Obama on this one. The press did its job, government did not and government violated the rights of a free press rather than fix the problem in their agency.
The Benghazi scandal is a tempest in a teapot. Someone screwed up, but it is hard to tell whether it was State or the military or even Chris Stephens himself (Why was he in an under-protected facility in the most violent city in Libya on 9/11? If that is so his mistake robbed us of one of our best foreign service people.). It seems to me that perhaps the problem is lack of funds to provide the personnel required. In any case it goes beyond irony all the way to Chutzpah for the GOP to complain about the possibility that the administration misled the American public. This is the same party (and many of the same people) that was in power when we suffered two outrageous intelligence failures: 9/11 and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Both the Administration and Congress, as well as several government agencies, had plenty of warnings concerning what occurred on 9/11. The intelligence for invasion of Iraq was cooked and, based on a desire to invade that pre-dates 9/11, was based on misinformation from two sources who turned out to be Irani agents (Ahmed Chalabi and Curveball). It is easy to see in hindsight that the major beneficiary of the Iraq war is Iran. Compared to those and compared to Watergate and Iran-Contra (as well as Gulf of Tonkin) Benghazi is a fixed parking ticket.
Then there is the IRS scandal. This looks to me like a direct result of the lack of leadership and staffing for this agency which is the result of budget-cutting and also the obstructionism of Congress. There are 68 administration positions that are unfilled, 43 of them for more than a year. The GOP has employed its abusive use of filibuster to prevent “advise and consent” as required by the Constitution. I see this as clear evidence that the GOP is quite serious about Norquist’s desire to reduce the power of the federal government until it can be drowned in a bath-tub.
Another aspect of the IRS scandal is Citizens United, which effectively allows certain non-profits (the 501c4) some partisan political activity without restrictions on the use of funds. I have lived my whole adult life in the world of non-profit organizations. One absolute no-no is any partisan political involvement. A house of worship that promotes a party or candidate risks its tax-exempt status as do most NGOs. The IRS has had to adapt to a new wrinkle in our absurdly complex tax code, which is defining the line that a 501c4 cannot cross if it is to retain its tax-exempt status. It is evident that the division of the IRS that reviews applications for tax-exempt status was trying to apply the new laws. They have to deal with several hundred of these applications every year and they are understaffed. This means that they had to have some way of flagging possible problems. They went about it in the wrong way, but were actually following a long-standing practice that has long been applied to liberal and progressive groups. There used to be an attorney-general’s list of organizations that were considered “fellow travelers” of Communism. This lasted from 1947 until Nixon (?!) abolished it in 1974. A lot of good people lost jobs and careers and, of course, government security clearance because of that list. It included mostly progressive organizations but also the extreme right. It was instrumental in the shameful time of McCarthy and HUAC. People with progressive politics, war resisters, student organizations, civil rights groups and others were the constant targets of phone taps, FBI studies (my favorite is their investigation of the 60s song “Louie Louie”), placement of undercover agents (who sometimes tried to provoke violence), and trumped up charges (e.g., the Harrisburg Seven case and trial). Of course they used the IRS against political dissidents. Please excuse me if I regard the Tea Party’s reaction as whining. Such attention is evidence that you or your group has gotten the government’s attention, which is one of the main purposes of political and social activism. They are probably celebrating.
Obama is a disappointment. I thought that twenty years of community work in Chicago, which meant knowing how to work a political system, was a great preparation for DC. I guess not. Far from being the socialist some try to brand him as, he is actually a middle-of-the-road politician who tries to work the system without really trying to change it.
I wish we had our old political parties back. They had their weaknesses, but they were not prisoners of ideologies or slaves to lobbyists. There were conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans. All three branches have managed to grind our Constitutional system to a halt. The constant scandals now are the result, aided and abetted by news media which are now more devoted to entertainment than to information. I believe that freedom in America is now an illusion, but that’s a subject for another blog post.