The Obama Watch

The Era of Contempt

One theme connects all the Obama administration scandals.

By 6.6.13

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The Obama Administration has presented such an array of botched domestic and foreign policies that an observer can become disoriented. Seeing a blur of so many negative events is like watching a Jason Bourne movie, with the camera on high speed. Each alleged malfeasance or scandal is worthy in itself of deliberate scrutiny, yet as we start to examine each one, others suddenly compete for our attention. It is a dazzling tapestry of mismanagement at best. But there is one theme that connects it all: contempt.

First, we have a rogue agency named the Internal Revenue Service interfering in the lives of ordinary folks with views that are conservative or at odds with the Administration. This contemptuous act against Americans who have committed no apparent wrongdoing or financial legerdemain is heavy-handedness reminiscent of banana republics or authoritarian regimes of yesteryear.

Testifying on Capitol Hill about his reportedly 157 visits to the White House, former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman dismissively cited “the Easter Egg roll with my kids” among the reasons for such an astonishing number of meetings. Lois Lerner, Director of the IRS Exempt Organizations pleaded the Fifth Amendment, and Steven Miller, Acting Commissioner referred to the debacle as “horrible customer service” in his apology. To make it worse, the IRS will judge whether Americans are in compliance with Obamacare, not supported by a majority of the American people and railroaded into existence by the President. And it is the same IRS, which investigates U.S. companies for excessive corporate entertainment expenses that are reported as income tax deductions, that spent $50 million on conferences over a recent three-year period, with certain IRS officials staying in $3,500 hotel suites, according to findings of the Treasury Department’s inspector general. Indeed, the IRS has shown itself to be unworthy in its principal role as the instrument of revenue collection from American people and companies.

Further, the Department of Justice that has shown contempt for the First Amendment through highly unusual surveillance of journalists of the AP who like those harassed by the IRS, are seen to be a threat to the Administration’s narratives. In a disingenuous and cynical act, Attorney General Eric Holder invited journalists to an “off the record meeting,” again evidencing contempt for openness and the principle of transparency which the Administration has piously affirmed. All this comes from an Attorney General already held in contempt by the House of Representatives for not presenting documents relating to the mismanaged Mexican Fast and Furious gun tracking operation, the first such a sanction of a Cabinet official in American history. Moreover, it has been revealed that an anti-abortion group in Iowa was directed to commit to the IRS that it would not demonstrate in front of Planned Parenthood, a crudely repressive action by the Department of Justice that seems at odds with the First Amendment.

The same contempt prevails in foreign policy. Benghazi is enshrouded in fog and allegations of deception by the Obama Administration, which before the November election desperately put out the story that the massacre of U.S. foreign service staff was the result of a video offensive to Muslims produced in California, and not a concerted ambush by Al Qaeda or its affiliates -- to avoid the inference that America had not successfully broken the back of Islamist jihadism.

To this day, we do not know who denied requests for security at the American mission; who ordered a Special Forces unit in Tripoli to stand down, as charged by Gregory Hicks, formerly deputy chief of mission; who directed Susan Rice, ambassador to the United Nations, to take to the air waves and call it a reaction to a video offensive to Muslims; and who ordered that this misrepresentation be maintained for seventeen days until President Obama finally acknowledged that it was a terrorist attack. Further, we do not know exactly what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama were doing during all seven hours of the siege of the U.S. consulate. And now, the controversial and highly criticized Susan Rice has been named national security advisor.

Perhaps the Administration hopes that Americans have attention deficit disorder -- absorbed with buying and selling, family problems, and the distractions of a consumer economy -- making them unable to assimilate and concentrate on so many issues of incompetence, or worse, illegality if proved.

What we have is a matrix of contempt -- contempt for the American people, or at least about half of them; contempt for the principles of transparency and stewardship; and contempt for the pursuit of truth. Let us hope the electorate will speak out and make its will known; resignations of shameless senior U.S. officials could be too much to hope for.

Who knows -- we might even get to hear Jay Carney, White House Press Secretary, state that in an era of moral relativism, we must make allowances for our government.

Photo: UPI

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About the Author
Frank Schell is a business consultant and former international banking executive. He serves on the Dean’s International Council of the Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago where he is a lecturer.