Political Hay

Slow Lerners

This administration can always find an excuse for scandal.

By 5.29.13

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Seeing themselves as apostles of light and goodness, Obama administration officials refuse to admit any complicity in scandal. At best, they admit to well-meaning mistakes, for which they deserve a mulligan or two, since they are obviously such decent and enlightened people.  “I have done nothing wrong,” said Lois Lerner, the official who oversaw the IRS scandal, last week before Congress. From Hillary Clinton to Susan Rice to Eric Holder, that’s the essential refrain of the Obama administration.

Misrepresenting a terrorist attack on a shamefully insecure consulate, unleashing the IRS on conservative groups, and treating journalists as criminals are all just innocent mistakes. We’re told that lowly, faceless bureaucrats are responsible for whatever is corrupt and shocking in these scandals, while the principals are blameless of everything save good-faith errors.

A Republican attorney general caught out hacking into the emails of a reporter would be gone within the day. But Holder thinks he should be able to keep his job, as he is a “progressive” who means well.  That’s the pitiful defense he is trying to get out through a friendly piece in the Daily Beast.

The piece says that his feelings have been bruised  over the James Rosen story, as it doesn’t comport with his sense of his own wonderfulness. Somehow he is at once the agent and victim of the scandal, judging by the strange construction of this paragraph from the story:

…sources close to the attorney general says he has been particularly stung by the leak controversy, in large part because his department’s—and his own—actions are at odds with his image of himself as a pragmatic lawyer with liberal instincts and a well-honed sense of balance—not unlike the president he serves. “Look, Eric sees himself fundamentally as a progressive, not some Torquemada out to silence the press,”  says a friend who asked not to be identified.

Apparently, Holder’s self-perception is the crucial consideration in determining the seriousness of the scandal. Holder informs us through his Daily Beast propagandist that we are not see it as an abuse of power but as a chance for better lawmaking:

In an interview, Holder acknowledged that there was considerable room for improvement in how Justice handles leak cases, casting the episode as a kind of teaching moment for his department and himself. “While both of these cases were handled within the law and according to Justice Department guidelines,”  he told The Daily Beast, “they are reminders of the unique role the news media plays in our democratic system, and signal that both our laws and guidelines need to be updated.”

This is the slow Lerner defense: I have done nothing wrong, but this is a teachable moment for Congress to pass clearer laws. Only the Obama administration would have the chutzpah to flout existing law and then pose as its reformer.

For the Obama administration, it is always Congress’s fault: it didn’t fund embassy security (Hillary tried out that now-discredited lie to fend off questioning), it hasn’t passed a media shield law and is too worried about leaks, it gives unclear direction to the IRS, and so on. But none of these scandals have anything to do with Congress (unless the Obama administration is referring to letters by Democrats urging the IRS to harass tea party groups). They came out of an executive-branch culture hostile to constitutional limitation and drunk on power.

This is an administration, after all, that bragged about how it was going to bankrupt and delegitimize its opponents. “I was in a meeting once and I gave an analogy to my staff about my philosophy of enforcement, and I think it was probably a little crude and maybe not appropriate for the meeting, but I’ll go ahead and tell you what I said,” recalled EPA administrator Al Armendariz, wowing environmentalists at a 2010 meeting. “It was kind of like how the Romans used to, you know, conquer villages in the Mediterranean. They’d go in to a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw and they’d crucify them. Then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.”

The Obama administration was going to teach Red America a lesson. Now its thugs present themselves as waifs who deserve special immunity, owing to the nobility of their intentions.

Photo: UPI

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author of No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.