Any one of these four scandals -- the criminal mishandling (and lying about) Benghazi, the IRS explicitly targeting politically conservative organizations, the Justice Department spying on AP journalists, and the HHS Secretary effectively shaking down medical professionals in order to fund health care reform implementation -- would be a big deal individually. Taken together, though? Holy shit.
Jim Geraghty sums these scandals up much better than I could, so I figure I'd just pass on his points (from this morning's Morning Jolt newsletter):
Dear friends in the media.
I mean, come on.
You and I know what's going with the Benghazi thing. Let me share something that I first put into play during the "was Anthony Weiner's Twitter account hacked" debate, but that comes from watching the Lewinsky scandal, the where-did–Mark-Sanford-go scandal, the why-is-David-Wu-dressed-in-a-
Nobody withholds exculpatory information. Nobody who's been accused of something wrong waits for "just the right moment" to unveil information that proves the charge baseless. Political figures never choose to deliberately let themselves twist in the wind. It's not the instinctive psychological reaction to being falsely accused, it's not what any public communications professional would recommend, and to use one of our president's favorite justifications, it's just common sense.
So . . . You and I both know, in our guts, and based upon everything we've seen in Washington since we started our careers, that there's no innocent explanation for the Obama administration's actions before, during, and after the Benghazi attacks.
If there were good reasons for why the requests for additional security from staff in Libya didn't generate any serious response in the halls of the State Department, we would have heard it by now. If there was evidence that everyone within the State Department, military, and White House were doing everything they could to rescue our guys on that awful night, we would have heard about it long ago. If there was a good reason for the "talking points" to get edited down from a false premise (a demonstration) but at least serious information (previous CIA warnings about terrorist activity) to false pabulum, we would have heard it by now; the latest lame excuse is that the 14 edits merely reflect "bureaucratic infighting between the CIA and State." And if there was a good reason for State Department lawyers to call up Deputy Chief of Mission Gregory Hicks and tell him not to allow the RSO, the acting deputy chief of mission, and himself to be interviewed by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah), we would have heard that by now, too.
Come on, guys. What do we think is going on when Hillary Clinton's chief of staff calls up the acting ambassador, and harangues him about the lack of a State Department lawyer for his conversation with Congress? Does anybody really believe it's just her checking up to make sure protocol was followed?
You can see what's going on here. You may not want to see it, or believe it, but you can see it. The federal government made awful, unforgivable wrong decisions about the security for its people in Benghazi. They compounded the error by failing to put together even the beginning of a rescue mission during the seven-hour assault. Perhaps those responsible for making the call had a fear of a "Black Hawk Down" scenario, in which the rescuers find themselves needing rescue, but whatever the reasoning, the net effect was the same: Our people were under fire, fighting for their lives, and nobody was coming to help. The decisions made that night make a mockery of the unofficial, but widespread motto of our armed forces: "Nobody gets left behind."
The decisions made up until this point may or may not have involved the president or then-secretary of state Clinton, but they sure as hell were involved in the decisions that came afterwards. The morning after the attack, the administration tried to offer the excuse that it was a completely unforeseeable event, randomly triggered by some YouTube video. And they sought to intimidate and punish anyone who would contradict their storyline.
My friends in media, you know what is going on when you see President Obama say this:
The whole issue of talking points, frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow. What we have been very clear about throughout was that immediately after this event happened we were not clear who exactly had carried it out, how it had occurred, what the motivations were.You know what this is: Stop looking at what I did, and start looking at the people accusing me of wrongdoing. We've seen this tactic before: "The vast right-wing conspiracy."
We know the president's claim that there was confusion is false, because everyone on the ground was clearly telling their bosses that this was a terror attack from the beginning. No one in Benghazi or Libya was saying this was a protest as a result of a YouTube video. Where did that idea come from? Who within the administration decided to take accurate information and start inserting inaccurate information?
The president continues:
No, the folks on the ground understood what was taking place. They just said so before Congress and a lot of television cameras. Why is the president confused about this? Obama continues:It happened at the same time as we had seen attacks on U.S. embassies in Cairo as a consequence of this film. And nobody understood exactly what was taking place during the course of those first few days.
The motivations and fundraising of those who disagree with you are irrelevant to whether or not you're telling the truth, Mr. President.And the fact that this keeps on getting churned out, frankly, has a lot to do with political motivations. We've had folks who have challenged Hillary Clinton's integrity, Susan Rice's integrity, Mike Mullen and Tom Pickering's integrity. It's a given that mine gets challenged by these same folks. They've used it for fundraising.
SCANDAL TWO: Hey, Why Does the IRS Have to Tell the Truth to Congress, Anyway?
NBC News points out that the IRS appears to have directly lied to Congress when asked about the targeting of conservative groups:
Lois Lerner, head of the IRS division on tax-exempt organizations, learned in June 2011 that agents had targeted groups with names including "Tea Party" and "Patriots," according to the draft obtained by NBC News.She "instructed that the criteria immediately be revised," according to the draft. Ten months later, in March 2012, the IRS commissioner at the time, Douglas Shulman, testified to Congress that the IRS was not targeting tax-exempt groups based on their politics.The IRS said over the weekend that senior executives were not aware of the targeting, but it remains unclear who knew what and when. [Then IRS commissioner] Shulman, who left the agency last fall, has not spoken publicly about the scandal and did not answer a request for commentfrom NBC News.Members of Congress had sent letters to Shulman as early as June 2011 asking specifically about targeting of conservative groups, according to a House Ways and Means Committee summary obtained by NBC News.The IRS responded at least six times but made no mention of targeting conservatives, according to the committee's summary.
"Oh, you mean that effort to target conservative groups, we thought you meant a different one."
Remember the explanation that this was just some runaway low-level employees in one office? Yeah, that was bull: "Internal Revenue Service officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved in the targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, making clear the effort reached well beyond the branch in Cincinnati that was initially blamed, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post."
SCANDAL THREE: Of Course Eric Holder Is Allowed to Secretly Eavesdrop on Journalists!
You know a scandal is bad when I can point you to the Huffington Post's summary, because it can't collect any more outrage than I can:
Journalists reacted with shock and outrage at the news that the Justice Department had secretly obtained months of phone records of Associated Press journalists.The AP broke the newsabout what it called an "unprecedented intrusion" into its operation. It said that the DOJ had obtained detailed phone records from over 20 different lines, potentially monitoring hundreds of different journalists without notifying the organization. The wire service's president, Gary Pruitt, wrote a blistering letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, accusing the DOJ of violating the AP's constitutional rights.Reporters and commentators outside the AP professed themselves to be equally angered. "The Nixon comparisons write themselves," BuzzFeed's Ben Smith tweeted. Margaret Sullivan, the public editor for the New York Times, called the story "disturbing." Washington Post editor Martin Baron called it "shocking." CNN's John King described it as "very chilling."Speaking to the Washington Post's Erik Wemple, a lawyer for the AP called the DOJ's actions "outrageous," saying they were "a dagger to the heart of AP's newsgathering activity."BuzzFeed's Kate Nocera was perhaps more pithy, writing simply, "what in the f--k."
You "Hope and Change" true believers were a bunch of chumps.
As this illustration over at Ace of Spades reveals . . .
The government official who now effectively controls the American health-care system is now calling up private health-care companies and "asking" them to "voluntarily donate" to a fund for "public outreach" on Obamacare:
Leaders in Congress are questioning Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius's solicitation of funds from private businesses and charities to help pay for public outreach on Obamacare to get prospective enrollees signed up for health exchanges.Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, ranking Republican on the Senate Health committee, told the New York Times he plans to ask the Government Accountability Office to check the legality of Sebelius's actions, done after Congress denied the administration funds for public outreach in the 2014 budget. The Washington Post also said that Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, top Republican on the Finance Committee, questioned the legality of the action.The Times said Sebelius obtained $10 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and $500,000 from H&R Block for the effort. HHS officials said that Sebelius's efforts would continue, after first denying they were soliciting funds for the effort. But a spokesman for Sebelius said a section of the Public Health Service Act allows her to encourage others to support those working to help carry out public health activities.
This is like when your boss stops by your desk and "casually" mentions that his daughter is selling Girl Scout cookies. Although as Liz Mair pointed out last night, most people like Girl Scout cookies.
It will undoubtedly shock you to learn there's some evidence the administration is lying here, too:
A flack for Sebelius tells the Post that . . . Sebelius did not explicitly ask for financial donations. Instead, "[HHS spokesperson Jason] said that Sebelius did not solicit for funds directly from industries that HHS regulates, such as insurance companies and hospitals, but rather asked them to contribute in whatever way they can."That's not how the insurers understood it. An "industry official who had knowledge of the calls but did not participate directly in them said there was a clear insinuation by the administration that the insurers should give financially to the nonprofits," according to the Post. Something like this, perhaps? Hey, we're short on money here. It would be nice if you could help with whatever you can, hint-hint, nudge-nudge.Or maybe just: Hey, insurers. We just passed a law mandating that everyone in the country buy your product. So how about a million bucks? Or even a couple million? Over the weekend The New York Times reported that, according to an insurance industry executive, "some insurers had been asked for $1 million donations, and that 'bigger companies have been asked for a lot more.'" That sounds rather like there was a direct solicitation.
Allow me to remind you what Obama said a week ago: "Unfortunately, you've grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's at the root of all our problems. Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works. They'll warn that tyranny always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices."
Since Obama scoffed about those who warn about tyranny, we've learned that the IRS targeted Americans based upon their political beliefs, his Health and Human Services secretary is shaking down companies for cash, his attorney general is secretly listening in to conversations between journalists and their sources, and they threatened whistleblowers on Benghazi.
Admittedly, most tyrants are a little more on-the-ball than what we've been getting lately . . .