In the early 19th century, British soldiers who were in engaged in battle during the Napoleonic wars used to toast one another with the expression “Confusion to the French.” Lately I’m seeing some confusion on the part of scandal-fatigued supporters of the current administration. There are some that would lead you to believe that the Benghazi coverup, Operation “Fast and Furious,” the Solyndra debacle and the IRS targeting of conservative groups are fictions created by partisans motivated solely by partisan politics. The fact is that even the mainstream media has found that it can’t ignore them – try as they might. Yes Virginia, they are real – and that isn’t even the complete list.
The current administration notwithstanding, scandals and missteps in the White House aren’t anything new. One of the most famous — or infamous — in all of American history was Watergate, and I remember it well. That was back when investigative journalism was a time-honored and respected pursuit. Reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein famously broke the story and became the heroes of the movie “All the President’s Men.” Today, the mainstream media has little use for it — it apparently causes them too much confusion.
When the Watergate scandal broke in 1972, the Senate formed an investigative committee that was comprised of three Democrats and two Republicans and was chaired by the late Sen. Sam Ervin, a Democrat from North Carolina. He described himself as a “country lawyer” and had a record that included supporting Jim Crow laws and racial segregation. He also was known for his work on the investigation in 1954 that brought down Sen. Joe McCarthy. The Ervin Committee, as it came to be known, held public hearings, some of which were broadcast on network television. CSPAN did not exist.
Three months after the formation of the Ervin Committee, then U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richards took the extraordinary step of appointing a special prosecutor to, in essence, investigate his boss — the President of the United States, who had selected him to be part of his cabinet. The special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, eventually subpoenaed the now infamous White House tapes. President Nixon reacted by demanding that Richardson fire Cox. Richardson refused to comply and instead resigned his cabinet post. The president then fired Cox and the rest, as they say, is history.
I invite you to compare the actions of Elliot Richardson to his present-day counterpart Eric Holder. Richardson’s actions were courageous and above reproach and he is admired by Democrats and Republicans to this day. To him, it wasn’t about partisan politics, it was about integrity. I suspect that history will treat Eric Holder quite differently.
While the current scandals are confusing to those liberals who can’t get out of their own partisan way, the aforementioned list is far from complete. According to a recent Associated Press story, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office has reported that “the Pentagon broke the law when it swapped Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a prisoner in Afghanistan for five years, for five Taliban leaders.” The article quotes the GAO report, “In our view, the meaning of the (law) is clear and unambiguous.”
If all of that isn’t confusing enough to Obama supporters, there’s an article by staff writer Conor Friedersdorf that appeared in The Atlantic in 2011 with the intriguing title, “Obama Has Become Dick Cheney.” It centers on Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist James Risen, who writes for the New York Times.
According to Friedersdorf, during the Bush administration former Vice President Cheney wanted to have Risen jailed for not revealing a source for a piece he wrote in 2006 regarding an alleged CIA misstep that compromised its operations in Iran. Vice President Cheney never made that happen, but President Obama might — and he is garnering intense criticism for what is being called an attack on the First Amendment and freedom of the press.
The Risen case has been slowly wending its way through the courts and according to an article that appeared on the Business Insider website in late August, he could be in jail by this fall: “For the past five years, he has battled the Obama administration’s Justice Department, which in 2009 took a rather unprecedented step of renewing a subpoena scheduled to expire that year.”
Said Risen, “A lot of people still think this is some kind of game or signal or spin. They don’t want to believe that Obama wants to crack down on the press and whistleblowers. But he does. He’s the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”
This ain’t no Republican talking. Further, according to CNN’s Jake Tapper, President Obama has used the obscure Espionage Act of 1917 to prosecute more whistleblowers than all former presidents combined. In direct contrast to his campaign rhetoric, President Obama has an abysmal record with regard to government whistleblowers.
While some Americans still remain confused, others are starting to see the light. According to a Gallup Poll published Aug. 28, “Americans are more than twice as likely to say they “strongly disapprove” (39%) of President Barack Obama’s job performance as they are to say they “strongly approve” (17%). The percentage of Americans who strongly disapprove of Obama has increased over time, while the percentage who strongly approve has dropped by almost half.” These are startling numbers.
When all is said and done, President Obama may yet have another thing in common with Dick Cheney. Upon leaving office, the former Vice President’s approval rating was an astonishingly low 13 percent. President Obama isn’t all that far behind and appears to be on a solid trajectory to catch him. This could only cause more “confusion to the liberals.”
— Elliot Simon writes
from Harpers Ferry