Three months ago, during a Google Plus “Fireside” event, President Barack Obama declared, “This is the most transparent administration in history.”
So this is what happens in the most transparent presidential administration in national history:
Warrantless electronic spying on countless Americans; lies about the murders of an American diplomat and others in Benghazi, Libya, by persons we now know to have been terrorists; the use of the Espionage Act to punish government whistleblowers (people who expose government abuses and criminality); a claim of power to order secret killings of anyone anywhere in the world, even U.S. citizens who have never been charged with a crime, much less convicted of one; the seizure of dozens of journalists’ phone records (office and personal) with no specific information or suspect in mind; and the use of the Internal Revenue Service to harass and intimidate conservative and libertarian groups. The Washington Post described the groups targeted by the IRS as those that “criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution.”
The president and others in his administration swore to uphold and defend the Constitution when they took office. One may wonder why the “most transparent administration in history” would have persons in high places who want to harass and intimidate organizations that try to educate Americans about the Constitution. Reread the paragraph above this one and then try to find where the Constitution allows the government to engage in such conduct. There’s your answer.
Probably the hottest of the abuses at the moment is the growing IRS scandal, news of which broke only a few days ago.
The most transparent administration in history first said some rogue IRS agents in Cincinnati did it. Now, people in targeted groups have given reporters letters from the IRS that show the targeting also was done in Washington, D.C., where the administration is headquartered. The IRS demands included information on donors, right down to their personal Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Forty years ago, the Watergate hearings began. Those hearings stemmed from break-ins at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., by persons in the administration of President Richard Nixon. The Democratic National Committee was headquartered at the Watergate Hotel, and the break-ins were done to try to obtain telephone conversations and other information that could have helped Nixon in his 1972 re-election campaign.
The hearings revealed numerous abuses of power by the Nixon administration. On July 29, 1974, articles of impeachment were drawn up against Nixon. With impeachment a near certainty, Nixon resigned 11 days later. The articles of impeachment included this:
“He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavored to … cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.”
After denying anyone high up in the IRS knew of the agency’s targeting of political opponents of Obama and his administration, White House spokespersons have been forced to admit Steven Miller, the IRS’s acting commissioner until his resignation on Wednesday and an Obama appointee, knew about it more than a year ago. And the Associated Press reports the IRS inspector general wrote of the agency targeting groups with “tea party,” “patriot,” or “9/12 Project” in their names two years ago. The 9/12 Project was started by conservative talk show host Glenn Beck.
Less than a week before news of the IRS abuses broke, Obama spoke at Ohio State University and warned of “creeping cynicism” toward government and persons who “warn that tyranny is … around the corner.”
Considering the litany of abuses the Obama administration has been perpetrating, many people would say concern about tyranny being around the corner isn’t cynicism. It’s realism.
What if we learn Obama “has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavored to … cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner”?
Would that be enough to force him from office? Or have we abandoned so many principles in the past 40 years that he’d stay in power? When millions of people are comfortable with warrantless surveillance on a mass scale and the president claims the power to order the murders of Americans who have never been charged with a crime or convicted of one, we have to wonder.
Steve Stanek (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute in Chicago.