Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be
Scandal. It’s a much misused word in American politics these days, especially by Republicans looking to distract from the news cycles that have excoriated their policies that have been the root of gridlock in the doing of the people’s business.
It has been misused by a national news media gleefully tossing gasoline on fires, only to find out that the excess heat of the Republican hyperbole about Watergate and scandal was being doused by real news. As those pesky facts rolled in, the majority of the hysteria around three news stories was much ado about nothing.
The three confluences of the Imperfect Storm were the continued beating of the dead horse of Benghazi by Darrell Issa, the gasoline poured on to an IRS story that has been brewing for months, and the story that the Justice Department was monitoring communications of the Associated Press.
Benghazigate rolled out to great fanfare. Chief Inspector Darrell Issa of the Un-Sûreté, the House’s bumbling Clouseau who brought you the smokeless “Fast & Furious” hearings AND that wonderful all-male revue for the hearings on women’s reproductive rights that lead to the Sandra Fluke debacle, trumpeted NEW witnesses with SHOCKING revelations about Benghazi that would drag former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and the Obama White House into the muck-and-mire of conspiracy and cover-ups.
Except that it didn’t.
The Republican majority on this House Witch Hunt refused the Democratic minority’s request to hear the public testimony of retired ambassador Thomas Pickering, one of the top experts put in charge of the independent investigation on Benghazi.
Issa’s staff tried to arrange for a private deposition of Pickering instead because, as we found out last week in the former ambassador’s appearances on the Diane Rehm Show (transcript) and elsewhere, the people who did their homework brought the truth to light, which did not include the smoking guns aimed at Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton which Issa had been seeking.
Late in the week, Issa’s staff smoke-screen was a subpoena to Pickering, to make it seem as if he had not made himself available and was hiding something about the official report, when, in public discussion on the Diane Rehm Show (NPR) earlier in the week, he had made it clear that he had offered to testify before the committee, and Issa’s people had been playing political games rather than trying to secure a safer future for our diplomats abroad.
Issa’s witnesses who came forward had no flashy, damaging testimony either, even with Fox News doing its best to spin it that way. They testified to the nature of all bureaucracies, corporate or governmental, that people in crisis situations often have radically different priorities and competing agendas to solve the same problem.
This second round of hearings also revealed the internationally embarrassing fact that our Benghazi “consulate” was largely a front for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s operations there, and that competing security systems on the State/CIA sides of the compound might have aided the attack.
The hearings even pointed out, much as Mr. Issa tried to keep it off the record, that Republican machete-wielding tax choppers, including Mr. Issa, had cut funding for the very security that could have had meaningful impact on the situation. The low number of combat-ready special forces in-country was a budget thing that forced bureaucrats to prioritize limited security resources. Oops.
Of course, to brew a scandal, you need a major media outlet that isn’t the discredited Fox News. Issa was aided in his attempts to turn his inquisitions into something significant by ABC News and their reporter Jonathan Karl, who broke the “big” story that emails from the White House definitely showed changes in language in the handling of Benghazi that smacked of cover-up.
Except that they didn’t.
The Obama White House painstakingly went through more than 200 emails with the media, and it was learned that Mr. Karl and ABC News broadcast completely fabricated quotes that conflated bits and pieces of emails that had been made available to Issa’s committee for review weeks earlier.
Later it was learned that the emails that Karl claimed that ABC News had “seen,” they had only been told about by a non-disclosed source, possibly from a leaker on Issa’s committee, which had complete copies of the emails for their eyes only. Mr. Karl apologized, sort of, still standing by the pack of lies that he dropped into the stream of D.C. media sewage, but as Rachel Maddow pointed out, the apology, given what he did, it is not enough.
One scandal down.
The Internal Revenue Service story seemed really bad. Great target. No one likes the IRS. So the GOP regulars gleefully beat the drum about the Obama White House repeating the mistakes of the Nixon White House which used the IRS to attack political enemies.
Breaking stories were that Tea Party members were being harassed by an IRS office in Cincinnati but Democrats were not.
Awful. Shameful. Boo. Hiss.
Except that it didn’t happen that way either.
Mr. Obama, under pressure to do something that looked responsive, fired Steven Miller, the acting head of the IRS. Miller, testifying at the end of the week before Congress, sank the scandal when he pointed out:
“I do not believe that partisanship motivated the practices of the people described in the IG report,” Miller told the Committee. “I think that what happened here was that foolish mistakes were made by people who were trying to be efficient in their work.”
Both Miller and IRS inspector general J. Russell George, whose report generated the controversy, repeatedly answered that they found no evidence of political motivation in the actions of the IRS agents who had mishandled the 501(c)(4) slush fund requests. 
The most potentially damaging story to the White House, the “scandal” that the AP had been spied upon by the Department of Justice (DoJ). As Attorney General Eric Holder and others have testified, though, most of what we are seeing are the post-911 exercise of powers accorded to the Department of Justice to stop leaks of classified information that might compromise national security.
The DoJ defended itself, pointing out that they had abided by all of the mandates set forth by both the Bush and Obama Administrations to seek out the information through other means before resorting to cross-checking the phone records of AP reporters with calls to the Department of State and/or the entry/exit patterns of certain employees there based on the use of their ID cards.
That this is a “scandal” in 2013 seems odd considering that the DoJ prosecuted a CIA employee, Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, who was leaking information about North Korean to reporter James Rosen, the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News, back in 2009, with Justice using the same information gathering tactics with the blessings of the Republicans who had pushed for the department’s ability to plug leaks back in the days of the Republican-controlled congress under George W. Bush. 
The AP reported (May 7th), sourcing unnamed “officials,” that the Central Intelligence Agency “thwarted an ambitious plot by al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb with a sophisticated new design around the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden.”
Holder has testified that leaks of information in such highly-delicate situations jeopardize the defense of the homeland and compromise the ability of the CIA to do its job, which is why the DoJ was given the latitude to at least follow the logs of phone conversations of reporters as a means of verifying evidence that someone who had signed a legal oath to protect classified information had broken the law.
Mr. Obama, grown-up-in-Chief, dealt with Benghazi. He fired the acting IRS chief even though the “scandal” wasn’t on his watch, and his DoJ looks like it is doing everything by a book written by the former Village-Idiot-in-Chief and their neocon Cheneyists who put the extra incursion into the Press’ conversations on the books.
Granted, Mr. Obama has not been shy about prosecuting leakers at a record pace, but given the fact that our enemies abroad aren’t countries, but shadowy individuals who are big readers of the Internet, is a media “scoop” worth a few hundred people’s lives, perhaps your life, on an airliner with an even newer underwear bomb because the bad guys know what we know about the old one? We in the media are free to gather information, but, even with the precedent of the Pentagon Papers, whistle-blowers who violate their security clearance oaths to provide the media with source material have always, always been subject to prosecution if caught.
The perfect storm, or just a bunch of bored media children with cameras and blogs and talk shows who can’t get any traction off of Republican intransigence in Congress stories to sell more Viagra in the print fish-wrap or on the tube? Scandal? Bah. It’s high time the media start reporting news and stop serving up this soft-serve junk food that the Republicans want to use to mask 10 million poor people being kept out of the HCA in Florida, shameful gun legislation, and a record with women’s issues only rivaled by the Taliban.
Maybe we should be investigating the people blowing all that smoke, like Mr. Issa and his cronies. It would give us all something useful to do rather than shill for GOP 2014.
My shiny two.