Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies

Contributing Columnist

The Obama administration is beset with confluence of three very troublesome issues and page 3 of Tuesday’s Sarasota Herald Tribune featured all three.

One of the articles was titled, “Critics seeking answers on attack.” The attack, of course, was the murderous raid on our diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya last year. That was old stuff compared Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to secretly obtain two months of telephone records of journalists working for the Associated Press (AP) which merited “In leak investigation, journalists’ phone records collected.” It seems our esteemed attorney general threw fishing net over the AP and over 100 journalists, ostensibly in an effort to find someone leaking sensitive government information. This bombshell followed an Internal Revenue confession that some of our low level revenue collectors were targeting conservatives and conservative groups but, according to the Tribune article, “More officials in IRS may be tied to targeting.”

‘The most startling aspect of all this is not just how fast the scandals are erupting, it is that despite the very different subject, two of the three share a common thread, that is that the truth in each seems so very elusive. As to the third, we shall see.

The Benghazi mess can be so convoluted that you can lose yourself in the changing stories, the contradictory statements, the half-truths and evasions. Early statements from the administration clearly lead us to believe that the violence was a response to some almost never viewed video that was disrespectful of the Muslim faith. Mr. Obama continues to claim he blamed terrorism within three days of the incident but that is, to be kind, not quite accurate. Five days following Ambassador Steven’s death, U.N. Secretary Susan Rice was dispatched to the Sunday TV talk shows to fortify the version of events that laid blame on the anti-Muslim video. Ms. Rice was an odd choice to represent the administration’s point of view because as U.N. Ambassador, she had absolutely nothing to do with the incident or any direct knowledge of the event. Secretary of State Clinton took a walk on this one. No way was she going to perpetuate a lie on five different Sunday news programs. No, Hillary has been around Washington scandals too long to let herself be put in such a position. So, the administration threw poor Ms. Rice under the Benghazi bus.

Maureen Dowd got to the heart of the matter, as she is so good at doing.  “In the midst of a re-election campaign, Obama aides wanted to promote the mythology that the president who killed Osama was vanquishing terror.” As to Hillary, Ms. Dowd wrote: “Looking ahead to 2016, Hillaryland needed to shore up the mythology that Clinton was a stellar secretary of state,” and you can’t be stellar if you ignored warnings and lost an ambassador to al-Qaeda.

Lori Lerner, the IRS official of tax-exempt organizations, told reporters on Friday, May 10, that the IRS had been targeting tea-party groups, other conservative organizations, and individuals that had demonstrated opposition to the current administration. Lerner also told reporters that her superiors had been unaware of the actions. Someone in the administration must have activated the lying machine so Lerner blamed a handful of low-level employees in a Cincinnati office. (Good news for the Cincinnati Bengals. They are no longer the most lawless outfit in town.)

The next day, the Associated Press confirmed that well before the Friday confession, in early 2012 in fact, the IRS had convened a meeting with its chief lawyer to discuss the questionable targeting of conservatives and conservative groups. Following that meeting, the IRS adopted a new policy. Now they would flag additional organizations such as those “educating on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”  Oh, not to forget, Jewish groups were hauled in and asked about their theological beliefs and their opinions on Israel.

The IRS justification was simply: “Mistakes were made.” That is Washington speak for “move on, nothing to see here.” Then, of course, we got the standard verbiage from Jay Carney who called the IRS’ behavior “inappropriate.” “No,” as George Will noted, “using the salad fork for the entrée is inappropriate. Using the IRS for political purposes is a criminal offense.”

If you are inclined to argue with Will, hearken back to Article 2, Section 1, Articles of Impeachment, Adopted by the House Judiciary Committee, July 29, 1974. “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.”

I once wrote that Mr. Obama did not remind me of Franklin Roosevelt, or Abraham Lincoln, he reminded me of Richard Nixon. He still does.

On Monday, May 13, the Associated Press announced that the Department of Justice secretly obtained two months worth of telephone records from the Associated Press reporters and editors. “In all, the governments seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown, but more than 100 journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.”

This isn’t yet a real scandal. Justice followed the rules and, surprisingly, hasn’t had to change their story three or four times in the first two days. But, they made a mistake. They’ve cast too wide a net and enraged the here-to-fore compliant press corps and it, unfortunately for them, comes on top of Benghazi and the IRS kerfuffles.

Hillary once dismissed Benghazi questions with, “What difference, at this point, does it make?” The answer, I think, is the truth matters because truth and character matter, especially for the government of a free people.



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