The Ballad Of Barack Obama, Tricky Dick, And Billie Sol (Forbes.com) May 20, 2013Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds.
If I were a lyricist, I would pen a ballad about the scandals from this past week. It would have to be a country song because no other format could capture the irony that, all in the same week, we eulogized Billie Sol Estes, a con man tied to Lyndon Johnson, celebrated the 40thanniversary of the Watergate hearings, and took in President Obama’s 3-part scandal of IRS investigations of political opponents, Benghazi cover-ups and AP subpoenas.
Although each verse of the three Obama scandals is distinctive, the chorus is the same: abuse of executive power and, once exposed, unwillingness to own up to the real problems. Stretches of executive power have been adding up on this president’s record for some time, from targeted drone killings, to an unprecedented number of politically powerful but unconfirmed czars, to government by executive order. Two of the major goals of his second term, gun control and immigration reform, appeared to be politically difficult and so the president kicked off each effort by stretching the Constitution with a series of executive orders. Now, finally, the Justice Department is caught in an overbroad invasion of freedom of the press, the IRS is found to be investigating political opponents, and both the State Department and White House are exposed rewriting Benghazi history. These revelations are not different in type from Obama’s governance as usual, they are merely larger in degree: abuses, rather than big stretches, of executive power.
So, too, has the White House reaction to these scandals underscored one of the people’s regular concerns about Obama: his arrogance and seeming lack of concern. The White House line is that the IRS story is really about a couple of rogue employees in Cincinnati who were not sufficiently supervised. The President’s own reaction was that the American people are right to be angry about what the IRS did, and so is he—as though the IRS was not really part of the executive branch or his responsibility. Teflon Barack must hope that, if he points the finger at his own people, the mess somehow won’t stick on him. The administration hit the weekend news shows saying these actions were more incompetent than evil—an approach veteran newsman Bob Schieffer of CBS News called “dumb and dumber.” Meanwhile, the president himself chose to hit the golf course on Saturday.
They say that, in political campaigns, the most devastating attacks are those that tie to concerns voters already held about a candidate. And so these familiar choruses—a president who stretches executive power, who is arrogant and seeks to avoid blame—will strike home with the American people. With calls for congressional investigations, and even a special counsel, these scandals will dominate the news cycle for months to come, taking the air out of the news stories and priorities the White House hoped to advance, and setting the stage for Republican gains in the 2014 elections. It will be hard to argue “hope and change,” since this administration is now more scandal-ridden than any since Nixon and Watergate. Obama’s second term as president already was hanging in the balance, and this will push it over the edge into a defensive posture with few results.
Big government makes itself a big target. And so the closing verse of my ballad will be that it’s somehow poetic justice that a president who sought to grow government and take over everything from health care to K-12 education to guns and income equality conjured up a government so big it would fail to manage itself. Country music loves irony and poetic justice. Alas, that is the legacy of Barack Obama and his scandals: a big government that failed the American people big-time.