Nothing like a little blood in the water to get the political sharks circling, hoping for more blood. My esteemed fellow TC.com blogger Bob Quasius of the Arizona Lincoln Republicans blog is already suggesting the “I-word” (Impeachment) and drawing comparisons of recent events to the biggest crook ever to occupy the White House, Richard Nixon. Never mind the irony of comparing President Obama to the most dishonest person to ever occupy the White House, who happened to be a Republican President. And never mind the irony that it was Richard Nixon who impugned the legacy of Abraham Lincoln in the Republican Party by pursuing the “Southern Strategy” of courting conservative, largely bigoted Southern whites still angry at Democrats passing the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act to join the Republican Party. Let’s take a look at recent events that Republicans are decrying as “abuses of power” and “failures of leadership”, as they are really all much ado about nothing.
Justice Department Seizures of Ap Reporters’ Phone Records:
This all started when the AP ran this story on May 7 2012: CIA ‘foiled al-Qaida bomb plot’ around anniversary of Bin Laden death:
The CIA has thwarted a plot by al-Qaida’s affiliate in Yemen to destroy a US-bound airliner using a bomb with a new design around the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, according to the Associated Press. US officials say the plot involved an “upgrade” of the underwear bomb that failed to detonate aboard a jetliner over Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009.
The AP notes in the article that they learned about the thwarted plot the week before but “agreed to White House and CIA requests not to publish it immediately because the sensitive intelligence operation was still under way. Once those concerns were allayed, the AP decided to disclose the plot Monday despite requests from the Obama administration to wait for an official announcement Tuesday.” The AP apparently had the story immediately after it happened, while US Intelligence operations were still underway. The AP clearly had some inside information on this, and as it highly unlikely Al Qaeda Arab Peninsula fed them the info, it likely came from someone inside the US Intelligence community. Yesterday U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that the national security information leak that prompted the Department of Justice to seize Associated Press phone records was among the most serious breaches he has ever seen. And Republicans agreed with him. Back in May-June 2012, when the story broke and politicians were gearing up for the November election, there was a chorus line of Republican criticism over the leak of intelligence information.
“Our intelligence people say this is the worst breach they’ve ever see. It’s very clear that this information had to come from this administration. It couldn’t have come from anywhere else.”
- Our very own Senator John McCain on CNN’s “State of the Union” program, Sunday, June 10, 2012. McCain encouraged a thorough investigation. And the Department of Justice (DOJ) did just that, conducting over 550 interviews and reviewing tens of thousands of documents, before seeking the phone records at issue. And the DOJ wasn’t investigating the AP because it was being critical of the President, like Nixon did, or like GW Bush did when he ordered the IRS investigation of church critical of the invading Iraq. No, the DOJ was only investigating because apparently someone high up in the Intelligence service was leaking classified information that compromises our efforts to combat terrorism. No phone records were recorded, they only obtained phone number records to try to determine who the individual was that was calling the AP, or the AP calling him, with this information. Freedom of the Press is one of our most cherished and important civil liberties. Just as is Freedom of Speech. But, just like Freedom of Speech doesn’t give you the right ot yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, Freedom of the Press does not give you the right to publish information that compromises ongoing military or intelligence operations. Especially when advised that doing so would indeed compromise those operations.
IRS scrutiny of Conservative/Tea Party tax exempt applications:
The IRS controversy arose last week when Lois Lerner, the official in charge of overseeing tax-exempt groups, said the agency was wrong to pay special attention to organizations that used key words such as “tea party” or “patriot” or had policy positions on smaller government, and apologized for it. Somehow this has morphed into wild accusations that the Obama Administration has used the IRS to target and suppress political opposition. First of all, there is zero evidence that President Obama or his high ranking officials were even aware that this was happening, let alone instructing the IRS to do so. Indeed, the Treasury Department’s Inspector General released a report that lays the blame on the IRS for developing “inappropriate criteria” in focusing on conservative groups:
Early in Calendar Year 2010, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status to review for indications of significant political campaign intervention. Although the IRS has taken some action, it will need to do more so that the public has reasonable assurance that applications are processed without unreasonable delay in a fair and impartial manner in the future.The IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention. Ineffective management: 1) allowed inappropriate criteria to be developed and stay in place for more than 18 months, 2) resulted in substantial delays in processing certain applications, and 3) allowed unnecessary information requests to be issued.
Well, there’s a reason why nobody likes the IRS – they can screw up things that should be so simple. But the specific tax exempt status these groups were applying for is 401(c), which is very specifically setup for charities doing primarily community improvement activities. It’s the IRS’s job to ensure that organizations applying for this special tax exempt status meet all the requirements. But one office, located in Cincinnati, took it upon themselves to setup screenings that targeted “Tea Party” and “Patriot” in the application to investigate if these organizations were instead primarily political organizations instead of community improvement organizations. That’s just plain wrong, you can’t use political leaning has a screen, the IRS has to be impartial. And while it appears this one office allowed inappropriate criteria to be developed, it was not system wide within the IRS. Other offices selected Democratic and/or liberal groups for additional scrutiny. But they didn’t use political terms like “progressive” or “liberal” to screen, they selected them using the objective criteria that should’ve been applied to all groups.
An article yesterday on Bloomberg.com details that other IRS offices sent the same letters requesting additional information to Democratic leaning organizations that they did to Tea Party groups. And while no Tea Party ground was ever denied their application, some Democratic ones were:
The Internal Revenue Service, under pressure after admitting it targeted anti-tax Tea Party groups for scrutiny in recent years, also had its eye on at least three Democratic-leaning organizations seeking nonprofit status. One of those groups, Emerge America, saw its tax-exempt status denied, forcing it to disclose its donors and pay some taxes. None of the Republican groups have said their applications were rejected.
Progress Texas, another of the organizations, faced the same lines of questioning as the Tea Party groups from the same IRS office that issued letters to the Republican-friendly applicants. A third group, Clean Elections Texas, which supports public funding of campaigns, also received IRS inquiries.
In a statement late yesterday, the tax agency said it had pooled together the politically active nonpartisan applicants — including a “minority” that were identified because of their names. “It is also important to understand that the group of centralized cases included organizations of all political views,” the IRS said in its statement.
There has been an explosion of applications for 401(c) tax exempt applications since the Citizens United case – Outside groups — including nonprofit social-welfare groups that don’t disclose their donors — spent $1 billion in the 2012 elections, three times as much as they did four years earlier. The IRS was obviously unprepared to deal with this influx of applications and fell way short in their efforts to ensure that those applying for tax exempt status actually do qualify, and do that in an impartial manner. Nothing more, nothing less.
Why do Republicans keep talking about Benghazi? One word: 2016. While it’s still (thankfully) 3 1/2 years until the 2016 Presidential election, polls show that should Hillary Clinton decide to run she would be an overwhelming favorite. Polls show her running even with Rand Paul in his home state of Kentucky. Polls show her easily defeating either Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush in their home state of Florida. Republican politicians are rightfully concerned about their prospects in 2016, and are grasping at anything that might possibly tarnish her reputation and/or President Obama’s. There is no “cover-up” and nothing more to be told. A group of anti-American Islamic extremists attacked our diplomatic mission there and 4 Americans, including Ambassador Stevens died in the attack. We rushed a diplomatic mission into Libya quickly after the fall of Qaddafi hoping to influence the fledgling new government and didn’t have adequate security in place to repel a full scale attack. Ambassador Stevens had a very good rapport with the Libyan people and government and relied on Libyan security forces to supplement our limited security. They didn’t, Libyan security forces protecting our diplomatic mission in Benghazi melted away when extremist attacked with mortars, grenades and automatic weapons. Defense Department officials nixed the idea of sending our limited additional security personnel in from Tripoli because there was doubt if they could arrive in time, and because we didn’t know then what we were up against. How many extremists were involved, and what kind of weapons did they have? A lot of sophisticated and powerful weapons disappeared during the Libyan civil war, including surface-to-air missiles. Sending in a rescue mission could have easily resulted in many more casualties.
Much ado about nothing. Yes, we need to protect the Freedom of the Press, but it’s not under attack, and certainly not by the Obama Administration. Yes, the IRS needs to conduct it’s business with political impartiality. But thankfully, Barack Obama is no Dick Nixon. We need to learn from Benghazi and ensure we have adequate American security personnel to protect our diplomats. But the death of Americans at the hands of terrorists should unite our resolve to fight terrorism, not be used as a tool for political bickering.
I would ask Republicans this question asked in Shakespeare’s play “Much Ado About Nothing”: “Why, what is the matter, That you have such a February face, So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?” But, I know the answer already: They hate to loose elections, and when they can’t win fair and square they just try to go around the voters. When they won control of Congress in 1994 they spent the next four years investigating Bill Clinton over Whitewater and found absolutely nothing. And then they thought they found gold in Monica Lewinsky and tried to Impeach Clinton under Constitutional provision for removing government officials for “High Crime, Treason, or Bribery” for his not telling the truth about breaking his marriage vows with another consenting adult. Now some Republicans are uttering the I-word, rubbing their hands in glee at the chance of trying to undo the decision of nearly 66 million American voters just 7 months ago. Some things – and politicians – never change.