IRS chief counsel William Wilkins, who oversaw the IRS’s misconduct, and who is one of only two political appointments in the IRS, met with President Obama just two days before authoring the agency’s rules on dealing with Tea Party applications. I do hope someone asks what the meeting was about.
Barack Obama probably never ordered the IRS to target conservative and Christian tax-exempt applicants, just as Richard Nixon never ordered the Watergate break-in. (Although, as Jonah Goldberg points out, there’s no earthy reason why we should take his word for it.) But, just as Nixon did, Obama created the circumstances in which the misconduct was likely, perhaps even inevitable.
Three must-read columns make the case. Jonah Goldberg observes that, when Tea Party groups began making credible claims that they were being targeted by the IRS, he did nothing. He didn’t even take the minimal step of asking someone to look into it. Against that backdrop, his current profession of outrage over the IRS’s actions are clearly crocodile tears.
Goldberg goes on to recount the very clear signals that he sent, quite deliberately, that his political opponents should be silenced. Kimberly Strassel expands on the point, observing that Obama and his Democrats attacked the people funding opposition to Obama’s rule, and explicitly called for the IRS to scrutinize them.
Rand Simberg adds another key point. The IRS, unsurprisingly, is a very liberal organization, and the division that review tax-exempt applications is even further left. Thus, these people were sent a clear indication by the president and his party who the bad guys are, and they were receptive to that indication.
In such an environment, it was essential to make it clear that partisan bias was unacceptable. However, Barack Obama sent the exact opposite message. He liked to joke about misusing his office (e.g., revenge audits, secret provisions), he called for his supporters to take “revenge” and “punish our enemies“, and he warned his enemies that he was “keeping score“.
To sum up, you have a sharply partisan IRS, unchecked by higher scrutiny, and being told clearly who the enemy is and that persecuting that enemy is morally appropriate. Under such circumstances they would likely want to persecute their party’s enemies. The only remaining necessary element is the ability to do so without facing repercussions.
And, of course, they had that too. We now know that the Obama administration is run on a “see-no-evil, hear-no-evil” basis. White House officials are careful to insulate the president and his key deputies from any knowledge of his administration’s wrongdoing: When the White House was informed of Gunwalker, those informed made sure the information went no higher (or so we are told, anyway). Ditto the IRS scandal. And when the Gunwalker misconduct became public, the White House stonewalled the investigation, and continues to do so to this day.
Furthermore, Obama administration officials are never punished for their misconduct. The persons responsible for Gunwalker were not punished; indeed most were promoted, while the whistleblowers were punished. The same is true in the IRS scandal. The woman in charge of the key IRS office has been promoted to run the IRS’s Obamacare office. The high-profile firing of Steven Miller (the acting IRS commissioner) was bogus. In fact, he had been in the position for just over a week, and was due to step down in less than a month anyway.
In short, people doing Obama’s never-explicitly-ordered bidding are safe from punishment. He has their back. If only the people who defend our country from terrorists were so secure.
Last summer, the Veterans Administration shifted staff from dealing with veterans to helping with Obamacare enrollment, charges a whistleblower due to testify before Congress next week.
The Democrats want us to believe that the IRS scandal had nothing to do with politics. This was never very plausible, but now is categorically contradicted by the record:
Mr. Obama wants Americans to believe that the targeting resulted from the confusing tax law governing nonprofits, which he says was “difficult” to interpret and resulted in mere “bureaucratic” mistakes. . .
House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp blew up this fairy tale at Wednesday’s hearing with new IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Mr. Camp unveiled a June 14, 2012 email from Treasury career attorney Ruth Madrigal to key IRS officials in the tax-exempt department, including former director Lois Lerner.
The email cites a blog post about the political activity of tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups and reads: “Don’t know who in your organizations [sic] is keeping tabs on c4s, but since we mentioned potentially addressing them (off-plan) in 2013, I’ve got my radar up and this seemed interesting.” . . . The IRS typically puts out a public schedule of coming regulations, and Mr. Camp noted that in this case “off-plan” appears to mean “hidden from the public.” . . .
The IRS hyper-scrutiny of conservative groups only began in 2010 amid the Obama Administration’s larger political attack on political donors like the Koch brothers, and emails show that IRS officials were acutely aware of this political environment. In February 2010, for example, an IRS screener in Cincinnati flagged an application to his superiors noting: “Recent media attention to this type of organization indicates to me that this is a ‘high profile’ case.”
What the Obama administration is trying to get away with here is a truly breathtaking exercise in political chutzpah. They are trying to use their own misconduct as an excuse to change the rules to codify their own misconduct.
What’s sad is they always do this, and usually get away with this. I remember how in the late 1990s or early 2000s, the Democrats, caught red-handed violating campaign finance laws, used their own crimes to justify “reforming” campaign finance to give themselves greater advantages.
The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration weakened the rules governing the NSA, greatly extending the NSA’s ability to spy on Americans:
The Obama administration secretly won permission from a surveillance court in 2011 to reverse restrictions on the National Security Agency’s use of intercepted phone calls and e-mails, permitting the agency to search deliberately for Americans’ communications in its massive databases, according to interviews with government officials and recently declassified material.
In addition, the court extended the length of time that the NSA is allowed to retain intercepted U.S. communications from five years to six years — and more under special circumstances, according to the documents, which include a recently released 2011 opinion by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, then chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
What had not been previously acknowledged is that the court in 2008 imposed an explicit ban — at the government’s request — on those kinds of searches, that officials in 2011 got the court to lift the bar and that the search authority has been used.
Together the permission to search and to keep data longer expanded the NSA’s authority in significant ways without public debate or any specific authority from Congress.
There is a persistent mythology that the Democrats are somehow the party of civil liberties. It’s quite bizarre that the party of Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and now Obama could develop such a reputation. As this story shows, it is the Bush administration — undeservedly vilified for its surveillance for foreign terrorists — that carefully balanced national security with privacy.
The Bush administration went to court in 2008 to request that the court limit NSA surveillance of Americans. The Obama administration went to court in 2011 to get those limits removed. Right there is all you need to know about how the NSA scandal happened.
In a ruling Monday night, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson turned down the Justice Department’s request to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee after President Barack Obama asserted executive privilege to prevent some records about the administration’s response to the “Operation Fast and Furious” gunrunning scandal from being turned over to Congress.
“This case presents the sort of question that the courts are traditionally called upon to resolve,” Jackson said in her 44-page decision, issued more than five months after lawyers argued the issue in her packed courtroom and more than a year after the House committee filed suit. “Dismissing the case without hearing it would in effect place the court’s finger on the scale, designating the executive as the victor based solely on his untested assertion that the privilege applies,” she wrote.
The decision does not immediately grant Congress access to the documents; it merely means that the administration must now defend it’s claim of executive privilege in court. Put another way: the Obama administration’s position was not just that it can cast executive privilege over any document it likes (presidential or not), but that the courts have no power to review that decision. It was as astonishingly broad claim of authority, so the only surprise is it took so long to issue a decision.
Moreover, the House of Representatives is likely to prevail on the merits as well, as John Hinderaker explains.
Many Americans hopes that electing a black president would prove that we had turned a corner in race relations. Some actually voted for Obama for that reason; others saw it as a salutary consequence of an otherwise dreadful president.
Alas, it was not to be. For the left, race relations are not something to be improved. Quite the contrary, they are a political weapon. And as this administration has floundered — the economy still not recovering, foreign policy in ashes, and half a dozen major scandals swirling — the more they have turned to race baiting to distract from their failures.
They paint any opposition to Obama’s policies as racist. (In a classical example, under a white president we would have been fine with nationalizing health care, apparently). They deliberately inflame any racial incident they can. And they make explicit calls for racial retribution.
Against that backdrop, it’s not surprising that a new NBC/WSJ poll shows that race relations have dramatically worsened during Obama’s time in office:
Only 52 percent of whites and 38 percent of blacks have a favorable opinion of race relations in the country, according to the poll, which has tracked race relations since 1994 and was conducted in mid-July by Hart Research Associations and Public Opinion Strategies.
That’s a sharp drop from the beginning of Obama’s first term, when 79 percent of whites and 63 percent of blacks held a favorable view of American race relations.
That’s a 27-point drop among whites and a 25-point drop among blacks.
One of the beneficiaries of Kathleen Sebelius’s shakedown of health care companies (she pressured them, under cover of authority, to contribute to organizations promoting Obamacare) is caught engaging in nakedly political activity:
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ favorite pro-Obamacare nonprofit held a Democrats-only congressional briefing earlier this year, according to emails obtained by nonprofit watchdog Judicial Watch.
Enroll America president Anne Filipic, a former Obama White House aide, exchanged emails with Debra Curtis, a Democratic staffer on the House Ways and Means Committee.
“They [House Democrat leadership] want to do another one next week while Congress is in recess that would be open [to] all House Democratic Staff to start getting folks up to speed,” Curtis wrote to Filipic in a Feb. 11, 2013, email.
“We’ll check IDs to be sure we’ve got all Dems coming as well,” Curtis added the next day while projecting that a 100 people would attend.
Democrats haven’t really had to address Sebelius’s shakedown; with all the other Obama administration scandals sucking up all the oxygen, this didn’t get much attention. But if they did, I’m sure they would say that it was appropriate for her to fundraise for organizations seeking to further the government’s goals.
That wouldn’t be true in its own right — the government has no right to exploit its regulatory power to coerce any financial contributions in excess of legal tax liabilities — but this shows it’s not even true to that extent. Sebelius was extorting financial contributions to organizations engaging in partisan political activity. That’s a crime.
POSTSCRIPT: Sebelius sure is a piece of work.
I’m starting to think that the Obama administration’s plan to deal with the scandals is to have so many of them we can’t keep them straight any more. In the latest scandal, the NSA collected call data on all telephone calls placed on Verizon’s network in the United States. (The dragnet explicitly excludes calls that originate and terminate in foreign countries.) Before I got a chance to note it here, it was revealed that the NSA is collecting credit-card transactions as well.
This was Barack Obama in 2007, pledging to end the supposed abuses of the Bush administration:
Obama proclaimed, “No more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime.” He then cast his massive dragnet to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime using the FISA court rather than national security letters. Oh, that’s much better.
I feel it necessary to contrast what Obama is doing (I suppose I should say, what Obama’s administration is doing, since he will surely turn out have been out of the loop once again) with what happened during the Bush administration. The Bush-era terrorist surveillance program was tapping the phones of specific foreign terrorists.
That, of course, is exactly what they should have been doing. The part that somehow became controversial is they kept listening when those foreign terrorists placed calls to the United States. Of course. It’s utter foolishness to suggest that we should stop listening to terrorists when the call the United States; indeed, those are the calls we most need to hear. But a dishonest media reported the matter as though the administration was tapping domestic phones rather than foreign ones.
The Bush-era program was spying on foreign terrorists, not Americans. The Obama-era program is the exact opposite: It spies on every American who uses Verizon or a credit card, and it specifically excludes foreigners!
Power Line’s Paul Mirengoff thinks that Republicans are taking the wrong line on the IRS scandal. He thinks that it’s a mistake to try to tie the scandal to President Obama; the idea that Obama fostered a
“culture of intimidation” won’t fly. I think he’s wrong about whether Obama can be blamed; as I’ve written before, Obama’s cavalier attitude toward misconduct, his lack of action on credible allegations, and his proven record of protecting wrongdoers in his administration create a perfect environment for these things to happen. Mirengoff might be right that it won’t fly, although each new revelation makes that narrative more believable.
But I think Mirengoff is right that we should not focus so much on Obama. We should be less personal, and more ideological. The real point to the IRS scandal and reporter surveillance scandal is that government cannot be trusted to use its immense power properly.
The line we should be taking on these scandals is they prove that the federal government’s power must be pared back. Unfortunately, far from it, we are dramatically increasing the reach of the federal government instead. We need to elect officials who will halt the growth of government power, and decrease it instead.
Crooked administrations come and go, but government misconduct is never-ending.
If you’re enjoying the IRS scandal, just wait until the IRS takes up its role as Obamacare enforcer. I’ve heard a lot of people make that remark since the IRS scandal broke, but it takes on even more currency with this revelation:
The Internal Revenue Service official in charge of the tax-exempt organizations at the time when the unit targeted tea party groups now runs the IRS office responsible for the health care legislation.
Sarah Hall Ingram served as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012. But Ingram has since left that part of the IRS and is now the director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office, the IRS confirmed to ABC News today.
That’s just great.
I have to say, I’m laughing my butt off over this:
The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.
After years of doing their level best to obscure and/or justify the misconduct of the Obama administration, the Associated Press got the Chicago Way treatment themselves. They’re horrified that the Obama administration could do such a thing. It’s almost enough to make one believe in karma.
As in every one of the administration’s dozen scandals, we’re told that no one in a position of authority knew anything about this. Clearly, the word has gone out throughout the administration that you can do anything you want (ship guns to drug cartels, persecute the Tea Party and pro-Israel organizations, manufacture propaganda at government expense, spy on reporters, etc.) provided you just don’t tell your superiors.
The administration says that its investigation of a leak regarding a foiled terrorist plot is important, because it directly compromised national security. Oh my goodness! A leak that compromised national security! It’s hard to imagine something so terrible could ever happen!
In fact, during the Bush administration there was a never-ending war of leaks against the administration, many of them extremely damaging. (Perhaps the worst was in 2006 when the New York Times and others exposed the details of the Treasury Department’s program to track terrorist finances, thereby making it possible for terrorists to move money undetected.) But did the Bush administration ever resort to this kind of spying on the press? Of course not.
While three major scandals are exploding in Washington, the Obama administration is asking the courts to abolish Congress’s power to subpoena documents:
A U.S. Justice Department lawyer said on Wednesday that if a judge agreed to consider a Republican bid to get administration documents related to a botched operation against gun-trafficking it would prompt a flood of requests for courts to referee Washington political disputes.
President Barack Obama is resisting a congressional subpoena for documents related to how the administration responded to the revelation of the failed operation known as “Fast and Furious” on the U.S.- Mexican border. . .
Justice Department lawyer Ian Gershengorn told a hearing the matter was best left to the give-and-take of the U.S. government’s two elected branches, the president and Congress, and should not be a matter for the courts. . .
[House of Representatives lawyer Kerry] Kircher told Jackson that if she did not intervene, presidents could withhold documents from Congress at will with no consequence and thwart oversight of government agencies.
Kircher is exactly right. If the House has no recourse to the courts to enforce its subpoenas, then it has no subpoena power. That’s exactly what the Obama administration wants, now more than ever with the IRS scandal blooming. But it wasn’t so long ago that Democrats saw things the other way:
In a decision that now helps Republicans, U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled in 2008 that he did have the authority to enforce a subpoena by congressional Democrats in connection with the firing of nine U.S. attorneys.
(ASIDE: It’s funny to recall now what flimsy fare passed for a scandal during the Bush administration, isn’t it?)
The IRS’s misconduct in its Tea Party persecution is not limited to targeting them for extra, intrusive scrutiny. They also were illegally leaking information to the press:
The same IRS office that deliberately targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status in the run-up to the 2012 election released nine pending confidential applications of conservative groups to ProPublica late last year. . .
In response to a request for the applications for 67 different nonprofits last November, the Cincinnati office of the IRS sent ProPublica applications or documentation for 31 groups. Nine of those applications had not yet been approved—meaning they were not supposed to be made public.
Now combine this with the incredibly intrusive demands for information, not only about the applicant organizations, and not only about the organizations’ employees, but about the organizations’ employees’ families, and combine that with an explicit threat to make everything public, and you get a clear picture of what they were trying to do: If they couldn’t intimidate Tea Party groups out of applying for tax-free status, they wanted to damage them by releasing personal information.
Just to be clear, this isn’t speculation. As above, they were already doing this.
Where would they get the idea to do this? As Glenn Reynolds notes, unsealing private records is Obama’s signature move. It’s not exaggerating to say his entire political career was founded on it.
Why would they think they could get away with it? They probably noticed that the Obama administration is very good to its underlings who commit misconduct in (what they view as) a good cause. If you ship thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels, you get promoted (while the whisleblowers are punished). If you leak confidential information from the Justice Department in an effort to harm Republicans, and then perjure yourself about it, you get not even a slap on the wrist.
POSTSCRIPT: Now that we know that the IRS is willing to release confidential information to damage the administration’s political opponents, how do you feel about Obamacare giving the IRS access to your health care records?
UPDATE: James Taranto has several more examples of the IRS leaking confidential information.
One of the defenses offered by the IRS’s apologists to try to mitigate the scandal is the idea that this was just a few low-level people in an IRS field office, and thus it doesn’t reflect on the IRS as a whole. Not so.
We learned yesterday that the Cincinnati office that did this was the only office that handles this type of request, so if Tea Party groups were to be targeted this way, Cincinnati is that place it would happen. Today we find out that it’s not true anyway:
Internal Revenue Service officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved with investigating conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, making clear that the effort reached well beyond the branch in Cincinnati that was initially blamed, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
It could be broader still. Adding a more sinister aspect to the IRS’s malfeasance, there’s this:
An attorney for a Tea Party group that believes the IRS targeted it for special scrutiny while applying for nonprofit status said an IRS analyst told him over a year ago that the agency had a “secret working group” devoted to investigating conservative organizations.
I don’t know what that means. Probably the analyst was just being dramatic, but the House investigation will surely want to question him under oath.
A few weeks ago (yes, I’m still catching up), the very interesting story broke of the White House’s extravagant 2009 Halloween party. The White House was decorated in Alice-in-Wonderland style by director Tim Burton and the party was attended by Jonny Depp in character as the Mad Hatter. One participant came wearing the original Chewbacca costume!
Realizing how bad this looked, the White House hushed up the event, and asked the press not to report it, claims a new book on the first couple:
“White House officials were so nervous about how a splashy, Hollywood-esque party would look to jobless Americans — or their representatives in Congress, who would soon vote on health care — that the event was not discussed publicly and Burton’s and Depp’s contributions went unacknowledged,” the book says.
The fascinating thing is that the press went along with it!
This isn’t a White House scandal (although it is curious that neither Burton nor Depp appears on the White House visitor logs), but it’s a first-rate media failure scandal. How much were the White House press corps in the tank for President Obama? So much that they would agree not to report a story that made Obama look bad.
What’s amusing about this story is how it was the White House that persuaded me that it’s true. The official White House blog attacked a straw man, saying that the party wasn’t a secret. That’s beside the point; no one is saying that the fact that a party was held was a secret. What was kept quiet was the extravagance of the party. On that subject the blog weighed in as well:
The author attempts to paint the fact that some involved in the film attended and were not singled out in previews of the event as an attempt to hide their involvement — this was a large event, word of their involvement was certain to be reported, and indeed it was.
Oh, it was reported? That would change things, but let’s not take the White House’s word for it; let’s follow the link to the Politico story (archived here):
The official White House social media releases and the reporter pool dispatches from the party do not mention either Burton or Depp, but the Depp fan site JohnnyDeppNews.com reported that the actor was in attendance with Burton. And the Nashville Tennessean also reported that both Depp and Burton were at the White House for the party.
Seriously? JonnyDeppNews.com and the Nashville Tennessean?! That doesn’t refute the story, it confirms it. The White House pool (and Politico, for that matter) didn’t say anything. The only reporting they can find was in a Depp fan site and some local paper no one’s ever heard of. Very well, I will happily concede that neither JonnyDeppNews.com nor the Nashville Tennessean seem to be in the tank for Obama. For the rest of the media, and especially the weasels in the White House press corps, the charge remains.
The Department of Energy asked Solyndra to delay its layoffs until after the midterm elections:
The Obama administration, which gave the solar company Solyndra a half-billion-dollar loan to help create jobs, asked the company to delay announcing it would lay off workers until after the hotly contested November 2010 midterm elections that imperiled Democratic control of Congress, newly released e-mails show.
The announcement could have been politically damaging because President Obama and others in the administration had held up Solyndra as a poster child of its clean-energy initiative. . .
A Solyndra investment adviser wrote in an Oct. 30, 2010, e-mail — without explaining the reason — that Energy Department officials were pushing “very hard” to delay making the layoffs public until the day after the elections. The announcement ultimately was made on Nov. 3, 2010 — immediately following the Nov. 2 vote.
Worse, it appears that the administration gave Solyndra $40 million in hush money:
“DOE continues to be cooperative and have indicated that they will fund the November draw on our loan (app. $40 million) but have not committed to December yet,” an unnamed Argonaut official wrote, according to the memo released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Republican staff. “They did push very hard for us to hold our announcement of the consolidation to employees and vendors to Nov. 3rd – oddly they didn’t give a reason for that date.”
We don’t know what the administration actually said, but it’s clear from the memo that Solyndra connected the $40 million with the delay until after the election.
If this report from Examiner.com is accurate (and, given what we’ve learned about the Gunwalker scandal, I have no reason to disbelieve it), it wasn’t just the Phoenix ATF that was trafficking guns to Mexican drug cartels. The Tampa ATF was walking guns to Honduras, from whence they were then sent on to Mexican drug cartels.
The isn’t just another outrage in the burgeoning scandal. This shows that the Gunwalker strategy was not merely one ATF office gone horribly wrong, it was a national strategy. The Examiner.com report also adds that the Tampa ATF decided to conceal their actions from the Congressional investigation:
There are emails in existence where [Tampa ATF director Virginia] O’Brien has advised those involved that Tampa does not have to report their walked guns because Tampa FD is not a part of Southwest Border or Project Gunrunner.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department has granted the ATF the top item on its wish list:
The Obama administration on Monday granted new powers to federal regulators fighting gun traffickers on the violence-plagued Mexican border. Issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ), the new rules require border-state gun dealers to report bulk purchases of assault weapons made by individual buyers over short spans of time — a tool requested in December by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
This is astonishing. In this ongoing scandal, in which the ATF has shown its inability to carry out its duties legally or responsibly, the ATF is not being served with the indictments it deserves, but is instead being granted new powers! One might even get the idea that the DOJ doesn’t take this scandal seriously. . .
For now the ATF’s new powers are good only in the Mexican border states, but you know it’s only a matter of time until they take them nationwide.
POSTSCRIPT: By the way, is this even legal? Can the DOJ and ATF really impose new burdens on gun merchants without an act of Congress?
The Washington Post reports:
Consumer advocates and lawyers warned federal officials in recent years that the U.S. foreclosure system was designed to seize people’s homes as fast as possible, often without regard to the rights of homeowners.
In recent days, amid reports that major lenders have used improper procedures and fraudulent paperwork to seize properties, some Obama administration officials have acknowledged they had been aware of flaws in how the mortgage industry pursues foreclosures.
But the officials said they could take only limited action to address the danger. In part, this was because they wanted lenders’ help carrying out federal programs to modify mortgages that had fallen into default or were poised to do so.
The Obama administration admits it knew of the problem, but says it could not do anything because they needed the lenders’ help in carrying out their agenda.
You rarely see it expressed so crisply: this administration refused to protect the legitimate rights of homeowners, because that would have made it hard for them to carry out their program of subsidizing insolvent borrowers.
POSTSCRIPT: Let’s not forget, the mortgage modification program was itself a complete failure.
(Via Power Line.)
Court filings in Rod Blagojevich’s corruption case that were improperly redacted show that President Obama and others in the White House lied repeatedly about their contacts with the corrupt ex-governor.
Obama said on December 9, 2008:
I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening.
But that same day Jake Tapper noted that on November 23, 2008, David Axelrod had said:
I know he’s talked to the governor and there are a whole range of names many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them.
That led to a hasty denial from the transition team:
An Obama aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity, took back David Axelrod’s remark last month that Barack Obama and Rod Blagojevich had spoken recently.
“What the president-elect said today is correct, David Axelrod misspoke,” the aide said.
And Axelrod issued a semi-retraction:
I was mistaken when I told an interviewer last month that the President-elect has spoken directly to Governor Blagojevich about the Senate vacancy. They did not then or at any time discuss the subject.
Obama’s initial statement, his staff’s denial, and Axelrod’s retraction are now shown to be lies by court filings obtained by Chicago’s NBC affiliate. Those filings were supposed to be heavily redacted to obscure all the juicy revelations, but the redaction was done improperly. NBC summarizes those revelations:
- Obama may have lied about conversations with convicted fraudster Tony Rezko.
- Obama may have overtly recommended Valerie Jarret for his Senate seat.
- A supporter of President Obama may have offered quid pro quo on a Jarrett senate appointment.
- Obama maintained a list of good Senate candidates.
- Rahm Emanuel allegedly floated Cheryl Jackson’s name for the Senate seat.
- Obama had a secret phone call with Blagojevich.
I find it amazing that Obama ever tried to maintain that he had not talked to Blagojevich about the seat. I find it even more amazing that he tried to maintain he had not talked to Blagojevich at all. Of course he talked to Blagojevich, and of course he talked to him about the seat. It’s inconceivable that he wouldn’t. But I guess he thought that the proof could be kept under wraps, and without proof the matter would go away. It worked until now.
Is it a big deal that the president and his staff lied repeatedly about his contacts with Blagojevich? One would think so. Selling a US Senate seat is a big scandal, even for Chicago, and Obama has placed himself into it. Will it be treated as such? Probably not.
The most troubling aspect of the scandal arising from the Hadley CRU emails is the perversion of the peer review process. True, there is no doubt that the Hadley researchers withheld their data from skeptical scrutiny, and it appears that they may have even fudged their data, but those offenses taint only their own work. But by subverting the peer review process, they have tainted their entire field. The documents make clear that the Hadley researchers and their correspondents worked successfully to oust journal editors who had views contrary to theirs, or who they even suspected had such views:
Proving bad behavior here is very difficult. If you think that Saiers is in the greenhouse skeptics camp, then, if we can find documentary evidence of this, we could go through official AGU channels to get him ousted.
Worse, they did not follow proper protocol in refereeing submitted papers. Submitted papers are supposed to be confidential until accepted for publication, but the emails are rife with discussion of papers under review. For example:
With free wifi in my room, I’ve just seen that M+M have submitted a paper to IJC on your H2 statistic – using more years, up to 2007. They have also found your PCMDI data -laughing at the directory name – FOIA? Also they make up statements saying you’ve done this following Obama’s statement about openness in government! Anyway you’ll likely get this for review, or poor Francis will. Best if both Francis and Myles did this. If I get an email from Glenn I’ll suggest this.
Examples such as these make it clear that the peer-review process is not working property in climate science. Now I don’t believe, as some do, that this scandal somehow washes away all the evidence that the earth’s climate is warming, likely due to human activity. There is still much convincing evidence that it is.
What the scandal does do is destroy any notion that there is a consensus among scientists on the matter. Whatever consensus might appear to exist is because some have conspired (I use the word deliberately) to silence opposing views. Climate science, as a field, needs to take affirmative steps to right its ship, and quickly.
As George Monbiot (an impeccably credentialed British environmental activist) put it:
It’s no use pretending this isn’t a major blow. The emails extracted by a hacker from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia could scarcely be more damaging. I am now convinced that they are genuine, and I’m dismayed and deeply shaken by them.
I’m also deeply disillusioned by RealClimate.org. In their view, the leak did not expose a problem in the field, but rather the leak itself is the problem, and they are focusing on explaining away the damning material in it. Worse is this email from the leak:
Anyway, I wanted you guys to know that you’re free to use RC [RealClimate.org] in any way you think would be helpful. Gavin and I are going to be careful about what comments we screen through, and we’ll be very careful to answer any questions that come up to any extent we can. On the other hand, you might want to visit the thread and post replies yourself. We can hold comments up in the queue and contact you about whether or not you think they should be screened through or not, and if so, any comments you’d like us to include.
You’re also welcome to do a followup guest post, etc. think of RC as a resource that is at your disposal to combat any disinformation put forward by the McIntyres of the world. Just let us know. We’ll use our best discretion to make sure the skeptics dont’get to use the RC comments as a megaphone…
(Emphasis mine.) This makes clear that Real Climate is simply not, as it is billed, an impartial scientific resource. Pity. It would have been nice to have such a thing.
POSTSCRIPT: I want to note again that for those fighting ruinous government proposals like cap and trade, this is the wrong hill to die on. The work discussed here is primarily paleoclimatology, the study of past climate. What matters to policy is future climate, and the work in climate projection is very weak, as I discussed here. Our purposes are not served by making paleoclimatology the center of the debate.
(I’m late in reporting this story, because I didn’t have the time to give it the treatment it deserves. And my how the story has grown in the meantime.)
ACORN, the community-organizing and voter-fraud organization, has long been savaged for its various criminal activities. On September 9, they hoped they had gotten in front of their bad reputation when they turned in eleven of their workers for forging voter registrations. This, they argued, was proof that ACORN could police itself:
“Over the last five years thousands of dedicated people have worked or volunteered with Florida ACORN. . . Fortunately, our quality control managers and the systems we developed ensured their ability to spot the isolated wrongdoing by these 11 workers who tried to pass off phony forms instead of doing their work.”
The very next day, James O’Keefe went public with the results of his hidden camera investigation. (Transcript here.) O’Keefe went to an ACORN office in Baltimore posing as a pimp. He brought along Hannah Giles who posed as a prostitute. They spun a tail of various criminal activities, including fraud, child prostitution, and human trafficking. ACORN was all too happy to help. For example, the ACORN consultant suggested that Hannah list her occupation as “performance artist”, she recommended that they understate their income to the IRS, and she gave them advice on how to conceal their underage prostitutes (imported from El Salvador) from the authorities.
ACORN denied everything:
A spokesman for ACORN, Scott Levenson, when asked to comment on the videotape, said: “The portrayal is false and defamatory and an attempt at gotcha journalism. This film crew tried to pull this sham at other offices and failed. ACORN wants to see the full video before commenting further.”
ACORN’s denial proved premature. First, it rang hollow when ACORN quickly fired the staffers. Then, O’Keefe released his second hidden camera investigation, in which he and Giles told the same story at an ACORN office in DC. (Transcript here.) Again, the staffers were happy to help. ACORN quickly fired those staffers as well.
Desperate to get in front of the scandal, ACORN issued a statement accusing Fox News of racism. (ACORN erroneously gave Fox credit/blame for O’Keefe’s work, presumably because Fox News is unpopular among its base of support.) That’s right, ACORN abets trafficking in underage prostitutes, and Fox News is somehow racist for reporting the scandal. The small consolation for ACORN is that most of the media was not so “racist”, and ignored the whole affair. At first.
ACORN still had its supporters. The state attorney in Baltimore issued an amazing statement indicating that it had no plans to prosecute ACORN, but it would investigate criminal wrongdoing by O’Keefe! (It seems that hidden microphones are illegal under Maryland law, but the state attorney had not previously prosecuted journalists for hidden camera investigations.) It’s not surprising to learn that Patricia Jessamy, the state attorney in question, is a Democrat who served on a steering committee for the Obama campaign.
ACORN continued to try to defend itself. It issued a statement threatening legal action against Fox News. That is almost certainly a bluff (and a clumsy one), because — aside from having no case — the last thing ACORN wants is for someone to have the opportunity for discovery. The statement also said:
“This recent scam, which was attempted in San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia to name a few places, had failed for months before the results we’ve all recently seen.”
This turned out to be a lie, at the very least in regards to New York, as we learned when O’Keefe released his third video. In the third video, O’Keefe and Giles told the same story (fraud, underage prostitution, human trafficking) at an ACORN office in New York, and again received their assistance.
That was finally too much for Congress. The Senate voted 83-7 to cut off funding for ACORN and the House is due to consider similar action shortly. (Among the seven who voted with ACORN was Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey. His father must be rolling in his grave. Roland Burris (D-IL), who is only in the Senate because Democratic leaders quashed proposals for a special election, is another.) Meanwhile, the Brooklyn DA’s office says they will be taking a look, and ACORN may be vulnerable under RICO as well. (It’s hard to imagine Eric Holder approving an investigation of ACORN though.)
The question now is, what happens next?
UPDATE: What happens next is a fourth video.
During today’s press conference, President-elect [Barack] Obama brushed off a question from Chicago Tribune reporter John McCormick about the Blagojevich scandal, and what interaction any advisers had with the Illinois governor.
“I don’t want you to waste your question,” Obama said. . .
After a few attempts, the reporter finally followed up by asking who had the better jump shot: Obama or incoming education secretary Arne Duncan?
The jump shot question reads like a very clever protest, but the video cuts off before that part, so I don’t know if it was actually a protest or merely a softball. Kudos to McCormick if it was real.
The interaction with McCormick stood out from previous meetings with the press. And speaking about the exchange on MSNBC shortly after, NBC Washington bureau chief Mark Whitaker said that reporters have not been aggressive enough during Obama’s post-election pressers.
Obama calls for an ACORN-related investigation. Not, not into ACORN’s criminal activity, of course, but into press leaks about the investigation. I am not making this up:
Robert Bauer, general counsel to the Obama campaign, wrote to Attorney General Michael Mukasey a day after the Associated Press, citing unidentified law enforcement officials, reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was investigating ACORN. The name is short for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. . .
Bauer said the news leaks are part of a coordinated effort by McCain’s presidential campaign and Republicans. They are “fomenting specious vote-fraud allegations and there are disturbing indications of official involvement or collusion,” Bauer said.
“It is apparent,” he wrote, that law enforcement officials are serving “improper political objectives” that could inhibit voter participation in the Nov. 4 election. The aim is to “suppress the vote and to unduly influence investigations and prosecutions,” Bauer wrote.
That’s right, the real villains here are the investigators, not the people perpetrating vote fraud.
Tomorrow, when the media picks up Obama’s talking points, we will be treated to the spectacle of the media complaining about press leaks. Press leaks are good, you see, only when they hurt Republicans. Leaks that hurt Democrats are very bad. (See Armitage-Plame affair.)
UPDATE: Perhaps I’m mis-reading this. Another article says that Obama’s gripe is not with the press leaks, but with the very existence of the investigation:
Tensions began to escalate Thursday with disclosures that the FBI is investigating ACORN and the possibility that it’s engaged in a vote-fraud scheme.
On Friday, Obama’s legal counsel, Robert Bauer, wrote Attorney General Michael Mukasey, charging that the inquiry is politically motivated and that it risks repeating the 2007 scandal over the Bush administration’s politicization of the Justice Department.
Bauer asked Mukasey to broaden a special prosecutor’s investigation to examine the origin of the ACORN inquiry.
Now that’s chutzpah! ACORN submits thousands (at least) of bogus voter registrations, and it’s the investigation that’s improper.
Also, it’s pretty rich for Obama to complain about politicization of the Justice Department when his campaign asked Democrats in Missouri law enforcement to prosecute his critics.
A press release from Governor Blunt:
JEFFERSON CITY – Gov. Matt Blunt today issued the following statement on news reports that have exposed plans by U.S. Senator Barack Obama to use Missouri law enforcement to threaten and intimidate his critics.
“St. Louis County Circuit Attorney Bob McCulloch, St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, Jefferson County Sheriff Glenn Boyer, and Obama and the leader of his Missouri campaign Senator Claire McCaskill have attached the stench of police state tactics to the Obama-Biden campaign.
“What Senator Obama and his helpers are doing is scandalous beyond words, the party that claims to be the party of Thomas Jefferson is abusing the justice system and offices of public trust to silence political criticism with threats of prosecution and criminal punishment.
“This abuse of the law for intimidation insults the most sacred principles and ideals of Jefferson. I can think of nothing more offensive to Jefferson’s thinking than using the power of the state to deprive Americans of their civil rights. The only conceivable purpose of Messrs. McCulloch, Obama and the others is to frighten people away from expressing themselves, to chill free and open debate, to suppress support and donations to conservative organizations targeted by this anti-civil rights, to strangle criticism of Mr. Obama, to suppress ads about his support of higher taxes, and to choke out criticism on television, radio, the Internet, blogs, e-mail and daily conversation about the election.
“Barack Obama needs to grow up. Leftist blogs and others in the press constantly say false things about me and my family. Usually, we ignore false and scurrilous accusations because the purveyors have no credibility. When necessary, we refute them. Enlisting Missouri law enforcement to intimidate people and kill free debate is reminiscent of the Sedition Acts – not a free society.”
The New York Post reports:
Two influential US senators got “VIP” loans from a leading subprime mortgage lender that saved them tens of thousands of dollars. . . The Democratic pols, Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Kent Conrad of North Dakota, both received the highly favorable loans under the designation “Friend of Angelo,” a reference to embattled Countrywide head Angelo Mozilo, Condé Nast Portfolio reported.
Dodd is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, while Conrad is chairman of the Budget Committee and a member of the Finance Committee. The two senators refinanced properties through the VIP program in 2003 and 2004, the report said. . .
The report came one day after Democratic heavyweight Jim Johnson stepped down as chief of Barack Obama’s vice-presidential search committee after revelations he’d gotten Countrywide loans at very favorable rates because of Mozilo. . .
Dodd reportedly received two loans through the program in 2003 – $506,000 to refinance his Washington town house, and $275,042 to refinance a home in Connecticut. The more favorable terms saved him about $70,000, the report says. . . Conrad borrowed $1 million to refinance his vacation home, and saved at least $10,000.
Obviously, this is something short of a scandal, but there are a few reasons why we should care. As I noted last April, Obama’s campaign has seen in the past fit to lie about his smoking, and they’ve chosen to make political his ability to quit. Also, as the ABC report points out, his continued smoking gives additional reason for concern over his refusal to release his medical records (in contrast to McCain’s open disclosure).
Of course, if it were revealed that McCain secretly smokes, I don’t doubt it would become a huge political issue.
The reason “fact checking” has become such a joke is the the supposed fact-checkers can’t seem to limit themselves to checking the facts. They also want to check that the facts give the right impression. This is natural for leftist journalists, I suppose, since the actual facts give an impression that they don’t want.
This has led the fact checkers to such absurdities as Politifact grading an objectively true statement — crime is rising — as “pants on fire,” their lowest possible rating. Murders rose by 10.8% in 2015 and other violent crime increased as well, but Politifact said that “crime is rising” is not only false, but actually absurd. Their justification is that, although crime rose in 2015 (and probably 2016), it is to soon to say that the long-term downward trend is over. This true fact gives (what they view as) a false impression, so they call it false.
Another problem with grading impressions rather than the underlying facts, is they aren’t able to do it consistently. When two politicians made essentially the same statement (the official unemployment rate doesn’t capture real unemployment), they graded one of them (the politician they like) “mostly true” and the other one “pants on fire.”
Once you go down that path, you’re not fact-checking any more, you’re just writing an opinion column. And if you want a leftist opinion column, there are much better ones than Politifact, Glenn Kessler, et al. Still, I think there’s room for a misleading fact-check. By “misleading”, I mean one that grades statements according to whether they are literally true, and doesn’t worry about whether they might lead to false impressions.
So let’s go through the first presidential debate and do exactly that. We’ll limit ourselves to determinate claims of fact, not to opinions. (We won’t assess whether Trump has a winning temperament, or whether Mexican industry is the eighth wonder of the world.) I also won’t grade claims made about private or classified conversations, or about their own state of mind, since there’s no way to know. We will still have to make some judgement calls, since some claims are ambiguous. Our rule will be that ambiguities are construed in favor of the speaker (even when I don’t think that’s what he/she really meant). Statements that too ambiguous to construe as concrete claims, I will simply omit.
I’ll put the statement (drawn from the Washington Post’s debate transcript) in bold, and my evaluation in plain typeface.
TRUMP: [China is] devaluing their currency. True. +1 Trump.
TRUMP: So Ford is leaving. You see that, their small car division leaving.Thousands of jobs leaving Michigan, leaving Ohio. This hasn’t happened yet, but Ford has announced it. +1 Trump.
TRUMP: All you have to do is take a look at Carrier air conditioning in Indianapolis. They left — fired 1,400 people. They’re going to Mexico. True. +1 Trump.
CLINTON: We are 5 percent of the world’s population. 4.4% is close enough. +1 Clinton.
CLINTON: He started his business with $14 million, borrowed from his father. Actually, it was much more than that. We’ll construe her claim with an implicit “at least”. +1 Clinton.
CLINTON: My father was a small-businessman. . . He printed drapery fabrics on long tables. True. +1 Clinton.
TRUMP: I built [my father’s loan] into a company that’s worth many, many billions of dollars. Impossible to determine with the information he has released.
TRUMP: Let me give you the example of Mexico. They have a VAT tax. We’re on a different system. When we sell into Mexico, there’s a tax. When they sell in — automatic, 16 percent, approximately. This much is true. +1 Trump.
TRUMP: When they [Mexico] sell into us, there’s no tax. Although it is true that the US does not have a federal sales tax or VAT, plenty of states have sales taxes. It’s not true there’s no tax when they sell in America. This would have been literally true if he had said there was no Federal tax, but with his phrasing it’s false. -1 Trump.
TRUMP: We owe $20 trillion. The national debt held by the public is $13.6 trillion. But if you include intragovernmental holdings, it’s $19 trillion, which is close enough. According to our rules, we’ll resolve this ambiguity in favor of the speaker. +1 Trump.
CLINTON: Well, let’s stop for a second and remember where we were eight years ago. . . Nine million people — nine million people lost their jobs. False. By September 2008, we had lost 1.7 million jobs. If you include the rest of 2008, you get to 3.6 million. To get close to 9 million, you have to include the first year of the Obama administration in which 5 million jobs were lost. -1 Clinton.
CLINTON: . . . Five million people lost their homes. False. 862 thousand families lost their homes in 2008. To get to 5 million, you have to include five years of the Obama administration. -1 Clinton.
CLINTON: . . . And $13 trillion in family wealth was wiped out. True. +1 Clinton.
CLINTON: Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. . . TRUMP: I did not. I did not. I do not say that. We can’t know what he thinks, but he did say that. +1 Clinton, -1 Trump.
TRUMP: We invested in a solar company, our country. . . They lost plenty of money on that one. Solyndra cost the government between $535 million and $849 million, which satisfies a reasonable interpretation of “plenty of money.” +1 Trump.
TRUMP: Well, [Bill Clinton] approved NAFTA. . . True. +1 Trump.
CLINTON: [During the Clinton administration] Incomes went up for everybody. True. +1 Clinton.
CLINTON: Manufacturing jobs went up also in the 1990s. . . If you construe 1990s to mean the Clinton administration, manufacturing jobs went up slightly. +1 Clinton.
CLINTON: When I was secretary of state, we actually increased American exports globally 30 percent. We increased them to China 50 percent. As long as you’re talking about exports, not net exports, this is plausible. (It’s very sensitive to exactly how you measure and I wasn’t able to produce exactly this number.) +1 Clinton.
TRUMP: And now you want to approve Trans-Pacific Partnership. You were totally in favor of it. . . CLINTON: Well, that is just not accurate. I was against it once it was finally negotiated and the terms were laid out. . . TRUMP: You called it the gold standard. CLINTON: No. TRUMP: . . . CLINTON: Well, Donald, I know you live in your own reality, but that is not the facts. The facts are — I did say I hoped it would be a good deal. . . Hillary said “This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field.” She did not say “hoped”. It is true that the deal wasn’t negotiated at that time, so it’s possible she changed her mind once it was, but we’re not grading their private thoughts. +1 Trump, -1 Clinton.
HOLT: Secretary Clinton, you’re calling for a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans. . . And, Mr. Trump, you’re calling for tax cuts for the wealthy. Obviously true. +1 Holt.
TRUMP: But you will learn more about Donald Trump by going down to the federal elections, where I filed a 104-page essentially financial statement of sorts, the forms that they have. It shows income — in fact, the income — I just looked today — the income is filed at $694 million for this past year, $694 million. TL;DR, but that seems to be in the right ballpark for what the document says. +1 Trump.
TRUMP: I’ve been under audit almost for 15 years. This seems impossible to verify or disprove.
CLINTON: We have been told through investigative reporting that [Trump] owes about $650 million to Wall Street and foreign banks. The New York Times did report this. +1 Clinton.
CLINTON: We have an architect in the audience who designed one of your clubhouses at one of your golf courses. It’s a beautiful facility. It immediately was put to use. And you wouldn’t pay what the man needed to be paid, what he was charging you to do. . . The architect exists and alleges what she says. It would be better if she said “alleges”, but we’ll call this true. +1 Clinton.
CLINTON: You even at one time suggested that you would try to negotiate down the national debt of the United States. TRUMP: Wrong. Wrong. This is muddled. Trump gave an interview in which he sounded like he was suggesting that, but during the same interview he gave a plausible clarification. We’ll resolve the ambiguity in favor of the speaker for both of them. +1 Clinton, +1 Trump.
HOLT: Stop-and-frisk was ruled unconstitutional in New York, because it largely singled out black and Hispanic young men. There’s been a lot of talk about this, but Holt is wrong. The Supreme Court has upheld stop-and-frisk, and district judges don’t overrule the Supreme Court. The ruling in question found that stop-and-frisk as applied by New York at the time was unconstitutional. -1 Holt.
TRUMP: No, you’re wrong. It went before a judge, who was a very against-police judge. It was taken away from her. And our mayor, our new mayor, refused to go forward with the case. They would have won an appeal. If you look at it, throughout the country, there are many places where it’s allowed. It’s true that the case was taken away from the judge; it’s true that the mayor refused to appeal; and it’s true it’s still legal in many places. Whether the judge was “very against-police” and what would have happened on appeal are opinion. +1 Trump.
TRUMP: . . . you have 3,000 shootings in Chicago from January 1st . . . True. +1 Trump.
TRUMP: . . . you have 4,000 people killed in Chicago by guns, from the beginning of the presidency of Barack Obama . . . I wasn’t able to find gun deaths specifically, but the number of murders is in the right ballpark for that to be plausible. +1 Trump.
CLINTON: Violent crime is one-half of what it was in 1991. Property crime is down 40 percent. True, crime rates peaked in 1991. +1 Clinton.
CLINTON: If you’re a young African-American man and you do the same thing as a young white man, you are more likely to be arrested, charged, convicted, and incarcerated. I wasn’t able to find a study with precisely this finding (it’s hard to control for “do the same thing”), but with all the studies finding disparities in the criminal justice system, we’ll say this is plausible. +1 Clinton.
TRUMP: In New York City, stop-and-frisk, we had 2,200 murders, and stop-and-frisk brought it down to 500 murders. The cause is opinion (and I don’t agree), but the numbers are accurate. +1 Trump.
CLINTON: Well, it’s also fair to say, if we’re going to talk about mayors, that under the current mayor, crime has continued to drop, including murders. So there is… TRUMP: No, you’re wrong. You’re wrong. CLINTON: No, I’m not. TRUMP: Murders are up. All right. You check it. The year before Bill DeBlasio took office there were 332 murders in New York City. Last year there were 352. That’s not a big increase, but it’s certainly not still falling. -1 Clinton, +1 Trump.
TRUMP (regarding who started birtherism): Sidney Blumenthal works for the campaign and close — very close friend of Secretary Clinton. And her campaign manager, Patti Doyle, went to — during the campaign, her campaign against President Obama, fought very hard. . . And if you look at CNN this past week, Patti Solis Doyle was on Wolf Blitzer saying that this happened. Blumenthal sent McClatchy, highly respected reporter at McClatchy, to Kenya to find out about it. He garbled the heck out of this, but something like this happened. +1 Trump.
TRUMP: When I got involved, I didn’t fail. I got him to give the birth certificate. That much is true. +1 Trump, I guess.
HOLT: The birth certificate was produced in 2011. You’ve continued to tell the story and question the president’s legitimacy in 2012, ’13, ’14, ’15. . . True. +1 Holt.
CLINTON: Donald started his career back in 1973 being sued by the Justice Department for racial discrimination because he would not rent apartments in one of his developments to African-Americans. True, except for it being the start of his career. +1 Clinton.
TRUMP: We settled the suit with zero — with no admission of guilt. True. +1 Trump.
CLINTON: It’s one of the reasons why 50 national security officials who served in Republican information — in administrations . . . have said that Donald is unfit to be the commander- in-chief. It was national security and/or foreign policy officials, but close enough. +1 Clinton.
CLINTON: I was involved in a number of efforts to take out Al Qaida leadership when I was secretary of state, including, of course, taking out bin Laden. Yeah, yeah. +1 Clinton.
CLINTON: Donald supported the invasion of Iraq. TRUMP: Wrong. The claim that Trump supported the invasion of Iraq hinges on this: “Yeah, I guess . . . sooo.” Listen to the recording to get a sense of how unenthusiastic he was. He did say the words, though. On the other hand, he came out against it before it took place. He was never in a position to cast a vote, which would have made his position clear. There’s enough ambiguity here that we’ll give this one to both of them. +1 Clinton, +1 Trump.
CLINTON: He actually advocated for the actions we took in Libya and urged that Gadhafi be taken out. True. +1 Clinton.
CLINTON: George W. Bush made the agreement about when American troops would leave Iraq, not Barack Obama. This is misleading: The way the agreement worked was it needed to be renegotiated periodically. If it was allowed to expire, it contained a clause requiring American withdrawal. But, according to our rules, this is literally true. +1 Clinton.
CLINTON: The only way that American troops could have stayed in Iraq is to get an agreement from the then-Iraqi government that would have protected our troops, and the Iraqi government would not give that. This is unknowable because Obama never tried.
TRUMP: I read on the front page of the Wall Street Journal that NATO is opening up a major terror division. True. +1 Trump.
TRUMP: We pay approximately 73 percent of the cost of NATO. True, in the sense of being responsible for 73% of all defense spending by NATO partners. +1 Trump.
HOLT: Mr. Trump, a lot of these are judgment questions. You had supported the war in Iraq before the invasion. . . TRUMP: I did not support the war in Iraq. [More of the same.] As above, except that Holt is a little more careful (“had supported . . . before the invasion”) than Hillary. +1 Holt, +1 Trump.
CLINTON: You know, NATO as a military alliance has something called Article 5, and basically it says this: An attack on one is an attack on all. And you know the only time it’s ever been invoked? After 9/11, when the 28 nations of NATO said that they would go to Afghanistan with us to fight terrorism, something that they still are doing by our side. True. +1 Clinton.
CLINTON: [Trump] said, you know, if [Iran] taunted our sailors, I’d blow them out of the water and start another war. He didn’t say start a war, but if we read that part as her commentary, not as part of the quote, this is true. +1 Clinton.
CLINTON: [Trump] has said repeatedly that he didn’t care if other nations got nuclear weapons, Japan, South Korea, even Saudi Arabia. I don’t know about repeatedly, but he has said this. +1 Clinton.
TRUMP: Just to go down the list, we defend Japan, we defend Germany, we defend South Korea, we defend Saudi Arabia, we defend countries. They do not pay us. False. Japan and South Korea pay us. -1 Trump.
TRUMP (regarding the Iran deal): One of the great giveaways of all time, of all time, including $400 million in cash. Nobody’s ever seen that before. That turned out to be wrong. It was actually $1.7 billion in cash. True. +1 Trump.
HOLT: Earlier this month, you said [Hillary] doesn’t have, quote, “a presidential look.” True. +1 Holt.
CLINTON: [Trump] is a man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs. True. +1 Clinton.
CLINTON: [Trump is] someone who has said pregnancy is an inconvenience to employers. TRUMP: I never said that. He said it. +1 Clinton, -1 Trump.
CLINTON: [Trump said] women don’t deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as men. TRUMP: I didn’t say that. (I have to interject here: why on earth is this a controversial proposition? Of course people don’t deserve equal pay if they don’t do as good a job!) What Trump said was, “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Hillary is committing a logical fallacy, going from “P implies Q” to “not P implies not Q.” -1 Clinton. (I’m not giving +1 Trump, because when you listen, I think he is still replying to Clinton’s previous statement.)
CLINTON: And one of the worst things [Trump] said was about a woman in a beauty contest. He loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman “Miss Piggy.” Then he called her “Miss Housekeeping,” because she was Latina. . . Her name is Alicia Machado. The Trump camp has tried to rebut this with Machado’s very checkered past (allegations of murder, death threats, links to organized crime), but he did say those things. +1 Clinton.
TRUMP: She spent hundreds of millions of dollars on negative ads on me, many of which are absolutely untrue. It’s certainly true that she’s spent millions on attack ads. Whether they were untrue is beyond the scope of this fact-check. + 1 Trump.
TRUMP: I’m either winning or tied, and I’ve spent practically nothing. True. +1 Trump.
HOLT: One of you will not win this election. Preferably both. +1 Holt.
TRUMP: The other day, we were deporting 800 people. And perhaps they passed the wrong button, they pressed the wrong button, or perhaps worse than that, it was corruption, but these people that we were going to deport for good reason ended up becoming citizens. Ended up becoming citizens. And it was 800. And now it turns out it might be 1,800, and they don’t even know. True. +1 Trump.
Tallying up the score, we have Trump +25/-4, Clinton +25/-5, Holt +5/-1. So all three participants were almost exactly as accurate, when it comes to verifiable claims of fact. This is not to deny that an awful lot of nonsense was peddled on that stage, but when it comes to verifiable claims of fact, both candidates were correct by a ratio of about 5:1 or 6:1.
Is 5:1 or 6:1 good enough? If we look at it as a test of remembering facts, that’s probably a B. On the other hand, if we assume they both have very good memories, and it’s a test of honesty, then 5:1 or 6:1 is terrible.
Last week, the IRS admitted that it shared taxpayers’ private information with the White House. The degree to which it did so isn’t known (by us), but it was to the tune of thousands of documents, so it must have been substantial.
But, if the Obama administration has its way, we never will know, because they have reversed themselves and announced they will not comply with the very FOIA request that forced them to admit the documents exist.
In an impressive feat of chutzpah, they say that releasing the documents would be a privacy violation! They were perfectly happy to violate privacy when they shared the documents, but know that their malfeasance might become known, privacy is suddenly sacrosanct.
If they actually cared about privacy — setting aside that they wouldn’t have violated taxpayers’ privacy in the first place — they would release the documents in redacted form. This is done all the time. But the administration instead is trying to withhold them in their entirety. The only reason to do that is to hide their misdeeds.
Yesterday’s passing of two key Watergate figures — Sen. Howard Baker (R-TN), who famously asked “what did the president know and when did he know it”, and IRS commissioner Johnnie Walters, who refused to target Richard Nixon’s political enemies — highlights a key difference between our two political parties: The Republican party is filled with honorable people who stand up for the rule of law, even against their own party’s interests. The Democratic party has few such people, if any at all.
On October 19, 1973, Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus (Republican political appointees each) both resigned in protest when Nixon ordered them to fire Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor who headed up the Watergate investigation. Richardson had appointed Cox to the position earlier that year. Alas, today’s Attorney General is no Elliot Richardson. He has no special prosecutor to fire — not for the IRS, not for Gunwalker, not for the HHS, etc. — because he refused to appoint one in the first place. Far from countenancing any kind of investigation into the Obama administration’s wrongdoing, Eric Holder sees his role as “scandal goalie”, protecting the Obama administration from any investigation.
Nixon ultimately was forced from office because he was abandoned by his own party. Republicans had more than enough votes to acquit Nixon in a Senate trial on impeachment articles, but Nixon resigned when informed that he could rely on no more than 15 votes.
Contrast that with today, with Democrats placing their party over everything. Far from holding the Obama administration to account — as Republicans did — they are on the team, doing what they can to obstruct the investigation. As the most pungent example, here’s Elijah Cummings’s (D-MD) abject apology to IRS Commission John Koskinen (no Johnnie Walters is he!) for the appalling nerve of GOP representatives asking tough questions about the IRS’s highly suspicious loss of years of subpoenaed emails:
Elijah Cummings’s role in the IRS investigation has been to blunt any impact it might have by portraying it as a partisan effort. He’s right, in a way. The House investigation of the IRS (etc.) has been partisan. Democrats won’t take part in it, and they have blocked any non-partisan investigation.
In Watergate, Republicans showed that they have principles higher than party loyalty. During the Obama administration, Democrats have shown they do not.
New Jersey’s “bridgegate” scandal (in which the state government intentionally snarled traffic as political payback) has certainly captured the media’s imagination. The big three networks dedicated over 34 minutes of airtime to it in a single day, which is 17 times as much as they dedicated to the IRS scandal over the past half year.
And with good cause; the allegation is very serious indeed. Chris Christie stands accused . . . of behaving like a Democrat.
Dealing out political retribution has been the Democrat playbook going all the way back to Martin Van Buren, who — with Andrew Jackson — founded the modern Democratic party. (Jackson himself was more direct. When he was particularly incensed with someone, he would shoot him.)
Today’s Democratic party is rife with this sort of thing. The closest analogue is Seattle’s Democratic mayor closing city streets, out of an explicit desire to inconvenience drivers.
But a better example of callous political retribution was Barack Obama’s shutdown theater last year. During the government shutdown, the Obama administration directed the government to “make life as difficult as possible“. And so they did:
- They stopped an individual from mowing the lawn at the Lincoln Memorial.
- They barricaded wheelchair ramps.
- They removed handles from water fountains.
- They (illegally) closed Alaskan lands.
- They closed the Grand Canyon, and refused to let the state reopen it at state expense.
- They sent armed rangers to lock tourists into a Yellowstone lodge and ensure they could not see Old Faithful.
- They closed the only safe road through Blount County, forcing parents to take their kids to school on “white knuckle” routes.
- They shut down the AMBER alert web site.
- They (illegally) evict elderly people from their own homes.
- They closed the parking lot at Mount Vernon, which isn’t even government property.
- They barricaded highway viewing areas at Mount Rushmore.
- They cut off cancer treatment for children.
- They closed the Claude Moore Colonial Farm, which received no government funding and is operated entirely by volunteers.
- They barricaded national open-air monuments, and closed privately operated parks.
None of these (save one) were mandated by the shutdown; they actually cost the government money to perpetrate. (The exception, cancer treatment for children, Republicans sought to fund, but the Democrats refused.)
The most recent example to come to light is how the White House took extraordinary steps to ensure that the budget sequester hurt rural schools. (Via Instapundit.) In this instance, the Agriculture Department had already determined that the sequester would have no effect on funds already disbursed the previous year. However, the White House overruled that determination, and ordered them to claw back the money they had already spent.
It’s wrong for anyone to behave like this, and we do expect better from Republicans. Christie ought to be in hot water over it. But all the furor from the Democrats and their media allies over this is very much the pot calling the kettle black.
So, they’re not even going to pretend to have a non-partisan investigation of the IRS scandal:
The Justice Department selected an avowed political supporter of President Obama to lead the criminal probe into the IRS targeting of tea party groups, according to top Republicans who said Wednesday that the move has ruined the entire investigation.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, and regulatory affairs subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, said they have discovered that the head of the investigation is Barbara Kay Bosserman, a trial lawyer in the Justice Department who donated more than $6,000 to Mr. Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, as well as several hundred dollars to the national Democratic Party.
The Justice Department says it wasn’t allowed to prefer someone else who wanted a big Democratic supporter:
But the Justice Department said it isn’t allowed to consider a career lawyer’s political leanings when doling out assignments and that it would violate an employee’s constitutional rights if he were penalized on the job for making legal political contributions.
“It is contrary to department policy and a prohibited personnel practice under federal law to consider the political affiliation of career employees or other non-merit factors in making personnel decisions,” said spokeswoman Dena Iverson.
Frankly, even if that is the rule (I’ll take their word for it), I imagine that the Justice Department has some latitude in picking appropriate people for assignments. (For example, you don’t infiltrate Middle Eastern terrorist cells with Europeans, even if the rules prohibit considering race in assignment.)
But never mind all that, because it’s nonsense. The Obama/Holder Justice Department considers political affiliation in personnel decisions all the time. Indeed, it appears to be their primary consideration. For example, every single one of the people hired by the Civil Rights division was a leftist. No conservatives, no moderates. 113-0-0.
Now they’re going to pretend that they are so punctilious about ignoring politics that they couldn’t possibly choose an appropriate investigator? That doesn’t even pass the laugh test.
In honor of the passing of the polar vortex, I’d like to review what I think we know about the state of climate science:
- The earth is warming, probably as a result of human carbon dioxide emissions.
- The amount the earth has warmed in modern times so far, although measurable, is negligible. The warming trend we see (as in the famous “hockey-stick” charts) uses a smoothing function, and is much, much smaller than the year-to-year variation.
- Thus, anyone who says this or that weather is the result of global warming, is a fool, a liar, or both. Generally climate scientists refrain from making such statements, but climate activists and politicians do not. (This problem seems particularly prevalent in Britain, where both parties’ leaders believe global warming is affecting current weather.)
- We can calculate the direct impact of increased carbon dioxide on the climate as a straightforward physics problem. The direct impact is small.
- Predictions of dire consequences are based on feedback loops. For example, warming causes ice to melt, which results in more clouds, which either increase or decrease warming depending on where and how they form. Climate scientists differ on whether positive or negative feedbacks will dominate, but the former camp (i.e., feedback leads to more warming) seems to be larger, and is certainly more influential and better funded.
- There is no way to test whether the positive or negative feedbacks dominate, and by how much, so climate scientists build models. Predictions of future climate are made on the basis of these models.
- Most climate scientists (at least the influential, well-funded ones) believe that the strong-positive-feedback models are more convincing.
- KEY POINT: However, there is no way actually to test the long-term predictions of these models without waiting for the long term. The short-term predictions of the models have generally not come true. (In fact, in 2005 Gavin Schmidt could only point to one instance in which a climate model made a prediction that was subsequently validated.)
- Consequently, we just don’t know what long-term effects increased carbon dioxide will have, scientifically speaking.
- However, we do know that cutting carbon dioxide emissions to a degree that would make a difference (according to the models) would not only be disastrous, it is literally impossible, barring an unforeseen technological advance.
- Thus, we ought to be looking at reasonable, cost-effective ways to limit CO2 emissions (e.g., nuclear energy, carbon sequestration), but not ridiculous ways (e.g., everything the left wants). We should also be looking at geoengineering in case the worst comes to pass.
Note that above I am not criticizing any of the work of any climate scientists. I simply don’t have the background to do it. Other people who do have the background have criticized their work (the media calls them “climate skeptics”), but I have no way to judge who is in the right. Thus, I’m relying on the consensus view (by which I mean actual consensus, not the consensus of just one side, which is how the media seems to use the term), and — in points 8 and 9 — my basic understanding of the scientific method.
One area in which I do have the background to criticize their work is in their programming. Much of climate science relies heavily on data sets that must be processed by computer. Unfortunately, it seems that their standards of programming is very low, at least if the story of HARRY_READ_ME.txt is typical. This means that the data they are using is suspect. (And, unfortunately, the raw data doesn’t exist any more!)
Worse, there is very good reason to worry that the academic process itself in climate science is badly broken:
- Climate scientists refuse to share their data, and actually delete their data when they might be forced to release it. (They also lie about it, and even break the law.) From scientists this is astonishing and horrifying, and it tells us that we simply cannot believe their results.
- Influential climate scientists have subverted the peer-review process. This corrupts their entire field, not just their own work.
- On occasion, they tell outright lies.
- Alas, there’s no indication that anything has improved in the field since all the above misconduct came to light.
So where does this leave us? Climate scientists have a tough job: they can’t run controlled experiments and their most important predictions can’t be tested. You can’t blame them for that. You can blame them for shoddy programming, and for academic misconduct.
The Obama administration’s “dense pack” of scandals, together with my busy schedule of late, has kept me from keeping up-to-date on the NSA scandal. I’ve been meaning to comment on all of these, but I think it’s time just to dump all the links:
- The NSA keeps everything it collects for some time, whether it is foreign or domestic. Also, they are permitted to listen to your calls to find out whether they are permitted to listen to your calls. (Link)
- Thus, when Obama said “no one is listening to your calls,” that was a lie. (Link)
- The NSA’s program may well be illegal. (Link)
- The NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year. (Link)
- The NSA “accidentally” collected telephone call data on the entire 202 area code (Washington, DC), and then decided that it need not report the error to its oversight staff. (Link)
- The chief on the FISA court admits that he does not have the means to police the NSA’s actions, and he has to assume they are telling him the truth. (Link)
- Nevertheless, the FISA court did rule that the NSA broke the law in collecting communications of innocent Americans from 2008 to 2011. The opinion also reprimanded the NSA for a “substantial misrepresentation” of its activities. (Link)
- The White House tried to interfere with the Washington Post’s reporting on the NSA. (Link)
- The NSA doesn’t have any idea how much damage Snowden did, and because it doesn’t audit its employees activities (surveillance is for us, not them!) they have no way to find out. (Link)
- The NSA review panel consists of four insiders. (Link)
- Of the 18 thousand domestic telephone numbers the NSA monitored, just 11% met the necessary legal standard to be monitored. (Link)
- NSA employees use the NSA’s surveillance powers to spy on love interests so often, they have a term for it: LOVEINT. (A play on intelligence terms such as HUMINT and SIGINT.) (Link)
- No one has ever been prosecuted for LOVEINT. (Link)
I’ll save one more for the next post.
Fox News reports:
The ATF agent who blew the whistle on Operation Fast and Furious has been denied permission to write a book on the botched anti-gun trafficking sting “because it would have a negative impact on morale,” according to the very agency responsible for the scandal.
After first trying to stop the operation internally, ATF Agent John Dodson went to Congress and eventually the media following the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010. Two guns found at the murder scene were sold through the ATF operation.
It’s not the fact that they trafficked weapons to Mexican drug cartels and made no effort to track them that hurts morale, it would be the book.
POSTSCRIPT: Dodson is the same agent that the Department of Justice and the US Attorney conspired to smear, according to the DOJ Inspector General.
A House hearing has exposed how shallow the State Department’s “investigation” of the Benghazi debacle truly was:
*Secretary of State Hillary Clinton handpicked the two leaders of the ARB who were given the job of investigating her department.
*Cheryl Mills, the chief of staff and senior counselor to Secretary Clinton, was intimately involved with the ARB [accountability review board] panel from the beginning. She called the leaders at Clinton’s behest to ask them to serve, she was briefed regularly on the investigation as it unfolded and she received a draft copy of the report before it was finalized. . .
*The chairman of the panel acknowledged at least one instance in which language in the report was softened after an early draft was sent to Clinton and her top aides. . .
*The ARB did not speak with nine key military officials on the ground in Libya or Germany who were deeply involved in the US response to the attacks. Among those who was never interviewed: Lt. Colonel Steven Gibson, who was on the ground in Tripoli and whom State Department official Greg Hicks has testified was on the receiving end of the “stand-down” order that Obama officials have repeatedly disclaimed. . .
*None of the interviews the ARB conducted were recorded in any fashion. . . The only record of those sessions is in notes taken by a staff member. . . (Those summaries and the notes that produced them have not been provided to Congress).
*The ARB did not investigate the Obama administration’s public response to the attack or the role that senior State Department officials played in shaping that narrative. That response included the highly misleading claim that the attacks had come as a reaction to an anti-Islam video and many other claims that were later shown to be false.
The purpose of the probe was not to investigate anything, but to protect Hillary Clinton from damage. Their choice not to investigate the stand-down order is particularly appalling.
UPDATE: The ARB never even interviewed the four employees that it decided to blame.
Despite the scandal, the IRS is brazenly continuing to harass the Tea Party:
An IRS letter sent to the group last week and obtained by The Washington Times contains a laundry list of requests related to virtually all the group’s activities, including its involvement in the 2012 election cycle and its get-out-the-vote efforts, fundraising activities, all radio and TV advertising, and other information. The IRS also is asking for detailed financial records, including “the amounts and percentages of your total expenses that were for fundraising activities in the tax year 2011, 2012 and 2013.”
The Aug. 20 request came as a shock to Tea Party Patriots, which said it already has provided to the IRS extensive information on all of its activities and thinks it is long past time to receive a “yes” or “no” answer.
The letter also is proof that, while President Obama and other liberals have referred to the situation as a “phony scandal,” conservative organizations still are targets, said Cleta Mitchell, a Washington, D.C., lawyer representing the Tea Party Patriots and several other conservative groups.
It’s been months since the IRS admitted that it was targeting Tea Party organizations for special scrutiny, but according to the Congressional testimony of an IRS agent, it has never stopped doing so:
In a remarkable admission that is likely to rock the Internal Revenue Service again, testimony released Thursday by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp reveals that an agent involved in reviewing tax exempt applications from conservative groups told a committee investigator that the agency is still targeting Tea Party groups, three months after the IRS scandal erupted.
In closed door testimony before the House Ways & Means Committee, the unidentified IRS agent said requests for special tax status from Tea Party groups is being forced into a special “secondary screening” because the agency has yet to come up with new guidance on how to judge the tax status of the groups.
After all these months, they are still at it! Whoever might have been responsible originally, this is Obama’s baby now. He had months to put a stop to this, and chose not to.
UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal comments (subscription required).
In May, the White House said that “nobody’s been more outraged” by the IRS’s misconduct than President Obama. But many of us were skeptical that there was any real outrage, as opposed to mere regret that the IRS’s misconduct had come to light.
Sure enough, the White House now calls the IRS scandal a “phony scandal”.
The saddest thing about this story might be that it’s not surprising any more:
A government watchdog has found for the first time that confidential tax records of several political candidates and campaign donors were improperly scrutinized by government officials, but the Justice Department has declined to prosecute any of the cases.
Its investigators also are probing two allegations that the Internal Revenue Service “targeted for audit candidates for public office,” the Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration, J. Russell George, has privately told Sen. Chuck Grassley.
In a written response to a request by Mr. Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Mr. George said a review turned up four cases since 2006 in which unidentified government officials took part in “unauthorized access or disclosure of tax records of political donors or candidates,” including one case he described as “willful.” In four additional cases, Mr. George said, allegations of improper access of IRS records were not substantiated by the evidence.
The story doesn’t identify whose records were improperly accessed, but I think we can assume that the victims were opponents of the Obama administration.
ASIDE: Could one of the victims have been the Koch brothers? The White House claimed knowledge of their tax returns, which they had no legitimate access to. Another victim appears to be Christine O’Donnell.
It’s one thing for the misconduct to take place. A few bad apples and all that. It’s quite another for the Justice Department to refuse to prosecute. By so doing, the Obama administration has approved the misconduct after the fact. Worse, they are encouraging it to happen again.
The IRS claimed that its misconduct was limited to a few rank-and-file employees in Cincinnati. We’ve known that to be a lie almost from the beginning, but not how much until now:
The chief counsel’s office for the Internal Revenue Service, headed by a political appointee of President Obama, helped develop the agency’s problematic guidelines for reviewing “tea party” cases, according to a top IRS attorney.
In interviews with congressional investigators, IRS lawyer Carter Hull said his superiors told him that the chief counsel’s office, led by William Wilkins, would need to review some of the first applications the agency screened for additional scrutiny because of potential political activity.
The IRS scandal now goes all the way to the top. The Chief Counsel is one of only two political appointees in the entire agency.
Let’s dwell on that a little further: The lawyer that President Obama picked to run the IRS legal department was responsible for improperly harassing President Obama’s political opponents.
We are at a uniquely dangerous point in American history. When Richard Nixon tried to use the IRS to target his enemies, the agency told him to take a hike. Today, the agency is happy to target the president’s enemies. In fact, if the White House is telling the truth (a big if, I know), they don’t even have to be asked to do it! As Mark Steyn puts it:
Indeed, let’s take the president at his word that the existence of this shadowy IRS entity working deep within the even shadowier U.S. Treasury planted in deep cover within the shadowiest conspiracy of them all, this murky hitherto unknown organization called “the executive branch,” that all this was news to him.
What that means then is not that this or that elected politician is corrupt but that the government of the United States is corrupt.
Combined with this historically unusual affinity for misconduct, the government also has unprecedented capabilities to abuse. Again, Mark Steyn:
Perhaps this is just the way it is in the panopticon state. Tocqueville foresaw this, as he did most things. Although absolute monarchy “clothed kings with a power almost without limits” in practice “the details of social life and of individual existence ordinarily escaped his control.” What would happen, Tocqueville wondered, if administrative capability were to evolve to bring “the details of social life and of individual existence” within the King’s oversight? Eric Holder and Lois Lerner now have that power. . .
When the state has the power to know everything about everyone, the integrity of the civil service is the only bulwark against men like Holder. Instead, the ruling party and the non-partisan bureaucracy seem to be converging. In August 2010, President Obama began railing publicly against “groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity” (August 9th, a speech in Texas) and “shadowy groups with harmless-sounding names” (August 21st, radio address). And whaddayaknow, that self-same month the IRS obligingly issued its first BOLO (Be On the Look-Out) for groups with harmless-sounding names, like “tea party,” “patriot,” and “constitution.”
It may be that the strange synchronicity between the president and the permanent bureaucracy is mere happenstance and not, as it might sound to the casual ear, the sinister merging of party and state. Either way, they need to be pried apart. When the state has the capability to know everything except the difference between right and wrong, it won’t end well.
The danger here isn’t Barack Obama. This is not the first corrupt administration and it won’t be the last. The danger here is the government. It must be scaled back.
We should not attack Obama primarily for being personally responsible for the scandals. For most of them he probably isn’t. We should attack Obama primarily for refusing to do anything about them, and for thwarting Congress’s efforts. (No, he hasn’t thwarted Congress’s efforts to clean house yet — other than by stonewalling investigations — but is there any doubt that he will?) And, since nothing can be done while Obama is still in office, we must remember. Unfortunately, remembering is something that the American people seem to be very bad at.
The wife of Douglas Shulman (commissioner of the IRS when its targeting of conservative, Christian, and pro-Israel groups began) works for Public Campaign, a left-wing organization working for “fair” elections that is funded by a knave’s gallery of leftist groups:
Earlier this month, when news broke of the targeting scandal broke, Public Campaign president and CEO Nick Nyhart belittled the concerns of disenfranchised conservatives.
“There are legitimate questions to be asked about political groups that are hiding behind a 501(c)4 status,” Nyhart said in a statement provide to ABC. “It’s unfortunate a few bad apples at the IRS will make it harder for those questions to be asked without claims of bias.” . . .
Public Campaign receives “major funding” from the pro-Obamacare alliance Health Care for America NOW!, which is comprised of the labor unions AFL-CIO, AFSCME, SEIU, and the progressive activist organization Move On, among others.
That doesn’t smell good.
The Washington Free Beacon advances the story of the IRS’s targeting of pro-Israel groups. It seems that the targeting was not limited to stalling tax-exempt applications, it extended to audits as well.
This segment of IRS targeting is unique in that it’s been in the public record since 2010:
Z STREET was informed explicitly by an IRS Agent on July 19, 2010, that approval of Z STREET’s application for tax-exempt status has been at least delayed, and may be denied because of a special IRS policy in place regarding organizations in any way connected with Israel, and further that the applications of many such Israel-related organizations have been assigned to “a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.”
The complaint specifically alleged an explicit IRS policy, and it named names. At the time I wasn’t sure whether the allegation was true, but now we have proof that the IRS does this sort of thing. The House committee it going to want to subpoena that guy.
Interestingly, by targeting pro-Israel groups, the IRS followed the urging of the New York Times, which ran pieces blasting tax-exempt pro-Israel groups:
Yet private organizations in the United States continue to raise tax-exempt contributions for the very activities that the government opposes.
People are engaging in activities the government (by which he means the Obama administration) opposes? Horrors! What is this, a free country?
The White House may end up being technically blameless in this scandal, but it is clear that a very large segment of the left was all in favor of turning the IRS into a political weapon.
Following the established Obama administration policy of promoting the key figures in its scandals (e.g., IRS, Gunwalker), Susan Rice — a central figure in the administrations lies about Benghazi — is being moved up to national security adviser.
Replacing her at the UN will be Samantha Power, who can be expected to weaken the Obama administration’s already-lukewarm support for Israel. In 2002 she bizarrely advocated a US invasion of Israel, in order to impose a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.
When the sub-scandal over the Obama administration’s bogus Benghazi talking points erupted, the White House initially attempted to scapegoat the CIA, saying that the talking points were prepared by the intelligence community. This turned out to be a complete and utter lie.
Now the new line is that the Benghazi talking points where David Petraeus’s fault, because his office prepared the first draft (ASIDE: In CIA people are responsible for what their offices do? Interesting.), which contained too much information. How exactly that excuses the State Department for insisting on talking points filled with lies is beyond me. In the end, Petraeus wanted to scuttle the talking points but was overruled.
POSTSCRIPT: The story is unsourced, but clearly comes from the White House, since the White House is the only group it portrays in an entirely positive light. One thing it says in particular:
The only government entity that did not object to the detailed talking points produced with Petraeus’s input was the White House, which played the role of mediator in the bureaucratic fight that at various points included the CIA’s top lawyer and the agency’s deputy director expressing opposition to what the director wanted.
Oh my. In fact, we don’t know anything about the role the White House played in the corruption of the talking points. The publicly released emails don’t contain any input from the White House until after the draft was already filled with misinformation. This might mean that they didn’t object, or it might mean that the White House’s early emails were not among the ones released.
But what we do know is that in the White House’s “mediator” role it ultimately sided with the State Department and the bogus talking points. And we know that the White House was concerned with the “messaging ramifications that would flow from a hardened mis-impression.” Of course, the “hardened mis-impression” they wanted to avoid was actually the truth.
In the days leading up to the Benghazi hearings (before all the other scandals broke out), there was a rather uninteresting dispute between Jake Tapper (CNN), and Stephen Hayes (The Weekly Standard) and Jonathan Karl (ABC) over the Obama administration’s Benghazi memos.
Hayes and Karl reported — accurately — that the State Department had considerable influence in the rewriting of the Benghazi talking points to remove the terror attack and insert a non-existent protest in its place. Indeed, they appear to have been the primary drivers of the rewrite. This contradicted essentially every aspect of the story the White House put out as to how those talking points were developed.
However, Hayes and Karl did not have access to the actual memos. They each worked from notes taken by Congressional investigators who saw the memos but were not allowed to make copies. Thus, they did not have verbatim quotes. Karl was not originally clear on this point.
Someone then leaked a cherry-picked memo to Tapper, who reported that it differed a little bit from the paraphrase in Karl’s reporting. In particular, Karl’s paraphrase read:
We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation. We thus will work through the talking points tomorrow morning at the Deputies Committee meeting.
The italicized portion was not present in the actual memo. For this, Tapper reported “White House email contradicts Benghazi leaks” and the left thundered about the email being “doctored”.
ASIDE: To further muddy the waters, Tapper made some mistakes in his reporting of Hayes reporting.
But, as it turns out, Tapper got taken. When the full (or fuller, anyway) email chain was released, giving the context, it substantiated Hayes’s and Karl’s reporting in nearly its entirety, save only Karl’s lack of clarity on the language being a paraphrase. Although Rhodes didn’t use those words, the context makes clear the State Department’s “equities” were the ones under discussion.
The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler summarizes this way:
Note the correct version is missing a direct reference to the State Department. CNN, which had only obtained the single e-mail, used strong words in its report about its competitor, ABC: “Whoever provided those accounts seemingly invented the notion that Rhodes wanted the concerns of the State Department specifically addressed.”
When the White House last week released all of its e-mails, it became clear that Rhodes was responding at the tail end of a series of e-mail exchanges that largely discussed the State Department concerns.
In other words, the summary would have been fairly close if the commas had been removed and replaced with brackets: “We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities [including those of the State Department] and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation.”
With the context present, it’s quite obvious that the leaker deliberately gave Tapper the wrong impression by carefully selecting one memo to leak. The leaker even masked out the string of replies that typically appears at the end of an email. Had the replies been present, the very next few lines (after the email headers) would have been:
Given the DOJ equities and States desire to run some traps, safe to assume we can hold on this until tomorrow?
I don’t know what it means to “run some traps”, but even in the absence of the rest of the chain, this alone would have made it clear that State was involved.
While this talk of “doctoring” remained the province of fevered left-wing blogs, I wasn’t very interested. But now it has become part of the White House’s official spin:
I think one of the problems that there’s so much controversy here is because one of the e-mails was doctored by a Republican source and given to the media to falsely smear the president.
The White House wants to distract from the fact that they outright lied about the development of the talking points. But with this White House, the distractions from their lies are just more lies. As we’ve seen, the emails were not doctored, and the reporting on them was accurate in every significant particular.
Kessler gives White House mouthpiece Dan Pfeiffer three pinocchios:
It has long been part of the Washington game for officials to discredit a news story by playing up errors in a relatively small part of it. Pfeiffer gives the impression that GOP operatives deliberately tried to “smear the president” with false, doctored e-mails.
But the reporters involved have indicated they were told by their sources that these were summaries, taken from notes of e-mails that could not be kept. . . Despite Pfeiffer’s claim of political skullduggery, we see little evidence that much was at play here besides imprecise wordsmithing or editing errors by journalists.
Now that we know that the DOJ’s press surveillance was not an isolated incident — DOJ spied on both the Associated Press and Fox News — it’s a sure bet that they spied on other news outlets as well. So who are they? I’m sure every journalist in every newsroom (except Chris Matthews, natch) is wondering if he or she was targeted.
One is CBS’s investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who has done exemplary reporting on both Gunwalker and Benghazi. Attkisson says her computers have been compromised both at work and at home. She isn’t pointing any fingers yet, but obviously, she has reason to be suspicious. (Here’s an interview of Attkisson discussing the matter.)
White House officials have “screamed” and “cussed” at Attkisson for her reporting in the past, and they have even pressured CBS to fire her. They have every reason to want to burn her sources, and have shown they have no qualms about doing so.
For what it’s worth, which ain’t much, the DOJ denies responsibility. Sort of. We’ve learned that we need to parse these denials very carefully. The DOJ spokesman says “to our knowledge”, which means only that he hasn’t been told. But we’ve already learned how this administration operates: no one is ever told anything so everyone can deny everything.
Politico has a good story summarizing the White House’s changing story regarding the IRS scandal to date. I want to focus on just one point, which I hadn’t seen before:
Friday, May 10: . . . Outside the White House, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said that he’d first learned of the details of the investigation from news reports. . .
Friday, May 17: Lew, during an interview with Bloomberg News, revealed he’d actually first learned of the inspector general’s investigation in March, adding that he hadn’t been aware of the details of the report until May 10.
Lew’s defenders will doubtless say he was truthful; learning of an investigation isn’t the same as knowing the details. In a narrow sense that may be so, although (a) the same people are invariably much less charitable when it comes to Republicans, and (b) we have only his word for it in any case.
Nevertheless, Lew’s statement seems misleading. He knew that the investigation involved scrutinization of conservative groups. With or without details, he knew the takeaway. But he did nothing, and told no one.
But suppose we give him a pass; this only emphasizes the key point. We are in territory where every statement made by any official must be scrutinized for loopholes (as well as outright lies). When President Obama says “I certainly did not know anything about the IG report,” observe that he is not saying that he knew nothing about the investigation, or the underlying misconduct.
Gunwalker, the Obama administration’s biggest scandal of all, has been lying dormant for a while, while we wait for the courts to rule that the House can subpoena documents, but today brings a significant development:
The Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General published a new report Monday that confirms former U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke leaked a document intended to smear Operation Fast and Furious scandal whistleblower John Dodson.
The DOJ IG said it found “Burke’s conduct in disclosing the Dodson memorandum to be inappropriate for a Department employee and wholly unbefitting a U.S. Attorney.” . . .
In addition to Burke’s involvement in leaking the document, emails the IG uncovered show senior officials at the Department of Justice discussed smearing Dodson.
Don’t worry, I’m sure (we’ll be told that) Eric Holder and Barack Obama had no knowledge of this.
A week ago I noted that the NYT was on record in favor of special IRS scrutiny for Tea Party groups, and wondered if they would rethink that in light of the IRS scandal. Nope: the NYT is still defending the IRS.
On a similar note, this phrase seems not to have appeared in the pages of the NYT: “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.” I guess that might make it harder to defend them.
Top Treasury officials were aware of the investigation into the IRS office that reviews tax-exempt applications in June 2012:
The inspector general gave Republicans some fodder Friday when he divulged that he informed the Treasury’s general counsel he was auditing the I.R.S.’s screening of politically active groups seeking tax exemptions on June 4, 2012. He told Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin “shortly after,” he said. That meant Obama administration officials were aware of the matter during the presidential campaign year.
But Wolin never passed the information on, or so we are asked to believe.
Also, the White House Counsel was notified weeks ago:
The White House’s chief lawyer learned weeks ago that an audit of the Internal Revenue Service likely would show that agency employees inappropriately targeted conservative groups, a senior White House official said Sunday.
But the White House Counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, never passed the information on, or so we are asked to believe.
This, is has become clear, is how the Obama administration operates. Whenever the White House learns of misconduct in its administration, the information never goes to the top. (Or so we are asked to believe.)
POSTSCRIPT: The New York Times’s original headline for this story was “Treasury Knew of I.R.S. Inquiry in 2012, Official Says.” But, when the story began to get a lot of attention from the blogosphere, they changed their headline to “Republicans Expand I.R.S. Inquiry, With Eye on White House.” That’s much better for the narrative; they want the story to be about opportunistic Republicans, not Obama administration malfeasance.
UPDATE: In addition to changing the headline, they took this lead paragraph:
The Treasury Department’s inspector general told senior Treasury officials in June 2012 he was auditing the Internal Revenue Services’s screening of politically active organizations seeking tax exemptions, disclosing for the first time on Friday that Obama administration officials were aware of the matter during the presidential campaign year.
transmogrified it into the paragraph I quoted at the top (gotta make Republicans part of the scandal somehow), and put it at paragraph twelve. Twelve!
The Internal Revenue Service stole and improperly accessed 60 million medical records after raiding a California company, according to a legal complaint filed in March with the California superior court for San Diego. Fifteen IRS agents are now facing a class-action lawsuit in the matter.
“In a case involving solely a tax matter involving a former employee of the company, these agents stole more than 60,000,000 medical records of more than 10,000,000 Americans” the complaint, filed by attorney Robert Barnes, alleges. “No search warrant authorized the seizure of these records; no subpoena authorized the seizure of these records; none of the 10,000,000 Americans were under any kind of known criminal or civil investigation and their medical records had no relevance whatsoever to the IRS search.”
Soon the IRS won’t have to steal medical records. As the enforcer of Obamacare, they will have many of them already.
Yesterday, President Obama was asked the obvious question about the IRS scandal:
Can you assure the American people that nobody in the White House knew about the agency’s actions before your counsel’s office found out on April 22nd? And when they did find out, do you think that you should have learned about it before you learned about it from news reports, as you said last Friday?
His answer seems very carefully worded:
Let me make sure that I answer your specific question. I can assure you that I certainly did not know anything about the IG report before the IG report had been leaked through the press.
(Emphasis mine.) But he didn’t answer the specific question. The specific question was when he knew about the agency’s misconduct, not when he knew about the investigation, which no one cares about. That careful wording seems significant.
POSTSCRIPT: Obviously he wants people to think that he denied any knowledge, though, and the New York Times is happy to play its part, ending its quotation just before the key wording, and filling it in inaccurately:
President Obama said he “certainly did not know anything about” the targeting of conservative groups by the I.R.S. . .
Despite the IRS’s self-serving claims, their misconduct was not limited to a single office in Cincinnati:
Internal Revenue Service officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved with investigating conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, making clear that the effort reached well beyond the branch in Cincinnati that was initially blamed, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
IRS officials at the agency’s Washington headquarters sent queries to conservative groups asking about their donors and other aspects of their operations, while officials in the El Monte and Laguna Niguel offices in California sent similar questionnaires to tea-party-affiliated groups, the documents show.
The Washington Post also found corroboration of the allegation that a special task force was looking at conservative applications:
IRS employees in Cincinnati told conservatives seeking the status of “social welfare” groups that a task force in Washington was overseeing their applications, according to interviews with the activists.
It’s been a big week for news of Obama administration wrongdoing, with four scandals swirling on Capitol Hill, but this oughtn’t get lost in the shuffle: The federal government is ordering that college campuses nationwide institute unconstitutional speech codes:
In a letter sent yesterday to the University of Montana that explicitly states that it is intended as “a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country,” the Departments of Justice and Education have mandated a breathtakingly broad definition of sexual harassment that makes virtually every student in the United States a harasser while ignoring the First Amendment. The mandate applies to every college receiving federal funding—virtually every American institution of higher education nationwide, public or private.
The letter states that “sexual harassment should be more broadly defined as ‘any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature’” including “verbal conduct” (that is, speech). It then explicitly states that allegedly harassing expression need not even be offensive to an “objectively reasonable person of the same gender in the same situation”—if the listener takes offense to sexually related speech for any reason, no matter how irrationally or unreasonably, the speaker may be punished.
The second paragraph is the key one: Any speech related to sex that offends anyone is banned, even if is it not reasonable to take offense. And remember that two years ago, the administration ordered that college campuses eliminate due process in sexual harassment complaints.
That’s the First and Fifth amendments, both eliminated on college campuses by the president who once taught Constitutional law.
POSTSCRIPT: The Washington Post is bleating that the IRS scandal and the AP phone records scandal “have challenged Obama’s credibility as a champion of civil liberties”! What? This man is attacking our civil liberties all the bloody time. You just haven’t been paying attention.
It got buried by the IRS’s admission of political targeting, but another scandal erupted last Friday. The Obama administration is worried by Obamacare’s stubborn refusal to become popular, so they want to run propaganda in support of it. Strangely, Republicans refuse to appropriate funds for Obamacare propaganda, and the administration apparently doesn’t want to waste the tens of billions in its Obamacare slush fund.
Instead, we learned Friday, they sent out the execrable HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to shake down health care companies, the very same companies that Sebelius’s agency regulates:
[HHS Spokesman Jason] Young said that Sebelius did not solicit for funds directly from industries that HHS regulates, such as insurance companies and hospitals, but rather asked them to contribute in whatever way they can.
But the industry official who had knowledge of the calls but did not participate directly in them said there was a clear insinuation by the administration that the insurers should give financially to the nonprofits.
Meredith McGehee, policy director for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, which researches government ethics issues, said she was troubled by Sebelius’s activities because the secretary seemed to be “using the power of government to compel giving or insinuate that giving is going to be looked at favorably by the government.”
The House of Representatives is opening an investigation. Those guys are going to be busy.
(Via Hot Air.)
It wasn’t just the Tea Party and limited-government groups who were targeted by the IRS, they also targeted pro-Israel groups. One such organization reported being questioned regarding its religious views toward Israel:
“Does your organization support the existence of the land of Israel? Describe your organization’s religious belief system towards the land of Israel,” the IRS asked in a letter sent to the religious group, which asked not to be named.
The IRS admitted applying special scrutiny to pro-Israel groups, but that admission was later retracted by the Justice Department. (ASIDE: Note that the IRS is part of the Treasury Department, so this scandal now spans departments.)
Now, pro-Israel groups are very different from Tea Party groups, but they do have one thing in common: The Obama administration is hostile to both.
UPDATE (5/28): More here.
The President has been very proud of the absence of scandal in his administration, and rightly so.
Oh please. You mean, except for Gunwalker, Benghazi, Solyndra, Black Panthers, NEA propaganda, DOJ hiring, HHS campaigning, Lightsquared, and Americorps, just from the first page of hits for Obama+scandal?
What he means is:
The President has been very proud of his ability to squelch reporting of his administration’s numerous scandals, and rightly so.
Now that the IRS has admitted targeting Tea Party groups, let’s take stock of where we are. The IRS claims, risibly, that politics played no role in its decision to target the Tea Party:
Lois G. Lerner, the IRS official who oversees tax-exempt groups, said the “absolutely inappropriate” actions by “front-line people” were not driven by partisan motives.
Even most of the usual leftist apologists find this absurd. For instance, Time’s Joe Klein writes, “Does anyone actually believe this?” The Washington Post adds “it seems that groups with “progressive” in their titles did not receive the same scrutiny.”
ASIDE: The IRS does still have a few apologists. The New York Times seem to think it’s okay, editorializing “The IRS does its job.” (That was in March 2012, but it’s hard to see what has changed materially since then.) National Journal seems to think it’s no big deal, calling it a “mishap” and then revising it to a “blunder”, both of suggest that this can somehow happen without deliberate misconduct.
Let’s not make the mistake of giving the IRS any credit for coming out with this. The agency denied the charges for months. They only admitted to it now because the story was coming out soon anyway, and they tried to dump it on a Friday (as if a story this explosive could be buried).
The claim that only “front-line people” were involved seems to be a lie. Senior officials knew what was going on. The IRS’s director seems to have perjured himself when he testified in March 2012 that Tea Party groups were not being targeted. According to the AP, senior officials were aware by June 2011 at the latest.
Hot Air has a list of some of the outrageous things the IRS demanded. They demanded a whole sheaf of personal information on present and past employees, and their families, and promised to make all of that information public.
Even the left is jumping on this, in part because the IRS’s conduct is too outrageous to excuse (except perhaps by the NYT), and in part because they think that the scandal won’t reach back to the White House. They shouldn’t be so sure. This is a president who jokes about abusing the IRS, and which has snooped through IRS records on its political opponents before.
We’ll get a sense pretty soon of whether the White House feels safely distant from this on Monday. If they do, they will announce an independent investigation. If they don’t, that will be an indication that they are worried this will come back to bite them.
When did it happen that the existence of an investigation became an excuse not to answer any questions? I mean this question seriously; when did it happen?
It doesn’t make any sense; the one has nothing to do with the other. One might argue that one doesn’t want to jeopardize a prosecution, but (1) that doesn’t stop people from answering questions when they want to, and (2) in most of these cases (e.g., Benghazi) there’s no prospect of prosecution in the first place.
Whoever first used the ploy, it has certainly become the Obama administration’s go-to strategy for containing any scandal from Gunwalker to Benghazi: First, you tell a bunch of lies, hoping the thing will go away. If it doesn’t, you launch an investigation. For a year or more, as long as the investigation runs, you answer no questions. When the press finally moves on, you quietly close the investigation and issue a whitewash. Thereafter, if someone has the ill grace to bring up the subject, you say they are dredging up ancient history. (Carney: “Benghazi happened a long time ago.” Clinton: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”)
UPDATE (5/28): I had forgotten about this piece from last September (which I noted here), demolishing the idea that there is any legal impediment to releasing information when investigations are ongoing.
The Democrats claim to be concerned about voter suppression, as that is their excuse for vehemently opposing any measure to fight voter fraud, but when faced with bona fide illegal voter suppression, they aren’t interested. I refer, of course, to the administration’s scandalous indifference, if not open hostility, to the voting rights of deployed servicemen.
Well, that was interesting. . . I never watch the debates any more — I generally find them insufferable — but I followed it on Twitter and it was pretty easy to get a sense of it. There’s a saying, if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit. Joe Biden came in with a third option: blanket them with bluster.
Biden incessantly made faces and scoffed aloud as Ryan was speaking. He also interrupted Paul Ryan 82 times by one count!
I think Michael Barone has it right that a bluster show can work when the audience already agrees with you, but not when they are undecided. This seems to be backed up by CNN’s dial group (for whatever that’s worth), and by CNN’s post-debate poll, which found that registered voters who watched the debate thought that Ryan won by a narrow 48-44 margin. The poll oversampled Republicans by 3 points, so I think we should call this a tie. (A couple other polls found wildly varying results, but both were internet polls of some flavor. CNN’s seems to be the only conventional poll.)
Before the debate, Republicans were salivating about the VP debate, since Biden is an idiot after all. But I read another commentator (sorry, I don’t recall whom) who disagreed. He pointed out that Biden is utterly unconstrained by the truth and could score points just by making stuff up. And that’s just what happened, at least as far as making stuff up (whether he scored points with his lies is harder to say).
ASIDE: Recall how Joe Biden’s 1988 presidential campaign foundered in part because of an incident in which he blustered that he was much smarter than a man he was talking to, based on a set of achievements that he made up. (His campaign also foundered because he was caught plagiarizing speeches and even elements of the life story of a British politician.)
To be clear, I’m not echoing the Obama campaign’s spin of Romney’s debate victory, in which they argued that Romney looked nothing like Obama’s straw-man caricature of him because Romney (not Obama) was lying about all of Romney’s plans. I’m talking about simple facts. For example: Biden falsely said that the Benghazi consulate did not request more security. He falsely said that the HSS contraception/abortifacient mandate does not apply to religious organizations. He even claimed (falsely, of course) to have voted against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The upshot of all this is the Democratic base will be very happy with Biden’s performance, hence the Democrats crowing about his smashing victory. However, he probably lost a little ground with independents. How does this play out in the race as a whole? Democratic partisans who have been depressed since the presidential debate will be encouraged, and Obama needed that (particularly since that group contains the press), but nothing here breaks up Romney’s momentum with independents.
The Obama administration didn’t actually believe the spontaneous-riot story they were using publicly:
In a briefing to Capitol Hill staffers delivered the day after the deadly Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the killings appeared to be the result of a terrorist attack. . .
That a State Department official of Kennedy’s rank . . . reached so swiftly the conclusion that the attacks were premeditated and coordinated stands in stark contrast to the opposing narrative pressed at that time, and for several days afterward. . .
Three days after Kennedy’s conference call, for example, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice appeared on five Sunday morning talk shows to insist that the attacks were neither coordinated nor premeditated, but were rather the result of a spontaneous mob action. . . Rice has since told lawmakers that her comments reflected “the intelligence community’s best, current assessment as of the date of my television appearances. . .”
I actually find this reassuring. I hate dishonesty, but I think I prefer it to the kind of incompetence it would have taken actually to believe their story.
This is an outright lie, and a blatant one at that:
Asked about the Fast and Furious program at the Univision forum on Thursday, President Obama falsely claimed that the program began under President George W. Bush.
“I think it’s important for us to understand that the Fast and Furious program was a field-initiated program begun under the previous administration,” the president said. “When Eric Holder found out about it, he discontinued it. . .”
In actuality, the Fast and Furious program was started in October 2009, nine months into the Obama presidency.
The White House then walked back the statement, saying that, even though Obama specifically said Fast and Furious, he actually was referring to the Wide Receiver program. Wide Receiver was entirely unlike the Gunwalker scandal in that it was done with the consent of the Mexican government, and in that in Wide Receiver the agents actually tried to track the guns, while in Fast and Furious they did not. Even Holder rejected the comparison of the programs.
Moreover, Obama’s claim is still a lie, even if taken to refer to Wide Receiver. Wide Receiver was not shut down by Holder; it was shut down in 2007 after accidentally losing some of the guns.
The Daily Caller reports:
A single internal Department of Justice email could be the smoking-gun document in the Operation Fast and Furious scandal — if it turns out to contain what congressional investigators have said it does.
The document would establish that wiretap application documents show senior DOJ officials knew about and approved the gunwalking tactic in Fast and Furious. This is the opposite of what Attorney General Eric Holder and House oversight committee ranking Democratic member Rep. Elijah Cummings have claimed.
It appears that email would also prove senior DOJ officials, likely including Holder himself, knew in March 2011 that a Feb. 4, 2011 letter from the DOJ to Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley falsely denied guns were permitted to “walk” into Mexico. The DOJ allowed that false letter to stand for nine more months, only withdrawing it in December 2011.
Also, Holder admitted in Congressional testimony that the document could not be shielded by executive privilege.
President Obama has decided to exert executive privilege over all the documents under subpoena by the House committee investigating the Gunwalker scandal. Eric Holder justifies his withholding of the documents thus:
They were not generated in the course of the conduct of Fast and Furious. Instead, they were created after the investigative tactics at issue in that operation had terminated and in the course of the Department’s deliberative process concerning how to respond to congressional and related media inquiries into that operation.
I believe Holder’s description is accurate. More to the point, the documents under subpoena are not about the original Gunwalker malfeasance, but about the Justice Department’s cover-up. Rep. Issa wants to know who decided to lie to Congress in the DOJ’s February 2011 letter denying that any gunwalking had taken place.
UPDATE: John Hinderaker looks at the case law on executive privilege and finds that Obama’s claim is unlikely to hold up.
By placing these documents under executive privilege, President Obama is essentially saying that lying to Congress is an executive prerogative.
Even at this late date, the Obama administration is trying to cover-up the Gunwalker scandal. The White House won’t let Congressional investigators take testimony from Kevin O’Reilly, formerly the White House National Security Director for North America. O’Reilly was informed of Fast and Furious, and his testimony could shed light on how high that information went.
O’Reilly wants to testify, but the White House won’t let him:
“[O’Reilly’s] personal attorney indicated that he’s more than willing to talk to the committee, on the record, under oath”” [Rep. Jason] Chaffetz told Kelly during her Friday afternoon broadcast. “It is only the White House and the White House Counsel that is saying they will not make him available.”
Innocent people rarely behave this way.
There is no “war on women”, except as just one front in President Obama’s war on nearly everyone (women, men, catholics, jews, evangelicals, children, the elderly, rich people, people who want to be rich, automobile drivers, automobile bondholders, medical companies that didn’t support Obama enough, medical companies that did support Obama enough (suckers!), Alaskans, Louisianans, gun owners, would-be gun owners, ISPs, people who want the lights to come on quickly, etc.).
But since the Democrats have proclaimed it a war, let’s look at some facts:
- Over 90% of the 740k jobs lost since Obama came into office were held by women. (The Democratic apologists at the Washington Post and at Politifact both acknowledge that the statistic, used by the Romney campaign, is accurate, but still say it’s somehow false, which underscores just how damaging it is.)
- Top Democratic women have reportedly called the Obama White House a hostile environment for women. Female staffers have complained about being frozen out. Female White House employees are paid 18% less than men. And this guy is still there.
- The North Carolina Democratic Party paid hush money to keep a sexual harassment scandal quiet. (UPDATE: NC Governor Perdue, a Democrat, told a reporter asking about the scandal “Get over it.”)
- Obama surrogate Hilary Rosen attacked stay-at-home moms saying that Ann Romney (who raised five boys) “never worked a day in her life”. Democrats have since tried to distance themselves from her, but Rosen works for the consulting firm that contracts with the DNC and has visited the White House at least 35 times. (For comparison, that’s about as many visits at Timothy Geithner and three times as many as Leon Panetta.)
- Other Democrats didn’t get the memo to lay off and joined in the attack, like the president of the National Organization for Women and the execrable Bill Maher.
- Even Barack Obama joined the attack against stay-at-home moms in a more subtle way. Trying to turn it into a class-warfare talking point, Obama said that they “didn’t have the luxury for [Michelle] not to work.” In 2005, the Obamas made $479,062.
Now the Democrats claim that they never accused Republicans of waging a war against women. To make that work, you have to discount Joe Biden, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Barbara Boxer, Benjamin Cardin, MoveOn.org, MSNBC, James Carville, Talking Points Memo, Emily’s List, NARAL, and at least seven other Democratic representatives.
- 10/25/2010 — Solyndra CEO writes to the DoE that he will announce worker layoffs on 10/28.
- 10/27/2010 — In the White House, climate change adviser Zichal sent out an e-mail to Obama adviser Browner and several other officials warning of a layoff announcement in very specific terms — “200 of their 1200 workers” — and added, “No es bueno,” which is Spanish for “not good.”
- 10/28/2010 — No announcement comes forth from Solyndra on layoffs.
- 10/30/2010 — Solyndra investor explains that the DoE “push[ed] very hard” for a delay on the announcement until November 3rd, the day after the election, even remarking that the DoE “oddly they didn’t give a reason for that date.”
The untold story of the Obama Administration’s widely reported, $335 million discrimination settlement with Countrywide Financial Corporation is that, under a secret Justice Department program, a chunk of the money won’t go to the “victims” but rather leftist groups not connected to the lawsuit.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) will determine which “qualified organizations” get leftover settlement cash and Democrat-tied groups like the scandal-plagued Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and the open-borders National Council of La Raza (NCLR) stand to get large sums based on the hastily arranged deal which got court approval in just a few days.
The Obama administration says that American gun shops are responsible for the escalation of violence in Mexico. We already know that their figures are dishonest. And we already know that they trafficked thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels, for reasons that have yet to be explained. But here’s another point to complete the trifecta of malfesance:
Selling weapons to Mexico – where cartel violence is out of control – is controversial because so many guns fall into the wrong hands due to incompetence and corruption. The Mexican military recently reported nearly 9,000 police weapons “missing.”
Yet the U.S. has approved the sale of more guns to Mexico in recent years than ever before through a program called “direct commercial sales.” It’s a program that some say is worse than the highly-criticized “Fast and Furious” gunrunning scandal, where U.S. agents allowed thousands of weapons to pass from the U.S. to Mexican drug cartels. . .
Here’s how it works: A foreign government fills out an application to buy weapons from private gun manufacturers in the U.S. Then the State Department decides whether to approve.
And it did approve 2,476 guns to be sold to Mexico in 2006. In 2009, that number was up nearly 10 times, to 18,709. The State Department has since stopped disclosing numbers of guns it approves, and wouldn’t give CBS News figures for 2010 or 2011.
(Via Hot Air.)
The Obama administration says we need to give up our civil rights in order to keep guns from getting to Mexico, but they are trafficking thousands of guns illegally, and approving tens of thousands for sale legally.
If you’ve been following the LightSquared scandal, you already know that LightSquared’s technology breaks GPS receivers and airplane avionics. What hasn’t been clear (to me at least) is what the technology is actually supposed to do.
Ed Morrissey explains what’s going on:
In fact, LightSquared lobbyists have been pressuring state legislators in Minnesota (where Best Buy has its corporate headquarters) to demand FCC approval through Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, in part by stressing Best Buy’s partnership with LightSquared and the notion that “retail cell phone rates for LightSquared’s partners are expected to drop by 33-50 percent!” That cost savings comes from not having to buy new frequencies, which cost carriers like AT&T and Verizon tens of billions of dollars at auction, which makes the waiver critical to their business plan.
Now it makes sense. LightSquared doesn’t have a new technology. What they have is a business plan: rather than spend a fortune to buy frequencies in the part of the spectrum where they belong, they want to use their political connections to get cheap frequencies elsewhere. They they use the cost savings to undercut their competition.
Over 80% of the Department of Energy’s green energy loans went to President Obama’s backers:
$16.4 billion of the $20.5 billion in loans granted as of Sept. 15 went to companies either run by or primarily owned by Obama financial backers—individuals who were bundlers, members of Obama’s National Finance Committee, or large donors to the Democratic Party.
Note that we’re not talking about minor contributors; these are bundlers, committee members, and other “large donors”. Moving on, it looks as though the process was designed for just such an outcome, by minimizing transparency and maximizing opportunities for personal influence:
The Government Accountability Office has been highly critical of the way guaranteed loans and grants were doled out by the Department of Energy, complaining that the process appears “arbitrary” and lacks transparency. In March 2011, for example, the GAO examined the first 18 loans that were approved and found that none were properly documented. It also noted that officials “did not always record the results of analysis” of these applications. A loan program for electric cars, for example, “lacks performance measures.” No notes were kept during the review process, so it is difficult to determine how loan decisions were made. The GAO further declared that the Department of Energy “had treated applicants inconsistently in the application review process, favoring some applicants and disadvantaging others.” The Department of Energy’s inspector general, Gregory Friedman, … has testified that contracts have been steered to “friends and family.”
Solyndra is not an outlier; it’s a symptom. This is corruption of the first order; the result of putting Chicago in charge of the federal government.
A few updates in the Gunwalker scandal:
- Dennis Burke, a US Attorney appointed by President Obama who resigned three months ago, admits leaking a document that smeared a whistleblower. (Via Instapundit.)
- Eric Holder has changed his story regarding when he learned of Fast and Furious. This is not surprising, since we already knew Holder’s timeline was false.
- Andrew McCarthy explains why the Democrats’ efforts to distract us from Gunwalker using the Bush-era Operation Wide Receiver are nonsense. (His explanation is similar to mine.)
- The Justice Department stonewalled Congressional requests for information on Operation Wide Receiver for over a month so they could save those documents to make a big splash in the media on the eve of Congressional hearings. (Via Hot Air.)
How would an administration behave if it were innocent of wrongdoing? Not like this:
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is investigating to what extent the White House was aware of — or involved in — the “Fast and Furious” gunwalking scandal.
The committee recently requested to speak with former White House National Security Staffer Kevin O’Reilly. According to CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson, the Obama administration answered:
O’Reilly is on assignment for the State Department in Iraq and unavailable.
Through a tip, PJ Media learned that Kevin O’Reilly was unexpectedly named director of the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau for Iraq (INL-Iraq). Long-time INL-Iraq employee Virginia Ramadan had been expected to get the position — many were quite surprised when she did not.
The previous occupants of the Director, INL-Iraq position — Joe Manso and Francisco Palmieri — were not considered “unreachable” to press or government access. A quick internet search reveals Palmieri, while director, attended a media event on August 23, 2010.
On October 21, PJ Media reporter Patrick Richardson called the number for Office of the Director, INL-Iraq. . . Richardson reached a voicemail message confirming that it was indeed the correct number. He left a message that was not returned.
On Monday Richardson called again, and an assistant answered. Richardson asked to speak with Kevin O’Reilly, and the assistant asked who was calling. Richardson gave his name and stated he was with PJ Media. The assistant said O’Reilly was currently on a conference call, and asked if Richardson wanted to leave a message. Richardson gave his phone number. His call was not returned.
This morning, Richardson called again. He received a prerecorded message saying “this number is not in service.”
On May 3, Eric Holder said that he had learned of the Gunwalker scandal “over the last few weeks”. But President Obama was aware of the scandal by March 22. That’s six weeks.
It’s just not plausible that the president would be aware of the scandal weeks before the attorney general, so I’m sure they will argue that six weeks counts as a “few weeks”. But that’s certainly not the impression that Holder was trying to give by saying “last few weeks” instead of “last couple of months”.
In Eric Holder’s recent letter to Congress proclaiming his innocence in the Gunwalker scandal, he alluded to a similar operation that took place during the Bush administration:
It has become clear that the flawed tactics employed in Fast and Furious were not limited to that operation and were actually employed in an investigation conducted during the prior Administration.
If true, this would hardly excuse the administration, since the scandal is at least as much about the ham-handed cover-up as it is about the original malfeasance. Nevertheless, I was skeptical. If the Bush administration had really run a similar operation, surely the Obama administration would be shouting it from the rooftops.
I was right to be skeptical. It seems that Holder was referring to Operation Wide Receiver, which was similar to Gunwalker in that it allowed straw purchases of weapons to go forward, and ultimately lost track of the weapons.
But there is a major difference between Wide Receiver and Gunwalker. In Wide Receiver, the ATF actually tried to follow the weapons! In Gunwalker they did not.
Wide Receiver was ill-conceived and poorly executed, but it was intended to track weapons. No one in the Justice Department has yet produced a plausible explanation for what Fast and Furious was intended to do. If Holder really thinks the two are similar (unlikely), he completely misunderstands the nature of the scandal.
Wide Receiver also differs from Gunwalker in magnitude. Wide Receiver lost track of 450 guns and was quickly shut down. Gunwalker lost thousands in Fast and Furious alone, and there are allegations of similar operations in several other cities.
It would not excuse Gunwalker even if the two operations were similar, since the ATF ought to have learned from its earlier mistakes, but, in fact, the similarity is only superficial.
Months after the Gunwalker scandal erupted, Eric Holder has undertaken to write a letter to Congress on the subject. It breaks very little new ground. He:
- continues to deny any knowledge of the “unacceptable tactics” employed in Fast and Furious,
- says that Fast and Furious was a flawed response to the important problem of gun trafficking into Mexico (ASIDE: it’s not nearly as important as gun-control advocates pretend),
- berates Congress for not doing anything about that problem,
- demands that Congress “denounce” a Republican member (presumably Paul Gosar) who said those responsible for Gunwalker are “accessories to murder”,
- and claims that gunwalking was going on during the Bush administration as well.
The final claim is interesting, but I won’t believe it without hearing some details. If it were true, they would have been trumpeting it for some time now.
Questions Holder did not address include:
- Why were those responsible for Gunwalker promoted instead of disciplined?
- How could so many different agencies be involved in Gunwalker without any high-ranking officials being aware of it?
- Is the FBI covering up a third Gunwalker gun used in the Terry murder, as multiple sources suggest?
- Why was the ATF permitted to retaliate against the agents who blew the whistle on Gunwalker?
- Why was the ATF permitted to stonewall Congress’s investigation, to the extent that it required contempt proceedings before they produced any documents?
- Why was the ATF permitted to limit its agents’ testimony to Congress?
- Why did the Justice Department withhold information it had in its possession from Congress?
- Why did the Justice Department say that no ATF agents witnessed the transfer of weapons to third parties, when the opposite is true?
- Why is Holder so concerned about harsh rhetoric directed at ATF agents who broke the law and trafficked weapons to Mexican drug cartels?
- Finally, what was the ATF trying to accomplish by trafficking guns to Mexican drug cartels and making no attempt to track them? Why hasn’t anyone tried to answer this question, even at this very late date?
It’s hard to believe I was once hopeful about Arne Duncan, President Obama’s Secretary of Education. We’ve since seen that Duncan is openly political and dishonest (but I repeat myself). We have learned that he is at the center of a school-admissions scandal in Chicago, and we’ve seen him appear at a rally organized by noted racist demagogue Al Sharpton (and urge Department of Education employees to attend as well).
Now we see Duncan spearheading an openly dishonest attack on Texas’s education record, designed to hurt Governor Rick Perry’s presidential chances. Duncan’s charges were simply false (for example, he referred to “massive increases in class size” when class sizes actually remained the same or shrank). And he ignored (or did not know) the fact that Texas schools (which Perry was only indirectly in charge of anyway) did much better than Duncan’s Chicago schools.
I’ve been lax about reporting the Solyndra affair as it has grown from a typical screwup of the sort that arises whenever the government tries to supplant the marketplace and pick winners, into a huge political scandal. Let me catch up by listing what we know:
After Solyndra went belly-up (after blowing through half a billion in taxpayer money), the FBI raided their offices. We know that one of Solyndra’s top backers was a major fundraiser for President Obama, that Solyndra officials were frequent visitors to the White House, and that federal officials sat in on Solyndra board meetings.
We know that the White House pressured the OMB to approve the loan, and quickly (in time for a presidential speech), despite the OMB’s concerns that they hadn’t done due diligence (that’s for sure!):
“We have ended up with a situation of having to do rushed approvals on a couple of occasions (and we are worried about Solyndra at the end of the week),” one official wrote. That Aug. 31, 2009, message, written by a senior OMB staffer and sent to Terrell P. McSweeny, Biden’s domestic policy adviser, concluded, “We would prefer to have sufficient time to do our due diligence reviews.”
And it wasn’t just the Obama-era OMB with reservations. The Bush administration shelved the loan application (despite recent attempts on the left to blame Bush for the mess). PriceWaterhouseCoopers warned that Solyndra’s troubles “raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern.” And it wasn’t just finance people, either. According to a former Solyndra employee, everyone working there knew the company was doomed. They were making a product for $6 that they could only sell for $2-3. The Obama administration was aware of these warnings, but ignored them.
Worse, this isn’t merely a situation where political pressure resulted in a terrible decision. The process violated federal rules and the law. The General Accountability Office found that the loan process bypassed required steps. The law specifically forbade the DOE from subordinating the government’s stake (i.e., placing the government after other creditors in any bankruptcy proceeding), but the Obama administration disregarded that provision. Thus, the loan was not only unwise, not only improper, it was illegal.
Solyndra’s actions were not proper either. Once they received the government’s “investment”, they lavishly wasted money. They spent over a million on lobbying, hiring lobbyists connected to John Kerry (D-MA) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD). And, in fact, they violated the terms of their loan starting in December 2010.
Solyndra officials took the Fifth at a Congressional hearing last week. That surprised Congressional investigators who had earlier agreed to delay the hearing in exchange for a promise that the officials would testify. However, many other people did agree to testify. (Andrew Stiles summarized the proceedings here and here.)
One who did agree to testify was DOE official Jonathan Silver, who admitted that the conditions for Solyndra have been unfavorable for years (since before the latest loan!), and that the DOE has known since last July that Solyndra would go under.
One of the strangest aspects of the scandal is that somehow the California Democratic Party ended up a Solyndra creditor. No one will admit to knowing how that happened.
Alas, the Obama administration has learned nothing from the scandal. They have just announced three more solar loans totaling more than $2 billion, and have billions more to throw away this week. One of those loans, for $737 million, is to the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, a project connected to Ron Pelosi, the House Democratic Leader’s brother-in-law. The political connections of the other projects have not yet been determined.
UPDATE: A nice video summarizing the scandal.
Pajamas Media reports:
The final tally in our hiring expose is staggering. Since Barack Obama installed Eric Holder at the Justice Department, there have been 113 new career lawyers hired into the Civil Rights Division. There isn’t even a single token conservative in the bunch. Worse yet, as this PJMedia series has demonstrated conclusively, the breakdown of the new hires reveals that not even moderates are welcome. Here are the numbers:
Apolitical Attorneys: 0
As has been said repeatedly, there is nothing problematic with hiring liberals to work in the Division. But contrary to the views of many in the civil rights community — including the current leadership of the Justice Department — there is also nothing wrong with hiring conservative or apolitical attorneys to undertake this work. Yet such professionals have been categorically blackballed from joining the career ranks of the Division. That is not only unjust, it is illegal. . .
Notwithstanding the claims of revisionist historians, the Bush Civil Rights Division hired and promoted lawyers from all across the political and ideological spectrum. Even in the three sections of the Division that were the focus of a libelous report from the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility and Inspector General, nearly a third of the new career attorneys hired and promoted were clearly liberal and many others were entirely apolitical. Meanwhile, enforcement figures in nearly every section were through the roof (in some cases, such as the Voting Section, putting the Obama administration numbers to shame), while not one nickel had to be paid out in sanctions.
Now, less than three years later, all semblances of ideological balance in the Division have been utterly eliminated, and proudly so. . . Reports from inside the Division by individuals familiar with the work of the hiring committee describe the resumes of one qualified applicant after another being tossed in the “No” file merely because the candidate could not satisfy the newly imposed liberal litmus test.
What’s the big deal if a liberal administration hires only liberals? Don’t forget that, not very long ago, the hiring record of the Bush administration — which was much, much better — was billed as scandalous.
Documents obtained by Judicial Watch show that the Department of Health and Human Services campaigned for Democrats using taxpayer money. And yes, that’s illegal.
This ought to be a huge scandal, but given the massive malfeasance from this administration already, it probably will barely be noticed.
It’s getting hard to keep track of all the agencies that were part of the Gunwalker scandal. It now appears that the FBI was involved, rigging its background-check system so that felons could buy guns:
In the latest chapter of the gunrunning scandal known as Operation Fast and Furious, federal officials won’t say how two suspects obtained more than 360 weapons despite criminal records that should have prevented them from buying even one gun. Under current federal law, people with felony convictions are not permitted to buy weapons, and those with felony arrests are typically flagged while the FBI conducts a thorough background check.
However, according to court records reviewed by Fox News, two of the 20 defendants indicted in the Fast and Furious investigation have felony convictions and criminal backgrounds that experts say, at the very least, should have delayed them buying a single firearm. Instead, the duo bought dozens of guns on multiple occasions while federal officials watched on closed-circuit cameras.
Congressional and law-enforcement sources say the situation suggests the FBI, which operates the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, knowingly allowed the purchases to go forward after consulting with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which initiated Operation Fast and Furious. . .
When asked about the breakdown, Stephen Fischer, a spokesman for the NICS System, said the FBI had no comment. However, an ATF agent who worked on the Fast and Furious investigation, told Fox News that NICS officials called the ATF in Phoenix whenever their suspects tried to buy a gun. That conversation typically led to a green light for the buyers, when it should have stopped them.
If this is true (as seems likely), the NICS had these criminals flagged so the FBI would contact ATF whenever they tried to buy a gun, and the FBI then allowed the purchases.
In addition, William Newell, the former head of the Phoenix ATF, said in testimony before Congress that three other agencies were “full partners” in Fast and Furious: the DEA, the IRS, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. When asked if they knew “that guns were being walked to Mexico,” Newell said “they were aware of the strategy.”
That’s five government agencies from three different departments: Justice, Treasury, and Homeland Security.
But that’s not all. According to Phil Jordan, a former director of the DEA’s El Paso Intelligence Center, the State Department has been selling military-grade weapons directly to the Zetas, the Mexican drug cartel originally formed by mutinying Mexican special forces.
It is not alleged that the Zeta sales were connected with Fast and Furious, but that only makes it worse. At least Fast and Furious was ostensibly a law enforcement operation.
So we have four departments of the Obama administration all working to make sure that Mexican drug cartels have weapons. But at the same time, the Obama administration is tightening gun controls on law-abiding Americans.
Today brought major developments to the Gunwalker scandal. Kenneth Melson, the acting director of ATF, testified before the Congressional investigation. Melson gave new details on the Department of Justice’s efforts to cover-up the scandal:
Melson provided detailed information and documents to the Office of the Deputy Attorney General at the Justice Department. But that information was not given to Congress by then-Acting Deputy Attorney General James Cole. In fact, “Melson was not allowed to communicate to Congress” and “Justice Department officials directed [ATF’s senior leadership] not to respond and took full control of replying to briefing and document requests from Congress.” According to the letter Issa and Grassley sent to Holder, it was “two days after [Melson] told [Cole] about serious issues involving lack of information sharing” that the Wall Street Journal suddenly reported that Melson was about to be ousted by the Obama administration.
Melson also directly contradicted claims made by the Justice Department:
Contrary to the Justice Department’s denials, according to Melson, ATF agents specifically witnessed transfers of weapons from straw purchasers to third parties without taking any further action.
Also, in the second major development, an email came to light showing that knowledge of the Fast and Furious operation went quite high, including Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Lanny Breuer, and the heads of the FBI and DEA.
If Congressional Republicans are really intent on getting to the bottom of an ill-conceived sting operation along the border by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, they should call President Felipe Calderón of Mexico as an expert witness.
Mr. Calderón has the data showing that the tens of thousands of weapons seized from the Mexican drug cartels in the last four years mostly came from the United States.
That is simply a lie. That claim has been debunked so conclusively that it simply cannot be offered in good faith. The NYT cannot be unaware that it is false. They must just be hoping that their readers are.
How did the Gunwalker scandal happen? Did the ATF deliberately facilitate the smuggling of weapons into Mexico in order to bolster the (false) story that weapons used in Mexican crimes mostly come from the United States, in order to advance a gun-control agenda?
We don’t know. It’s hard to believe that any administration could be so corrupt. But so far, it is the only explanation that has been offered that makes any sense. Why did the ATF traffic guns to Mexican drug cartels? It defies all reason!
The agents who are talking don’t know. They warned that the scheme would be a disaster, but their pleas were ignored.
Those who do know, on the other hand, aren’t talking. And that makes me suspect the worst. If they had a good faith reason, they should tell us. Instead, the ATF and the Justice Department have been stonewalling for months.
We don’t know when Eric Holder was briefed on the scheme. It’s hard to believe that a plan to traffic weapons into a foreign country would have been approved without going to the top. (And it hardly absolves him if he is such a careless manager as to allow crazy schemes to be put into motion without his knowledge.)
But what we do know for certain is that Eric Holder has approved the cover-up. We know that because the cover-up is ongoing and he could put a stop to it. Regardless of what he knew and when he knew it, Holder should go for that reason alone.
The latest development is someone at the DOJ is trying to fight back against Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). The Washington Post ran a story yesterday alleging, based on an anonymous source, that Issa was briefed on the scheme in April 2010 and raised no objections. Issa categorically denies the report, and adds that his office has been contacted by several publications to whom the story was shopped. The Post was the only publication to find it credible.
Even if the Issa story were true, it would not absolve the ATF, Eric Holder, or the Obama administration. But there’s no good reason to believe it, since there’s no good reason for the source to remain anonymous, unless he’s lying. He can’t be afraid of retaliation; one simply does not face negative consequences for running interference for your boss by attacking a Republican congressman.
If the Gunwalker scandal is as bad as it is starting to look — trafficking guns into a friendly country, for political purposes, leaving countless dead including a federal agent — it would be the worst scandal in American history. No one died in the Watergate burglary.
UPDATE: Instapundit follows the Internet Scofflaw lead.
The Congressional Budget Office says the ongoing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailouts have cost $317 billion, more than twice what the White House says they cost ($130 billion). (The key calculation is on page 11 here.)
And that’s not counting the $400 billion in no-bid contracts. That’s a lot of money channeled into two organizations run almost entirely by liberals.
(Via Hot Air.)
A veteran Justice Department lawyer accused his agency Friday of being unwilling to pursue racial discrimination cases on behalf of white voters, turning what had been a lower-level controversy into an escalating political headache for the Obama administration.
New documents obtained by Judicial Watch prove that, contrary to statements made the Justice Department (some of which were under oath), the decision to dismiss the voter intimidation case against the Black Panthers was made by political appointees, not career staff.
RELATED: Glenn Fine, the DOJ inspector general, will investigate Eric Holder’s voting rights record. However, Fine is a Clinton appointee, so don’t be shocked if he come back with a whitewash.
J Christian Adams is an attorney until recently with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division who resigned in disgust over the DOJ’s dismissal of the Black Panther voter intimidation case. Adams alleges that DOJ officials have made numerous inaccurate statements (some under oath) regarding what transpired. More broadly, he says that the Civil Rights Division is openly hostile toward race-neutral enforcement of civil rights laws.
Adams was ordered by his superiors at DOJ to disregard a subpoena from the US Civil Rights Commission. Now a private citizen, he has agreed to testify.
This story broke early in the Internet Scofflaw hiatus, so a lot has transpired:
- Adams has an op-ed in the Washington Times.
- Adams has a piece at Pajamas Media on the Civil Rights Division’s disdain for the civil rights of non-minorities.
- Pajamas Media has collected statements from other former DOJ employees corroborating Adams’s allegations.
- There is a video of Adams speaking to Fox News here.
- Pajamas Media has copies of documents that attest to Adams’s good service at the DOJ, refuting the department’s efforts to smear him since he went public.
- Adams alleges that Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez lied under oath.
- Finally, the Washington Times marvels that the mainstream media is ignoring this huge scandal.
UPDATE: The Spectator is standing by its story, sort of, saying that although the actual report had not been delivered, the data underlying it had. I have no idea whether or not that’s true, but in any case it’s not what they said originally. This gives the media an excuse (if they needed one) not to pursue the story, so I think this story will go away quickly. (Via Instapundit.)
Whether or not the Spectator is right now, there’s a lesson here: details matter. If you work for the MSM, you can afford to get the details wrong at first. If you’re on the outside, you have to get them right.
Last week I noted that the Democrats had hurried through a vote on the health care nationalization bill before the Medicare Actuary could complete his report, which ultimately found that the bill would raise costs, not lower them. Now a far more serious allegation has been made, that the Democrats actually had the report and covered it up:
The economic report released last week by Health and Human Services, which indicated that President Barack Obama’s health care “reform” law would actually increase the cost of health care and impose higher costs on consumers, had been submitted to the office of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius more than a week before the Congressional votes on the bill, according to career HHS sources, who added that Sebelius’s staff refused to review the document before the vote was taken.
“The reason we were given was that they did not want to influence the vote,” says an HHS source. “Which is actually the point of having a review like this, you would think.”
The analysis, performed by Medicare’s Office of the Actuary, which in the past has been identified as a “nonpolitical” office, set off alarm bells when submitted. “We know a copy was sent to the White House via their legislative affairs staff,” says the HHS staffer, “and there were a number of meetings here almost right after the analysis was submitted to the secretary’s office. Everyone went into lockdown, and people here were too scared to go public with the report.”
In the end, the report was released several weeks after the vote — the review by the secretary’s office reportedly took less than three days — and bore a note that the analysis was not the official position of the Obama administration.
If these allegations are substantiated, this is a huge scandal. Will the press investigate?
This is a huge scandal, even for Chicago. Isn’t it? Or is it okay for the politically well-connected to get special treatment?
While many Chicago parents took formal routes to land their children in the best schools, the well-connected also sought help through a shadowy appeals system created in recent years under former schools chief Arne Duncan.
Whispers have long swirled that some children get spots in the city’s premier schools based on whom their parents know. But a list maintained over several years in Duncan’s office and obtained by the Tribune lends further evidence to those charges. Duncan is now secretary of education under President Barack Obama.
The log is a compilation of politicians and influential business people who interceded on behalf of children during Duncan’s tenure. It includes 25 aldermen, Mayor Richard Daley’s office, House Speaker Michael Madigan, his daughter Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.
Non-connected parents, such as those who sought spots for their special-needs child or who were new to the city, also appear on the log. But the politically connected make up about three-quarters of those making requests in the documents obtained by the Tribune. . .
The list surfaced amid a federal probe and an internal investigation into admissions practices at the city’s top high schools. Until Monday, the district had not revealed it had kept such a list. . .
Pickens [a former aide to Duncan] acknowledged the list was kept confidential. The vast majority of parents who follow the system’s school application process never knew they could appeal to Duncan’s office for special consideration.
“We didn’t want to advertise what we were doing because we didn’t want a bunch of people calling,” Pickens said.
They didn’t want a bunch of people calling. The appeals process wasn’t for them.
(Via Hot Air.)
Anita Dunn, the White House communication director, in her CNN interview declaring war against Fox News:
DUNN: Howie, I think if we went back a year go to the fall of 2008, to the campaign, that it was a time when this country was in two wars, that we had a financial collapse probably more significant than any financial collapse since the Great Depression.
If you were a FOX News viewer in the fall election, what you would have seen would have been that the biggest stories and biggest threats facing America were a guy named Bill Ayers and something called ACORN.
What is Dunn saying here? Is she claiming that Fox never covered the financial collapse? That’s obviously ridiculous. No, it seems that she is complaining about the news that Fox did cover. She would rather than Fox had ignored Ayers and ACORN as most everyone else did.
KURTZ: Is that the reason the president did not go on FOX News Sunday when he did all the other Sunday shows, and will President Obama appear again on FOX this year?
DUNN: Well, you know, Howie, President Obama, he did “The Factor.” He did “O’Reilly.”
KURTZ: Yes. That was during the campaign.
DUNN: That was last year. As president earlier this year when he met with news anchors, met with Chris Wallace…
KURTZ: My question is will he appear on FOX in the next couple of months?
DUNN: You had a two-part question. The first was, is this why he did not appear? And the answer is yes, obviously he’ll go on Fox because he engages with ideological opponents. And he has done that before. He will do it again. I can’t give you a date because, frankly, I can’t give you dates for anybody else right now.
Let’s be charitable and assume that Dunn is answering a different question (“will he go on Fox ever?”) than she was asked. Because if she was answering the question she was asked, her answer was a lie:
But last week, Fox News was informed by the White House that Obama would grant no interviews to the channel until at least 2010. The edict was relayed to Fox News by a White House official after Dunn discussed the channel at a meeting with presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs and other Obama advisers.
DUNN: For instance, Howie, “The New York Times” had a front page story about Nevada Senator John Ensign and the fact that he had gotten his former chief of staff a job as a lobbyist and his former chief of staff’s wife was someone Ensign had had an affair with.
KURTZ: We reported the story.
DUNN: Did you see coverage of that on FOX News? I’m not talking Glenn Beck, and I’m not talking Sean or “The Factor.” I’m talking about FOX News.
KURTZ: I will have to check on that. I assume you know the answer.
She never comes out and says it, but she is clearly implying that Fox didn’t cover the story. That’s a lie:
Dunn also strongly implied that Fox had failed to follow up on a New York Times story about a scandal swirling around GOP Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, although Fox News broadcast the stories on numerous shows, including Special Report with Bret Baier.
If you don’t want to take Fox News’s word for it, here’s just one of many stories Fox ran on the Ensign scandal.