Who thinks Bob McDonnell and Dinesh d’Souza are not subject to selective prosecution?
During the IRS scandal last year, the feds did not even pretend they had targeted political groups fairly. The same went for donors in the 2012 presidential campaign. The feds’ attitude then and since has been, “This is the way we do politics. Don’t whine about it. We expect you to do the same to us, if you can make yourself that sleazy, and if you ever have a chance.”
Talk about corrosive. Attorney General Holder and the entire operation at the Department of Justice reminds one of the atmosphere under John Mitchell in Richard Nixon’s White House. Everyone talked about enemies lists back then partly because Nixon and his people were clearly willing to go after their targets. They plainly corrupted the law, which in its nature must separate processes of taxation and justice from any political motive or powerful group. Now we have begun to take this kind of corruption for granted.
After Nixon, it took a long time to recover our faith in public servants. One might say a general sense of trust between citizens and the state had deteriorated a great deal even before Nixon. When you have fifity years of faithless, self-serving and corrupt power operating in the nation’s capital, you can’t be idealistic about even-handedness from the government. The big difference with President Obama is that his Internal Revenue Service, and his Department of Justice, have been more brazen in their corruption than many predecessors. They don’t seem to care when they get caught: they just lie some more, until the issue goes away.
The government is feeling its oats. It will go after anyone it doesn’t like – no matter the reason. Individuals who become targets don’t have many resources to fight back. They only have us. To protect ourselves, we ought to offer moral support, even if we don’t like the target’s views. The day is already here when the government uses intimidation in every way it can to increase its own power.
References to Nixon’s White House, intimidation, enemies lists, and prosecutions suggest that Obama and his sidekicks make people afraid of them. That’s why you want to be ruthless: to deter people from crossing you. When you instill caution, you can wield power with less trouble from people who don’t like you.
What if people don’t pay attention to you, though? No one suggests the president is powerless or irrelevant, or that his officers can’t pick off his enemies one by one. What if the people who aren’t your enemies don’t care what you do? Peggy Noonan, speechwriter for President Reagan, writes about President Obama’s State of the Union address next Tuesday. When was the last time you listened to one of those snoozers? I spend a lot of time reading about politics, but I sure don’t dribble my time away with a speech like that.
Let Ms. Noonan describe the problem:
No one’s really listening to the president now. He has been for five years a nonstop windup talk machine. Most of it has been facile, bland, the same rounded words and rounded sentiments, the same soft accusations and excuses. I see him enjoying the sound of his voice as the network newsman leans forward eagerly, intently, nodding at the pearls, enacting interest, for this is the president and he is the anchorman and surely something important is being said with two such important men engaged.
But nothing interesting was being said! Looking back on this presidency, it has from the beginning been a 17,000 word New Yorker piece in which, calmly, sonorously, with his lovely intelligent voice, the president says nothing, or little that is helpful, insightful or believable. “I’m not a particularly ideological person.” “It’s hard to anticipate events over the next three years.” “I don’t really even need George Kennan right now.” “I am comfortable with complexity.” “Our capacity to do some good . . . is unsurpassed, even if nobody is paying attention.”
Noonan writes a little later in the piece, referring to all the people who lost their health insurance due to the Affordable Care Act: “When the central domestic fact of your presidency was a fraud, people won’t listen to you anymore.” It doesn’t matter how powerful you are, or how well meaning you are, or even how effective you might be. When you lie to people, they don’t listen to you.
In Obama’s case, he and his officers weren’t even effective. On the contrary, through incompetence they made a bad law worse. They worked to put complicated health reform into effect, and they completely screwed up. “Nobody said it was going to be easy,” is the best they can say for themselves. Nobody said we had to have incompetent liars for our leaders, but apparently that’s the best we could do.
If you listen to the State of the Union next week, try to find something interesting or even real in the entire address. See if it lives down the the Noonan standard: facile, bland, “the same rounded words and rounded sentiments.” Obama does use sharp language occasionally – when he attacks Republicans. He doesn’t like those people. If you’re a Republican and you cross him, watch out.