This has been a stellar week for the federal government, and by proxy a bad week for our re-elected president, who has only had to traverse barely five months of a second term when the jinx began to kick in.
Those of us fairly sure that the glass was not only half full but spiked with arsenic have plenty of evidence that the long arm of Washington D.C. has a hand gripping a hammer. All of our greatest enemies—Congress, the Justice Department, the State Department and the dreaded and loathsome Internal Revenue Service—have proven to slake our paranoia and crystallize what has been for the past 50 years, since the 36th president’s head exploded in Dallas, Texas, a sense that there is a systemic monster trolling the streets of this nation’s capital and it means business.
Taking the week that was in proper perspective, “we the people” have allowed, and in many ways championed this abuse of power. Both parties have expanded the roles of these institutions and given them far more leeway within the structure of our republic than any democracy, even a phony one such as this, can bear. So here’s the kicker, no matter what happens in the coming weeks and months in the wake of these shenanigans, there is not a whole lot we can do about it.
Let’s work our way backwards in chronology, starting with the biggest abomination.
The FBI, well within its rights under the unconscionable umbrella of the insidiously mad parameters of the Patriot Act and beneath the always-convenient auspices of National Security, infiltrated the sanctity of the Freedom of the Press by spying on and collecting private information gathered by Associated Press reporting. For an entire year, the FBI, whose constitutional abuses have gone unchecked for nearly a century and was given complete and legal autonomy over the private lives of the American citizenry after 9/11, collected the phone records, both cellular and office, of over 20 AP reporters and editors. Predictably, Attorney General Eric Holder, who should already be in prison for the Fast & Furious blunder, took a page from the last administration and began crying a breach of national security after the prominent and trusted journalistic outlet broke a story about a foiled terrorist attack in Yemen.
While there is definitely a rat in the highest corridors of power, this kind of overreach brings to mind decades of underhanded nonsense perpetrated under the guise of “protecting our citizens,” but also reeks of the pathetic type of vengeance the last administration unleashed on the spouse of a CIA agent for his speaking out against the failures of the Iraq War in print, which eventually put the vice president Dick Cheney, Bush administration political mole Karl Rove and eventual jailbird Scooter Libby in hot water (second term).
Do we even have to bring up the Pentagon Papers and the spawn of Nixon’s plumbers that put this constitution of ours on the brink of extinction (second term)?
But it matters not, since no one seems to mind that we’ve handed federal law enforcers every avenue to manipulate the citizenry and now its Fourth Estate with impunity. The real outrage here should not be that it happened, because it almost always happens; it’s that we’ve allowed it to happen legally, and therefore have little recourse but to swallow this steaming lump of shit and salute the flag.
Next up is the IRS’ politically motivated targeting of TEA Party groups to disallow or delay tax-exempt status during an election season. Once again, the systemic problems with this are deeper than the brash accusations that this is merely an anti-right wing government conspiracy since the IRS pulled similar if not worse bullshit with the ACLU prior to the 2004 presidential election.
Firstly, why any political group is allowed tax-exempt status is beyond me, as is any religious group for that matter. It is arbitrary and unconstitutional and should not even be an option; which supports this space’s backing of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that allows any group to financially influence the political system. It is indeed free speech and the blowback against it by political affiliation or candidate is only displayed when it negatively affects them. If politics is about money—and it’s always about money—then everyone should be taxed for it.
Secondly, the IRS—like the FBI with the Patriot Act—which has now been handed by the same Supreme Court the full and complete power to run a national health care system that no one understands and less people actually want—has always had a dicey relationship with the law, not the least of which is its mere existence, which, by the way, is unconstitutional. Thus, the executive branch of this government for my entire lifetime, which now spans the aforementioned half-century, has used the IRS as some kind of political bullwhip against its opponents and enemies. And although there is no evidence this crap has been splashed on the White House, there is little excuse for this beyond political expedience and lends fighting momentum to what is primarily a useless and dying movement.
Finally, as a side note, someone has to tell me the difference between Arizona’s draconian and wholly unconstitutional racial profiling and the IRS discriminating against a particular group. The level of hypocrisy uncovered in the U.S. government’s most reviled and in many ways powerful wing singling out one group to persecute on the heels of that same government suing the state of Arizona for the same thing is off the charts.
We finish up with the fifth or sixth or 10th Benghazi hearing, which is a political carnival hardly worth mentioning, but has begun to ring the Monica Lewinsky bell in the most dense of political sensibilities and therefore will haunt this president as long as these Republican cretins continue to cash in on corpses as some kind of ticket to slandering a Clinton. And if the recent past is any indication, it will not abate anytime soon.
Many of the congressmen who enjoyed wasting our money prosecuting the president of the United States for a blowjob will have no problem trying to make this some kind of Watergate and Iran/Contra thing. And since there really isn’t anything to be uncovered but the usual incompetence of the Pentagon and State Department then this thing has Birther momentum written all over it.
The two biggest problems with this whole charade is timing and, once again, hypocrisy, both of which lessen the credibility of what appears now to most observers as a self-serving political pogrom.
Firstly, former deputy chief of mission in Libya, Gregory Hicks’ sudden damning testimony against the State Department’s handling of the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi incident, and specifically former Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton, is coming far too late, which stinks of gutless hide-saving and less of heroic whistle-blowing. This is not unlike former G.W. Bush press secretary Scott McClellan’s revelations five years after he defended the Bush administration’s lies about a multi-billion dollar boondoggle of a war that took the lives of thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of Americans (hammered in this space in the pithy FUCK SCOTT MCCLELLAN—Issue: 6/4/08) or National Coordinator For Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism Richard Clarke’s late-to-the-party accusations that the highest ranking officials in the Bush administration ignored many memos and warnings of an impending attack by al Qaeda mere days before 9/11 (also took a plucky pounding in THE DENIZENS OF POLITICS—Issue: 4/14/04).
If this was such a bombshell and Hicks was such a hero, where was he the first or second or third time around this Benghazi carousel? All of a sudden he’s got balls and dirt?
Secondly, many of these lawmakers’ faux outrage is either disingenuous or fabricated since during the previous administration 13 attacks on non-Iraqi American embassies resulting in 53 deaths hardly merited a peep. Does this pass even the most partisan smell test? Nope.
But the fact that this is being written a few months into a second term means we are well on our way to another shitty run for a re-elected president and his government and a sad repeat of the last 50 years of disastrous leadership.
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James Campion is the Managing Editor of the Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus” and “Midnight for Cinderella”