Obama becomes Nixon with DOJ’s surveillance of Associated Press reporters
What the fuck happened to Barack Obama? Many Americans may be asking that question, which I will address toward the end of the article. First, we should recap the president’s recent troubles.
We know now (as if we really had any doubts before) that his State Department distorted the truth coming out of the Benghazi embassy attack. We know that the IRS, an executive agency, targeted Tea Party tax-exempt groups with audits, and have now learned from the Associated Press that its reporters were surveilled by the Department of Justice. If you are a Democrat and still think Obama is the shining light of the party, you need a head examination.
Somewhere there may still be a good man inside that vassal for the most powerful forces in America, but he has lost his way. He is, as Dante in “The Divine Comedy,” lost in a dark wood.
Let’s assume for a moment that Obama didn’t know that IRS officials ordered the Tea Party audits before the 2012 election. Still, someone had to have told them to do it. Yes, it’s possible that low-level IRS officials decided to unilaterally audit based on the Tea Party’s openly anti-tax ideology; but, use reason and judgment, and it all smells very fishy. Either way, it isn’t right. If Obama was serious about truly changing political culture, as he said he was way back in 2004, then he should have ensured his vision was communicated from the top right on down to the lowest rungs of bureaucracy. Americans are sick of hearing from top officials that rogue low-level bureaucrats make their own rules.
All culture, whether it be in business or government, starts at the top and proceeds to the lowest levels. Obama may not have ordered the IRS audit of Tea Partiers, but it’s clear that his vision of a new way of doing things in D.C. didn’t make its way to the bottom.
And to continue operating in this delusional state of reality in which one believes that Obama knew nothing of the State Department’s Benghazi distortions is more than just absurd—it’s counter-productive. To take Bush to task for all of his administration’s distortions, and excuse the Obama administration’s lack of honesty or damage control, is to ascend to the most hypocritical of heights. And none of this is to excuse the GOP’s opportunistic attacks to neuter Obama’s second-term agenda, and lay the groundwork for the 2016 presidential and congressional elections. But the reality is that Obama’s administration fucked up. Liberals need to accept it.
What these events tell us is that President Obama has, like Richard Nixon, become more interested in preserving his power than in acting virtuously. There is no excuse for it. And, to my mind, no transgression has been greater than the DOJ’s surveillance of Associated Press reporters.
According to the Associated Press, “the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP.”
“In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012,” reads the Associated Press report. “The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown, but more than 100 journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.”
And the buck stops with Obama here, given that one of his right hand men, Attorney General Eric Holder, heads the DOJ. This doesn’t just worry me as a journalist, but as an American citizen. If journalists, which are to be free in their exercise of the First Amendment, are subject to this violation of the Constitution, then we are well and truly headed down a terrible rabbit hole.
This is not alarmism, but another example of America’s surveillance culture spinning wildly out of control and into an Orwellian nightmare landscape. Bush and the post-9/11 political consciousness may have gotten the ball truly rolling with the Patriot Act, but Obama has done nothing to slow it down. In fact, apart from his recent opposition to CISPA, Obama has accelerated state surveillance.
On April 24, 2013, the Electronic Privacy Information Center obtained new documents via a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, revealing that “the Department of Defense advised private industry on how to best circumvent federal wiretap law.”
“The documents concern a collaboration between the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security and private companies to allow government monitoring of private Internet networks,” EPIC reported in a press release. “Though the program initially only applied to defense contractors, an Executive Order issued by the Obama administration earlier this year expanded it to include other ‘critical infrastructure” industries.’”
The Obama administration, like Nixon before him, seems to see enemies everywhere. The Tea Party, the Republicans and now the press are all part of some vast conspiracy to undermine his second term. Obama may well have legitimate plausible deniability with the Associated Press surveillance, as well as with the IRS scandal; even so, this is proof that Obama has done nothing to change government culture. His failures are profound.
None of this should come as any surprise, though. If one cared to look, the proof of the real Obama—the ambitious politician—was exposed in the early days of his presidency, when he did nothing to bring the criminals behind the sub-prime mortgage crisis to justice. He knew who his masters were and he responded accordingly.
Obama lost me and many others in early 2008. His recent troubles are proof that even the noblest of intentions can be absorbed or subverted by the will to politically survive and crush opposition, in whatever form it takes.
Maybe this is a wake-up call to Obama and his administration. But, I wouldn’t count on it. At the very least it should be a wake-up call to those who show unwavering support for the President.