May 24 2013

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Meta-Text of the Obama Scandals

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Lemmings Burned...

Lemmings Burned…

All scandals are not created equal.

While the cascading scandal at the IRS has the power to fundamentally change the political narrative in Washington, with grave implications for everything from Obama governance to Obamacare and the 2014 midterms, it is not the most important scandal from an Inside-the-Beltway perspective.

That title goes to the Justice Department wire taps on various journalists.

Average Americans might be perplexed.

At first blush, tracking down leaks that cause damage to national security – no matter how aggressive – cannot possibly be more important than the egregious excesses, deceptions and stonewalling that make up the emerging, tip-of-the-iceberg  IRS narrative.

Au contraire.

As details of the expanding list of Justice Department investigations become public, the mainstream media/Washington press corps have been exposed in a storied role as the “jilted lover” in a passionate, five-year romance with Barack Obama and his Administration.

Bewitched by Obama in 2007, the mainstreams willingly dropped Hillary Clinton like a bad habit to embrace what appeared to be the fulfillment of their formative dreams. Obama’s inexperience, gaps in his resume, questions about his leadership potential, as well as his relationships with controversial figures from Reverend Wright to Bill Ayers, were all swept under the rug.

Indeed, any pretense at media objectivity with regard to Obama dissolved in a mix of over-wrought 60s idealism/nostalgia and the mind’s eye possibilities of his history-making presidency. No modern nominee for president has ever been so coddled and protected by the media as Obama.

The love affair endured through all the trials and tribulations of Obama’s first term, despite the natural bloom-off-the-rose realities as Obama rhetoric failed to translate into tangible policy. But seldom was POTUS ever denied the benefit of the doubt by the press corps. Acting like “helicopter parents” who will countenance no criticism that contradicts the obvious perfection of their off-spring, Obama failures were rarely ever reported as POTUS’ fault, but rather the work of history, the “toxic” culture of Washington, Republicans or, the perpetual standby, George W. Bush.

That enthusiasm remained intact right through Inauguration Day 2013, as we can see here through the professionally embarrassing antics of Al Roker on the parade route.

And then the AP wire tap story broke.

Mind you, Obama’s media acolytes were never pleased with the number of leak investigations/prosecutions that the Justice Department conducted in his first term, into his second. But this was a subordinated consideration as the President went about fulfilling the important business of America’s transformation, of which they heartily approved.

The AP story changed that.

Without any warning to the news organization, and using secret authorities, Justice flouted existing wire tap guidelines put in place to preserve press freedom and went on a massive fishing expedition, looking for information to find and punish the leaker(s). Justice targeted three cities and 20 phone lines used by dozens of reporters from different news outlets over a two month period.

For the press corps, this was like finding the Obama administration in bed with another mistress.

The betrayal. The shattered trust. The infamy!

How could he do this to us?

The press corps had been so good to the President. They had helped him get elected – twice. Their puff pieces had been the verbal cotton candy of the political class and cat nip for a fickle and restless electorate. They had covered his tracks, looked over his shoulder and prepared the road ahead against the Tea Party and Fox News.

After years of unceasing devotion, where they had willingly sold their credibility and impartiality at the door for a ticket to the “O” ball – inflicting irrevocable damage on their profession in the process – the media found out that they weren’t that special at all.

They were no more than a prop – one of many – to be cultivated and used for the greater good of Obama.

This wasn’t about them; it was about him.

It was always about him.

Cue Carly Simon.

Since the AP story broke, more details are emerging about other investigations (Fox News’ James Rosen) where Justice has simply trampled on press freedoms – there is no other way to describe it – tapping phones and emails not simply of Rosen and his work colleagues, but of Rosen’s relatives. And Obama’s Justice Department for the first time ever, named a reporter as a criminal co-conspirator in leak investigation, making the reporter (James Rosen) criminally liable by simply doing his job.

It only pours salt in the wound to realize that the hated Bush Justice Department never contemplated the actions that the Obama adminstration was pursuing with alarming zeal.

The genuine shock and dismay is palpable.

Speaking to the wounded outrage of so many, Dana Milbank of the Washington Post asked plaintitively, “… the administration’s actions shatter the president’s credibility and discourage allies who would otherwise defend the administration against bogus accusations such as those involving the Benghazi “talking points.” If the administration is spying on reporters and accusing them of criminality just for asking questions — well, who knows what else this crowd is capable of doing?” (emphasis added).

We are here to defend you Barack, but you investigate us!

Milbank touches indirectly on the other conceit that animates Washington away from the cameras. Most of the press corps actually agrees with the Obama administration that the Benghazi affair is much ado about nothing. By breaking the story into micro pieces, and explaining it away at that level, the media are spared the need to do more than accept the Administration’s narrative.

The same holds true, perhaps to a lesser extent, for the IRS, where many national reporters and media types see nothing wrong with the attention paid to conservative groups. This is rooted in a widely held belief that SCOTUS’ Citzen United decision – which made the 501(c)(4)s possible – was a horrendous example of  conservative judicial activism by the Court.  From this point of view, the IRS was only doing what was necessary as the agency was flooded with applications from “extremist” country bumpkins enamored with the Founders and the Constitution, in contravention of the visonary leadership of the President, which they were too feeble-minded to understand.

It is not an opinion that will get much traction in mainstream America, but it is theirs nonetheless.

But the wire taps change all that.

It’s one thing to swallow even the most obvious line when you’re in love. It’s a different matter entirely when you have been played and used. And like a scorned woman, hell hath no fury as a reporter scorned.

Now, Jay Carney’s soothing narratives from the podium are less charming and the new source angst and contempt.

They have been had.

Assurances – be they on Benghazi or the IRS or wire tapping – continue to melt away as updated timelines and new information reveal a startlingly different picture of the scandals, with all the attendant concerns that the Administration has been anything but candid.

Liberal paragons in media – Bill Press, Chris Matthews, Chuck Todd, Dana Milbank and others – are indignant with the Administration’s conduct. MSNBC has allowed criticism – criticism – of the Obama administration and the President to make it past the lips of their hosts to a bewildered die-hard progressive audience.

A troubling thought lurks in their midst; after five years, maybe there was something to the conservative narrative on Obama.

Suddenly, in the aftermath of the AP story, the White House press corps seems to have come out of its intellectual stupor intent on actually doing its job – holding public officials accountable for potential misconduct.

For its part, the Administration clearly miscalculated on two levels.

First, the thought that it could have its cake and eat it too by both investigating the press well beyond any reasonable or established measure, and believing that such a tactic would not jeopardize its support among the Fourth Estate.

And second, that the Administration, with boundless faith in its own infallibility, believed that while having the Fourth Estate in its pocket was nice, it was ultimlately unnecessary. That the Administration didn’t need the help.

Anyone looking at the disarray that is today’s White House – the amateurish bordering on comical crisis communications operation that seems capable only of perpetuating the scandals – can see how unprepared Team Obama was for a genuine crisis with a media actually asking real, probing questions.

Problems only become scandals in Washington when the mainstreams choose to report on them.

Having been burned by the Administration on the wire taps, and suddenly seeing that they were played for stooges with inaccurate reporting from the White House podium, a newly aggressive press corps represents the difference between a full airing on Benghazi and the IRS, and an embrace of the ho-hum refrain from Mrs. Clinton, “What difference does it make?”

But that new reporting is only possible because of the hubris of the Justice wire taps.

And possibly, the end of a love affair.

















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