Heroes, Dunces, Truthtellers, Liars, Spinners, Incompetents, and Fools: More Ethics Forensics On The Government Scandal Wave


This is a mercurial story, several in fact, but one of its most valuable uses is to allow us to sort out various individuals and institutions for their trustworthiness and character based upon their words and conduct regarding the multiple scandals hurtling around Washington.

  • Fool: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Mn). Bachmann is talking impeachment, which has signature significance: any elected official who brings up impeachment now or anytime before hard evidence turns up proving that President Obama personally delivered  a bag of gold to the IRS leadership to make sure proprietary tax information was leaked is an utter, irresponsible dolt. 1) No President has ever been convicted after their impeachment, and heaven knows we have had multiple Chief Executives factually guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” It is a waste of time, an all-encompassing political warfare glut that this nation can’t afford at this point, especially when the U.S. Senate is in control of the same party the impeached POTUS belongs to. Yes, I agree with the principle that corrupt Presidents should be punished; I’m glad Bill Clinton got his just desserts, but I also know that if he and the rest of the government had been concentrating on what was going on in the world rather than hiding blue dresses, the Twin Towers might be standing today, and 3000—10,000?—-Americans wouldn’t be dead. Impeachment is like using a nuclear bomb: it’s a useful threat, but the reality is too horrible to permit. 2) Anyone who thinks making Joe Biden President is a solution to anything is certifiable. 3) There is nothing at this point that would support a legitimate impeachment. 4) Putting the scandals in that context just supports the agreed-upon White House and media spin that this is all about politics. Shut up, Michele.
  • Liars: The White House. Not only is Jay Carney still employed, meaning that his various lies are being endorsed and ratified, but today we had to listen to a White House spokesman, Dan Pfeiffer, echoing Obama, tell ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that the controversy over the Benghazi talking points was a GOP fabrication, and the released e-mails proved that Susan Rice was completely accurate in the approved message she carried to the American people, and, as she represented, she was stating the CIA’s “best intelligence” regarding the cause of the deadly Benghazi attack. This designated White House toady even had the gall to say that Rice was owed an apology. Shameless. Here are the original CIA memos outlining its conclusions regarding the attack, before the State Department and the White House made their infamous twelve substantive edits that Carney referred to as one “stylistic” edit and subsequent edited version, incuding the much diminished final version:

DRAFT I talking pointsNow here is the worst of Rice’s statements that deceit-soaked Sunday, on CNN:

“Let’s recall what has happened in the last several days. There was a hateful video that was disseminated on the Internet. It had nothing to do with the United States government and it’s one that we find disgusting and reprehensible. It’s been offensive to many, many people around the world. That sparked violence in various parts of the world, including violence directed against western facilities including our embassies and consulates. That violence is absolutely unacceptable, it’s not a response that one can ever condone when it comes to such a video. And we have been working very closely and, indeed, effectively with the governments in the region and around the world to secure our personnel, secure our embassy, condemn the violent response to this video. And, frankly, we’ve seen these sorts of incidents in the past. We’ve seen violent responses to (Salman Rushdie’s novel, The) Satanic Verses. We’ve seen violent responses to the cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in an evil way. So this is something we’ve seen in the past, and we expect that it’s possible that these kinds of things could percolate into the future. What we’re focused on is securing our personnel, securing our facilities. …(It was a) horrific incident where some mob was hijacked ultimately by a handful of extremists.”

Did the CIA talking points mention a video? No. This is deceit par excellence. The CIA said that the protest at the embassy in Cairo sparked the attacks, not that the two incidents were inspired by the same thing. There is a material and substantive difference, and Rice knows it, between a riot in Cairo giving terrorists the idea that this would be a good time to make their own attack in Libya, which is what the CIA concluded, and a video inciting violence in both countries. If an Egyptian got sick from eating a stale ham sandwich at a restaurant in Cairo and his furious extended family demonstrated outside the American embassy, and that riot inspired Libyans with a different agenda to attack the outpost in Benghazi, would anyone honestly say that the attack was in retribution for the ham sandwich? Of course not—but that is equivalent to what Rice, Obama, Clinton, the State Department, and the White House set out to make the American public believe.

Did the CIA talking points in the form that exemplified their best assessment at the time mention al Qaida? Yes. Did  Rice? Only once in her five appearances, and then only in response to a direct question on Face the Nation:

 Host Bob Schieffer:Do you agree or disagree with him that al-Qaida had some part in this?”

Rice: “Well, we’ll have to find out that out. I mean I think it’s clear that there were extremist elements that joined in and escalated the violence. Whether they were al-Qaida affiliates, whether they were Libyan-based extremists or al-Qaida itself I think is one of the things we’ll have to determine.”

Rice leaves the impression that the CIA has yet to find any information tying the attacks to al-Qaida, an intentional misrepresentation. All of this was enough to lead the seriously Obama-leaning Politifact to swallow its bias and rank Jay Carney’s assertion on May 10 that…

“When Susan Rice spoke about Benghazi on Sunday news shows, she said “that al-Qaida might be involved, or other al-Qaida affiliates might be involved, or non-al-Qaida Libyan extremists, which I think demonstrates that there was no effort to play that down.” 

….as “mostly false.” It was false. I’ll attribute the “mostly” to routine PolitiFact bias.

  • Hero: CBS’s Bob Shieffer. [UPDATE: This was discovered after the initial post, and added less than an hour later] “Face the Nation” Bob Shieffer evoked the spirit of what vigorous and ethics broadcast journalism is supposed to be by confronting Pfeiffer (yes, it was Shieffer vs. Pfeiffer) and saying this:

 “But Mr. Pfeiffer, and I don’t mean to be argumentative here, but the President is in charge of the executive branch of the government. It’s my, I’ll just make this as an assertion: when the executive branch does things right, there doesn’t seem to be any hesitancy of the White House to take credit for that. When Osama bin Laden was killed, the President didn’t waste any time getting out there and telling people about it. But with all of these things, when these things happen, you seem to send out officials many times who don’t even seem to know what has happened. And I use as an example of that Susan Rice who had no connection whatsoever to the events that took place in Benghazi, and yet she was sent out, appeared on this broadcast, and other Sunday broadcasts, five days after it happens, and I’m not here to get in an argument with you about who changed which word in the talking points and all that. The bottom line is what she told the American people that day bore no resemblance to what had happened on the ground in an incident where four Americans were killed….But what I’m saying to you is that was just PR. That was just a PR plan to send out somebody who didn’t know anything about what had happened. Why did you do that? Why didn’t the Secretary of State come and tell us what they knew and if he knew nothing say, “We don’t know yet?” Why didn’t the White House Chief of Staff come out? I mean I would, and I mean this as no disrespect to you, why are you here today? Why isn’t the White House Chief of Staff here to tell us what happened?”

  • Hero: ProPublica. Even though the information is not going to make it any easier on their favorite President, the progressive non-profit advocacy group informed the media that the IRS had illegally leaked to it confidential information about conservative groups, supporting a ProPublica attack. That’s integrity: doing the right thing against perceived self-interest, although preventing a politicized tax police agency from using its power to inhibit dissent is in the organization’s long-term interest, and everyone’s. Just wait until President Bachmann is in office, ProPublica; you’ll be glad you di the right thing.
  • Incompetents: President Obama and Attorney General Holder. Don’t take my word for it, ask them. Each has sworn that he is completely unaware of major initiatives and official misconduct in government departments and agencies over which he has direct control. A probe was underway implicating the I.R.S’s efforts to target conservative groups since early 2012, but the President just heard about it when we did. He repeated the disinformation that the Benghazi attacks were in response to a video before the U.N., but will hold nobody under his supervision responsible for making him an engine of deceit. It’s not just in the areas currently getting most of the headlines, either. The President is Commander-in-Chief for the Armed Forces,  and as any observer of the Democratic National Convention knows, he in the standard bearer for “the party of women.” Yet on his watch, as detailed in a recent Pentagon report, women have received systemic  sexual abuse across the Armed Services at a shocking rate. The results of his non-management of the Executive Branch are evident in other ways as well: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, who already violated the Hatch Act last election and was given a pass, is now using her position to solicit private support — including from insurance companies — for Enroll America, a nonprofit group devoted to expanding access to health care that a former Obama administration staffer runs.This may be illegal, but is unquestionably unethical. Where’s her supervisor? Oh…right. There are no consequences for poor, inept or corrupt  performance under this passive Chief Executive….which brings us back to Holder. The Attorney General has already claimed under oath that a deadly plan to send guns to Mexico was going on under his nose without his knowledge, and then this month appeared to have no idea with any certainty when he gave up his statutory duty to sign off on massive media phone surveillance. He appeared before Congress with no notes, few facts, and the general attitude of a disinterested and clueless bystander to his own department’s activities. Such a strategy may keep the indictments away, but they should also guarantee an imminent job hunt—and would if his own boss was any more vigilant than he is.
  • Spinners: Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), most of MSNBC’s gang, and anyone, anywhere who makes a point of noting that s0me of the key I.R.S. officials involved in the current scandal were originally Bush appointees, as if this changes anything, excuses anything, or diminishes the Obama Administration’s culpability one ion. Rep. Crowley repeatedly made this one of his talking points while being interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, and it is an instance of  “take your pick”: is he that stupid, or does he just think the public is? What supervisor, in any organization, ever points to the person who hired one of that supervisor’s staff as sharing culpability for conduct that occurs after the hiring supervisor is no longer in charge? None…because it is ridiculous, and a violation of the principles of management responsibility. The current regime is 100% responsible for the staff it elects to retain and for the performance of the staff it oversees. Did Doug Shulman, the I.R.S. chief in charge during most of the period under scrutiny, engage in misconduct under Obama when he did not while under Bush? That’s Obama’s responsibility. Was he demonstrably corrupt and incompetent under Bush, but Obama’s Administration allowed him to stay on? That’s also Obama’s responsibility. The I.R.S. chief is supposed to be a non-partisan job, but subordinates often conform their performance to the signals they get from above, and Obama and top Democrats certainly painted Tea Party groups as menaces to the realm. Suggesting that an employee’s origin constitutes another opportunity to blame Bush for what happens under President Obama is as disgraceful spin as anything I have heard for a very long time…at least a month.
  • Spinner: David Axelrod, long-time Obama advisor, who actually told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: ““Part of being president is there’s so much underneath you because the government is so vast. You go through these [controversies] all because of this stuff that is impossible to know if you’re the president or working in the White House, and yet you’re responsible for it and it’s a difficult situation.” Translation: “The President isn’t up to the job.” If that’s going to be the pathetic excuse for abuse of power and incompetence, then it’s time to get someone in the office who has the capability to handle it.  If a leader can’t oversee everything, and he can’t, then he must delegate to competent deputies, and oversee them. If the government is too big to keep it from abusing the rights of citizens, then stop trying to make it bigger: by definition, it is only responsible to create powerful entities that can be controlled and managed. “Don’t blame us: look at how big, complex, unmanageable and dangerous we’ve let this get!” Seriously, Mr. Axelrod? When Jurassic Park fell apart and people were being eaten, even John Hammond, its creator, didn’t have the brass to trot out that excuse.
  • Truth-Teller: Katrina vanden Heuvel. The editor of the ultra-left Nation is an ideologue, but she is not a partisan. She used her place on today’s ABC morning panel to make certain that the Justice Department’s First Amendment foul in the AP surveillance was not engulfed in the shadow of Benghazi and the I.R.S. debacle. She condemned the Obama Administration for unprecedented incursions against the First Amendment, following and expanding on the lead of the Bush Administration and the Patriot Act. I disagree with vanden Heuvel and others who seem to think that leakers who violate laws, government ethics and obligations of confidentiality should not be aggressively persued—they should. But chilling the diligence of journalists cannot be part of that process. Vanden Heuvel is a progressive true believer, but she will not abandon her principles out of political loyalty, and principles she has. You may not agree with her, but she won’t lie to us.
  • Ethics Dunce: NPR.  Or perhaps unintentional truth-teller? Today I heard two NPR reporters discussing the current scandals, and when they got to the Associated Press story, one of them said, “This is an administration that acts like it doesn’t need any friends.” The other laughed and agreed. But contrary to the usual attitude and approach of NPR, as well as its brethren in the mainstream media, journalists aren’t supposed to be the “friends” of entrenched government power-wielders, but their objective, adversarial critics and watch-dogs. The refusal of the press to meet that obligation has been part of the problem in the United States for many years, and especially under Obama.
  • Ethics Dunces, Fools and Liars:  You can sort those responsible  as you choose fit, beginning with the President, but every second Sarah Hall Ingram remains in her current post as head of the I.R.S. section responsible for enforcing the tax provisions of the Affordable Care Act, it is a calculated (or inexplicably brain dead) insult to the public, common sense, and the respect for the public trust.  She was in charge of the tax-exempt unit during the period it began targeting conservative groups for excessive scrutiny, and received over $100,000 in bonuses for her performance, though the out-going acting Commissioner pronounced the conduct “horrible customer service.” Then again, he also called her an exemplary public servant; try reconciling those two statements.

Either he was lying (one way or the other), or he was accurately reflecting the bizarre leadership philosophy of the Obama Administration and its oddly unflappable enablers: just because you do a lousy job doesn’t mean you aren’t still wonderful.


Sources: PolitiFact, The Weekly Standard, ABCDaily Caller, Washington Post, USA Today, The Hill, Huffington Post

6 thoughts on “Heroes, Dunces, Truthtellers, Liars, Spinners, Incompetents, and Fools: More Ethics Forensics On The Government Scandal Wave

  1. “Fool: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Mn). Bachmann is talking impeachment, …. 2) Anyone who thinks making Joe Biden President is a solution to anything is certifiable.”

    So if you want to be President and want to make sure you aren’t impeached then choose an someone who will be seen as an incompetent for Vice President, e.g. Biden, Cheney, Palin, Quayle.

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