Friday Digest

Crisis, Scandal and Tyranny

May 17, 2013
“If the federal government should … make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people … must appeal to the standard they have formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify.” –Alexander Hamilton

It was a bad week for the president. Of course, opposition to his agenda is nothing new, and neither is his history of using scandal and crisis to maintain his perpetual campaign. What made this week especially bad is that his Leftmedia sycophants suddenly got a dose of his medicine.

The IRS targeting groups with “Patriot” or “Tea Party” in their name was the big news of the week, but we’ve endured four-and-a-half years of this kind of scandal and crisis exploitation by Barack Obama – Benghazi, Operation Fast and Furious, Newtown, the BP oil spill, crony “stimulus” deals, EPA political favoritism (more on that below) and HHS fundraising (also more below), just to name a few. For the IRS, Obama tells us that no special prosecutor is needed. He’s got it; no worries.

In every case, plausible deniability is the name of the game. Obama is always careful to use bureaucratic managers who act as cutouts to take the perceived fall for his misdeeds – those “low-level employees” in Cincinnati, for example – but the community organizer in chief has cultivated corruption in government since 2009. You can take the politician out of Chicago, but you can’t take Chicago out of the politician.

Former adviser David Axelrod offered his explanation of the problem: “Part of being president is there’s so much beneath you that you can’t know because the government’s so vast.” Yes, he said this in defense of the president. In reality, that’s the best case anyone could make for constitutionally limited government. As Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) observed, “The more power any government has, the more power it will abuse.”

In related news, another IRS scandal is brewing. A HIPAA-covered data management company is suing the IRS after agents seized the personal and confidential medical records of more than 10 million patients in 2011. The IRS had a search warrant to obtain financial information of a former employee of the data management company, but according to the legal complaint, “It did not authorize any seizure of any healthcare or medical record of any persons, least of all third parties completely unrelated to the matter. This is an action involving the corruption and abuse of power… No search warrant authorized the seizure of these records; no subpoena authorized the seizure of these records; none of the 10,000,000 Americans were under any kind of known criminal or civil investigation and their medical records had no relevance whatsoever to the IRS search.”

By the way, we learned yesterday that Sarah Hall Ingram, who headed up Obama’s IRS office in charge of tax-exempt groups during its period of conservative persecution and was paid $103,390 just in bonuses during that time, is now in charge of enforcing ObamaCare at the IRS. And we’re supposed to trust this government with our health care or with background checks for gun purchases or with countless other unconstitutional encroachments in our daily lives?

The Leftmedia finally began to understand – or at least to feel the brunt of – the problem when the Justice Department seized phone records on more than 20 separate lines used by the Associated Press in April and May of last year. Trafficking guns to Mexico that result in the deaths of two federal agents and hundreds of Mexican citizens? Not interested. Leaving four Americans to die in a terrorist attack in Benghazi and then lying about what happened to ensure re-election? Got better things to do. Listening in on AP phone calls? Outrageous!

Yet the AP investigation is entirely different from the other issues, except that it appears, as was the case with the Benghazi cover up, to be yet another attempt to promote Obama as having conquered al-Qa'ida. According to Fox News, “The government would not say why it sought the records. Officials have previously said in public testimony that the U.S. attorney in Washington is conducting a criminal investigation into who may have provided information contained in a May 7, 2012, AP story about a foiled terror plot. The story disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an Al Qaeda plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States.” It’s likely that cover was blown for an inside source as a result.

Those who leak information that is classified or that exposes intel methods should be caught and prosecuted, notwithstanding the general media belief that they’re above the law. Perhaps now the Leftmedia will shake off their Stockholm Syndrome and begin to take seriously this administration’s habitual abuse of power.

(Speaking of things classified, the U.S. Marshals Service lost two “known or suspected terrorists” from its witness protection program. Oops!)

Finally, we note again that it’s no small irony that Obama delivered a commencement address at Ohio State University two weeks ago, where he counseled graduates, “Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn … that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.”

Reject them, he says – because they’re telling the truth.

Quote of the Week

“Obama recently warned some college graduates against being all worried about government tyranny, and Obama has good reason to warn you against that because worrying about government tyranny is the exact sort of thing that will get you audited. Or, when Obamacare is in full force, it will be the attitude that gets you denied life saving health care. So have faith in government. Or it will get you.” –humorist Frank J. Fleming

This Week’s ‘Non Compos Mentis’ Award

“They make so much of these issues because this president is such a great president.” –Nancy Pelosi

Government and Politics

Hope ‘n’ Change: Solicitation and Cost Increases

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius reached out to various health industry officials to solicit financial and material donations to aid in the implementation of ObamaCare. On top of other flashier scandals this week, it was revealed that she made phone calls and wrote letters to industry executives, community organizations and church groups to prompt them to give until it hurts. Presumably, the larger the group, the more is expected of them. House and Senate Republicans are opening formal inquiries into whether Sebelius broke the law, but naturally HHS claims she acted within her authority because Congress hasn’t provided “sufficient” funds and implementing ObamaCare is proving to be more daunting than anticipated. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) gave a succinct response to the HHS defense: “This isn’t a complicated thing. If the administration asks for $5 and Congress appropriates $4, that’s what they get. If the government creates a subterfuge by going outside the government, to raise money through a private entity, that’s a violation of the law.”

Meanwhile, remember that big selling point of ObamaCare bending the health care cost curve down? Well, there’s more confirmation that it’s not going to happen. The Congressional Budget Office says the total cost of ObamaCare over the next 10 years will be $1.8 trillion – twice what Democrats told us four years ago. Furthermore, a new House Energy and Commerce Committee report notes that insurance premiums will rise 100 percent on average, and in some cases, as high as 400 percent. Small businesses will see hikes of 50 to 100 percent. This report was based on internal documents compiled from 17 of the country’s largest insurance companies. The report also notes that the misery of sky-high premiums will be felt across the board from college grads to older adults. Just remember, though: Obama “cares.”

From the Left: Pay Inequality in the White House

Barack Obama issued a memo last Friday calling for the Office of Personnel Management to analyze the federal workers pay system. He expressed concern that women aren’t receiving comparable pay at the federal level, and he wants OPM to assess any differences in wages, job responsibilities and advancement opportunities between male and female employees. OPM is also ordered to recommend how to make the pay system more “equitable” and “transparent.”

Obama isn’t exactly the best spokesman for this issue, however. About 70 percent of top-tier employees at the White House are male, and they earn 13 percent more on average than his female employees. And when Obama was a senator, women on his staff were paid only 78 percent of what men were paid. We’re sure once he finds out about that by watching the news, he’ll remedy the situation.

Income Redistribution: Revenue Up, Debt … Up

The U.S. Treasury reports that federal tax revenues hit an all-time monthly high in April, pulling in roughly $406 billion in individual, corporate, employment and other taxes and fees. This is a whopping 28 percent higher than in April 2012, and it’s thanks to the (temporary) influx of revenue from Obama’s January tax hikes. The federal government ran an April surplus of $112.9 billion, but it’s still deep in the red for fiscal 2012, with a seven-month deficit of $487.6 billion.

The Congressional Budget Office also presented some fleetingly optimistic news, noting that the budget deficit shrank faster than anticipated. According to CBO figures, the deficit for this fiscal year will be $642 billion, about $200 billion less than they projected just three months ago. The revised figure will be equivalent to roughly 4 percent of GDP. In 2009, the $1.4 trillion deficit was 10 percent of GDP. Economists attribute the dramatic drop to higher tax payments and point out that the sequester had a negligible impact in the reduction. There is concern, however, that the drop in the deficit will take the heat off Republicans and Democrats to fix Washington’s long-term spending and entitlement problems – the debt continues to grow. In any event, the dip in the deficit will be short-lived as the Obama administration has cleverly back-loaded a whole host of fees and spending actions related to ObamaCare to kick in after the president is beyond the wrath of the voters. In other words, this is little more than accounting tricks.

Economy

Regulatory Commissars: The Cost of ‘Free’ Information

In January we alerted you to the impending resignation of EPA head Lisa Jackson and speculated it was because Barack Obama would approve the Keystone XL pipeline despite her objections. Months later, though, we’re not digging for a pipeline and the review for Jackson’s successor threatens to take as long as Obama’s Keystone dithering.

Gina McCarthy, Obama’s nominee to replace Jackson, was asked by Senate Republicans to respond to hundreds of written questions, causing Democrats to chafe at what they consider excessive scrutiny. Yet one question that also needs to be answered is why the agency had a differing standard of transparency and Freedom of Information Act fee waivers depending on the political persuasion of the group making the request. (That, of course, sounds familiar.)

The pro-business Competitive Enterprise Institute, a frequent EPA critic, outlined the problem: According to CEI Senior Fellow Christopher Horner, who tracked the information over a 14-month period, CEI was denied the request in 14 out of 15 requests for such waivers. Meanwhile, pro-environmental groups received a fee waiver in 75 of 82 cases. “EPA’s practice is to take care of its friends and impose ridiculous obstacles to deny problematic parties,” said Horner. “This is a clear pattern of favoritism.”

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who is leading the charge against confirming the former assistant to Jackson, noted the developing FOIA scandal at the EPA “is really no different than the IRS disaster,” and vowed to add this to his line of questioning. The game of obfuscation continues.

Around the Nation: States Seek to Take Advantage of Resources

Most of those who know the field will tell you that securing our own energy and reducing our need for foreign resources are attainable goals if we would only open up the process. The extraction of energy within the borders of states like Texas, North Dakota and Pennsylvania has created thousands of new jobs and billions of new dollars enriching state coffers, just as Alaskans enjoyed the bounty of their resources a generation ago.

Now a group of coastal-state governors, including two who already are reaping the rewards of oil exploration – Alaska’s Sean Parnell and Texas’s Rick Perry – called on the federal government to allow their states to further explore offshore drilling. Speaking at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, Parnell and Perry were joined in this plea by the governors of Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina as well as other representatives from Louisiana and Virginia. Proposed exploration in all of these states is stymied by Obama’s intentional hindrance after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. New drilling is severely curtailed in the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska, and states bordering the Atlantic endure an outright ban since the spill disaster three years ago.

So far their pleas have fallen on deaf ears, although Barack Obama is quick to take credit for the increased oil production (ahem, on private land) during his tenure.

Detroit May Go Bankrupt

According to Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, the Motor City is on the verge of bankruptcy. Orr, a Washington-based turnaround expert and bankruptcy attorney, was appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in an effort to stop the city’s downward spiral. Currently, Detroit has a $162 million negative bank account balance, and its long-term debt is in the neighborhood of $14 billion.

No one needed Orr to tell them the city, which has for decades been run exclusively by Democrats, is in big trouble; it already lost a quarter of its population between 2000 and 2011. However, he did find that at the root of Detroit’s problems are (shock and surprise!) overspending and corruption. What is not the problem is revenue. Detroit ranks ninth in highest taxes among America’s largest cities.

Now that Orr has identified the disease, he’s eager to administer the medicine. There will be painfully large cuts across the board, including the city’s bloated public sector contractors. He’s currently in the process of negotiating with Detroit’s many creditors. This is usually the point at which Big Labor steps in and tries to strong-arm whoever is threatening their interests, but Orr has statutory authority to unilaterally alter, or even cancel, union contracts. And thanks to Michigan’s right-to-work status, unions have to sing for their supper, rather than taking their dues directly out of workers’ paychecks.

While Orr and others try to stem the bleeding, the Obama administration chooses to double down. Recently, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the Feds will contribute $25 million to Detroit’s new light rail. Too bad there won’t be any residents to ride it.

Security

A Question the Commander in Chief Has NOT Been Asked … Yet

This Saturday, May 18, is Armed Forces Day, first set aside in 1949 by President Harry Truman to recognize the unification of the Armed Forces under the Department of Defense, and to acknowledge the extraordinary dedication and sacrifice of America’s uniformed Patriots, standing ready to defend our nation at home and around the world.

However, there will be no traditional air demonstrations across the nation because the Armed Services have been ordered to ground their precision flight teams – one of the most visible (and audible) recruiting tools at DoD’s disposal.

As we reported in March, among the many highly visible cuts associated with what Obama calls “the Republican Sequester,” his administrative minions at DoD ordered the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels to stand down. Not only were all their public schedules canceled, but Obama also canceled the traditional graduation/commissioning flyovers at our nation’s prestigious service academies.

So here’s the question nobody has asked Obama or his spokesman Jay Carney: How does Obama justify canceling flyovers to honor the commitment and sacrifice of the next generation of young military officers taking their oaths to “support and defend” our Constitution while their commander in chief is using the most expensive luxury jet in the world to ferry him around for political events at enormous expense to taxpayers?

For the record, the $181,757 per flight-hour operating cost of Air Force One does not include the enormous cost of support personnel, facilities and additional support aircraft. Nor does it include the enormous cost to states and local government treasuries for “dignitary visits,” or the significant inconvenience to other air travelers or local commuters.

We do not suggest that Obama should be shopping for bargain coach tickets online, as we commoners do (though maybe that would be a good idea). However, the disparity between all the sequester rhetoric, including cancelation of flyovers at academy graduations, is irreconcilable with the expense of using Air Force One and all associated resources for political junkets. The commander in chief is thumbing his nose at the troops! (Kind of like when he forced a Marine to violate regulations and hold an umbrella over Obama’s head at a press conference.)

And a footnote: Author Robert Keith Gray notes in “Presidential Perks Gone Royal” that the $1.4 billion tax dollars spent on the Obamas last year, including “the biggest staff in history at the highest wages ever” and Air Force One’s “running with the frequency of a scheduled air line,” has increased dramatically over previous administrations.

Benghazi Trouble Rolls On

Last week, Mark Alexander presented a comprehensive analysis of the Banghazi debacle along with key questions this administration refuses to answer. We now have a clearer picture of how the cover-up went down in the days following the attack. On Wednesday, the White House released more than 100 pages of emails that were intended to squelch the resurfaced scandal but have instead mired Obama’s regime deeper into the controversy.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the “talking points were edited to remove a mention of al Qaeda and to delete sentences referring to previous warnings about extremist threats in Benghazi.” What originally read “Islamic extremists with ties to al Qaeda” was dumbed down to read “Islamic extremists,” and finally to just “extremists,” notes Stephen Hayes at The Weekly Standard. Also scratched were the “half dozen references to terrorists – both in Benghazi and more generally.” And how’s this for a non-shocker: You won’t find any mention of the now infamous YouTube video mocking Mohammed on which then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice, Obama and other officials tried to blame the attack.

Additionally, both White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outright lied when they claimed that, first, the talking points didn’t undergo major revisions and, second, the CIA was primarily responsible for the final talking points. Carney claimed in November: “The White House and the State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points … were changing the word ‘consulate’ to ‘diplomatic facility,’ because the word ‘consulate’ was inaccurate.” Clearly, that’s a load of horse pucky. In January, Clinton testified that the “intelligence community was the principal decider about what went into talking points.” On the contrary, the biggest changes were made because of State Department objections. House Republicans are moving forward with creating a special panel to investigate, and the emails further prove that there is still more to this story than this administration will admit.

Finally, Obama is slated to give Rice the biggest promotion of her political career – Rice leads the contenders for the next National Security Advisor. We suppose it’s only fitting that Obama would reward Rice, who was willing to take the hit to help ensure Obama’s re-election.

Immigration Biometrics Amendment Defeated

On Tuesday, senators on the Judiciary Committee considering amendments to the immigration reform package defeated an attempt by some Republicans to require biometric identification, such as fingerprinting or iris scanning, for tracking those entering and leaving the country. The amendment, proposed by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), would have required the U.S. to establish a biometric system before any illegal alien could obtain permanent residency or citizenship.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who is a central member of the so-called Gang of Eight pushing immigration reform, expressed his disappointment in the defeat. His spokesman, Alex Conant, said, “Immigration reform must include the best exit system possible because persons who overstay their authorized stay are a big reason we now have so many illegal immigrants.” We in our humble shop would point out that the actual reason we have so many illegals is because people are overstaying their unauthorized stays – but who are we to quibble. Interestingly, four other members of the Gang of Eight, two Republicans (Flake and Graham) and two Democrats (Schumer and Durbin), voted against the amendment. All this seems to indicate that any significant changes to the Gang’s original immigration reform bill will probably be defeated.

Quite naturally, privacy groups have always opposed this type of centralized, federal database of people’s biometric information, fearing it would lead to government abuse. And given this week’s revelations about recent IRS and Justice Department abuses, that fear is well founded. The last thing Americans need is an Obama regime that can more easily track their every movement, text, call, visit, purchase, or whatever, any time of the day or night.

Culture

Gosnell Convicted, Sentenced to Life

Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell was sentenced this week to life in prison – a stark contrast to the sentence given to those babies born alive after failed abortions only to be brutally murdered by Gosnell. After being found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder, Gosnell waived his right to appeal in order to avoid a possible death sentence. Not surprisingly, but still grotesquely, the pro-abortion lobby is falling over itself to blame Gosnell’s atrocities on abortion restrictions. “The numbers don’t lie,” NARAL Pro-Choice America tweeted, “Gosnell is [the] result of anti-choice attacks on abortion access.” And Kate Michelman, co-chair of WomenVote PA, a program of the Women’s Law Project, stated, “The tragic circumstances that led to women choosing to go to Gosnell’s clinic over reputable health service providers are a foreshadowing of the future if opponents of women’s reproductive rights succeed in legislating reproductive care clinics out of business.”

The verdict – which, as CNS News reports, was reached by a jury in which 9 of the 12 members were “pro-choice” – prompted Heritage Foundation’s Sarah Torre to write, “Justice has been served for a few infants and one mother whose lives were taken” in Gosnell’s clinic. National Review Senior Editor Ramesh Ponnuru isn’t so sure, however: “The question that should haunt us now,” he wrote, “is not how many victims Gosnell killed, which we will never know, but how many more Gosnells there are in our country.” Indeed, as mounting evidence shows, there are many. Even beyond Ponnuru’s question, though, is the question of how much longer pro-abortion advocates, legislators and the lobby that they serve will turn a blind eye to the systematic murder of babies even outside the womb.

This Week’s ‘Alpha Jackass’ Award

“Your baby will thank you.” –ad put out by Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading abortion provider

Faith and Family: More States Redefine Marriage

In the last month, Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota became the 10th, 11th and 12th states, respectively, to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. Illinois could be the next domino to fall, while Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington, as well as Washington, DC, have already done so. Rhode Island passed its bill this year after years of trying – it was introduced every year since 1997. Minnesota nearly passed a constitutional amendment to retain the traditional definition of marriage; the rapid turnaround came in just six months.

The issue, of course, is a difficult one for social conservatives to battle because the raw emotional appeal of the Left is difficult to overcome. As Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee put it, “I am proud to say that now at long last, you are free to marry the person you love.” The Left intentionally co-opts the language of Liberty when in reality they are undermining it. What the increased prevalence of same-sex marriage means is that the issue will likely be “settled” by the Supreme Court, much as abortion was “settled” there. In other words, it will become more politicized than ever. It also means that religious leaders and institutions, as well as private businesses who object – say, a florist who won’t provide flowers for a same-sex wedding or photographer who won’t take pictures of one – will face increased pressure to conform or face “discrimination” lawsuits. The homosexual lobby has shown remarkable persistence in their fight to undo cultural norms and to radically re-engineer the fundamental building block of human civilization. Don’t expect them to relent.

And Last…

Amid all the scandal this week, the IRS found itself too busy to keep one event on their calendar – their Friday softball game with Sen. John Cornyn’s staff. The IRS canceled the game and has not rescheduled. The problem could be that the IRS doesn’t specialize in softball, but rather hardball. Lost amid this larger story, however, was one detail we found utterly appropriate: The IRS team’s nickname is “the Cheetahs.”

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team

It's Right. It's Free.