Joseph Curl, writing for the Washington Times, has a list of so-called scandals of the Obama administration, along with his complaints that no one is ever held accountable (heads should roll!) for them. The problem for Curl is peculiar, because not only do the facts not support him, even he doesn’t support him!
The phone records scandal
This is not an Obama scandal for which heads should roll, according to… wait for it…. Curl himself! In a column almost exactly a year ago (6/3/13), Curl mocked this non-scandal with, “Turns out the president has been doing — Wait, what? Exactly what presidents have been doing since 1978? Stop the presses!” Curl exposed a number of lies the Right was telling about the issue and declared the activity legal and useful.
Curl also mocked other “scandals,” which hedeclared “not a scandal,” and suggested that the Obama Administration has been crafting this series of non-scandals as a way to distract the media, to allow Obama to remind people of Bush’s failures, and to lure Republicans into making fools of themselves. Curl wrote:
…Republicans awoke from the slumber long enough to decry — the very thing they supported under George W. Bush. Bonanza. “Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American,” said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., author of the excessive and un-American Patriot Act in 2001.
In fact, President Bush went to great lengths to keep the phone spying activity secret: In a meeting that had no precedent, Bush called the editor of the NY Times to the White House and tried to keep from print an exposé of the NSA’s efforts to monitor phone calls without court-approved warrants.
The IRS Scandal
First, there was no scandal, and his use of the word undermines Curl’s credibility – particularly, since Curl himself said so.
The IRS audit report found that words such as “Israel,” “progressive” and “Occupy” were, in addition to “patriot” and “Tea Party,” used as red-flags for greater scrutiny, but that the auditors had been asked by House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) “to narrowly focus on Tea Party organizations.” By the way, non-political groups were also flagged for closer scrutiny.
The FBI investigated and stated it found no evidence of “enemy hunting” of the kind that had been suspected, but that the investigation did reveal the IRS to be a mismanaged bureaucracy enforcing rules that IRS personnel did not fully understand.
No heads that rolled? Curl, himself, said “it’ll end with a few heads lopped off, mostly done already.” So, a year ago, Curl had noted that people had already been punished for this non-scandal.
IRS Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman resigned after his first congressional inquiry on complaints. On May 15, 2013, President Obama announced that his Treasury Secretary had requested and accepted Acting Commissioner Steve Miller’s resignation. Joseph H. Grant, commissioner of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, retired on June 3, 2013. Lois Lerner refused to resign, so she was placed on administrative leave. Lerner retired effective September 23, 2013.
The Obamacare website scandal
What scandal? There were glitches, in some states, in setting up a website for the largest system innovation since the birth of Medicare. That’s expected, not scandalous. Fifty-five separate for-profit companies built healthcare.gov – thanks to conservative laws that force us to worship the false god of privatization—so if there’s a scandal, it belongs to the GOP members of Congress who forced us to bow to this idol.
And, although the president cannot fire personnel at private businesses, the administration did, in effect, “fire” the company the botched the web site creation. The firing of CGI Federal, the principal contractor behind the federal website as well as several similarly troubled state exchange sites around the country, coincides with many officials noting the same contractor’s failure at the state level as well. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is considering suing CGI. Vermont has withheld more than $5 million in payments to CGI Federal, noting that the contractor and others who worked on that state’s online portal have “underperformed at every turn.” (It is also worth noting the CGI Federal and its acquired companies have a history of cost overruns, delays, and failure to deliver products as promised.) CGI Federal’s parent company, Montreal-based CGI Group, was officially terminated in September 2012 by an Ontario government health agency after the firm missed three years of deadlines and failed to deliver the province’s flagship online medical registry.
So, yes, heads did roll, despite Curl’s assertion.
The spying scandal
Curl is trying to make his case by padding it – this is not a scandal. The German chancellor’s feelings might have been hurt, but the fact is that for at least the past 50 years, the US has been spying on foreign leaders. Nearly a century ago, long before the NSA existed, there was the Black Chamber, founded after World War I, — formally called the Cipher Bureau and disguised as a commercial company — existed to crack the communications codes of foreign governments.
By the way, they’re spying on us, too:
“Let’s be honest — we eavesdrop too. Everyone is listening to everyone else,” former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told France Info radio. If the NSA earns special scorn, he added, it’s because “we don’t have the same means as the United States — which makes us jealous.”
The Fast and Furious scandal
A Fortune investigation reveals that the ATF never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. How the world came to believe just the opposite is a tale of rivalry, murder, and political bloodlust. The six-month Fortune investigation reveals that the public case alleging that ATF agents walked guns is replete with distortions, errors, partial truths, and even some outright lies.
Irony abounds when it comes to the Fast and Furious scandal, but the ultimate irony is this: Republicans who support the National Rifle Association and its attempts to weaken gun laws are lambasting ATF agents for not seizing enough weapons—even ones that, in this case, prosecutors deemed to be legal. Also, according to the DOJ. the idea for “gun walking” — allowing illegal sales of weapons on the border — originated under the Bush administration in 2006, long before Eric Holder took office in 2009. Holder actually moved to replace the ATF’s management and instill reforms. The OIG report found “no evidence” that Holder knew about Fast and Furious before early 2011 and no evidence that previous attorneys general had been advised about gunwalking in its predecessor, Operation Wide Receiver.
Conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer appeared on Fox News and tried to temper the network’s flogging of the story, saying it made Republicans look bad and predicting leaders would “get off this train as soon as they can.”
Curl’s claim that no one was held accountable is an enormous lie. Several high-ranking officials resigned, apologies were made, and numerous lower ranking officials were punished. But oh those pesky facts have tripped him up:
- ATF Agent Vince Cefalu’s employment was terminated;
- William Newell was reassigned (i.e., demoted);
- David Voth was reassigned (i.e., demoted);
- William McMahon was reassigned (i.e., “demoted”);
- Acting ATF Director Melson was been reassigned to the Justice Department;
- U.S. Attorney Burke announced his resignation;
- Patrick Cunningham, who was the criminal division chief at the Phoenix office of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona and has since resigned;
- ATF Deputy Director William Hoover retired;
- the DOJ Inspector General’s report recommended 14 federal officials for disciplinary action; and
- Gary Grindler, Eric Holder’s chief of staff who was faulted in the OIG report, left the Justice Department.
The Benghazi scandal
Curl’s claim that “Obama and his minions refused to comment for months” fails when lined up with the public record:
The day of the attack, the White House contact Youtube about it, asking Youtube to take down an inflammatory video.;
- Just 14 hours after the attack, President Obama was on 60 Minutes, commenting on the attack;
- the day after the attack, Obama spoke on the attack twice, and Jay Carney and Hillary Clinton both made statements;
- two days after the attack, comments were made by President Obama, the State Department, and a high-ranking administration official;
- three days after the attack, Hillary Clinton spoke publicly about it, as did Jay Carney (who spoke of it on 9/18, 9/19 and 9/20);
- five days after the attack, Susan Rice was on Face the Nation, commenting on it, and she spoke about the attack on the Sunday morning news talk shows that weekend;
- three days later, Matthew Olsen addressed the matter with Congress;
- on 9/20, the president addressed it on a Univision Town Hall;
- Obama spoke of it again on ABC News on 9/21 and again on The View on 9/25;
- on 9/26, Carney had more to say;
- Joe Panetta and Fran Townsend spoke of it on 9/17;
- Shawn Turner commented on 9/28;
- the State Department commented twice on 10/1; and
- on 10/3, Clinton had more to say.
I could go on at length, but you get my drift: Curl is either profoundly ignorant or a liar.
The VA scandal
Curl’s attempt to pin the scandal on President Obama is worthy of special derision. First, there’s the current hypocrisy – the Republicans, just three months ago, blocked a bill to increase spending meant to address the veteran care backlog – and historical hypocrisy — while this president hasn’t done enough to end this backlog, ALL of the previous presidents hadn’t done enough to end the backlog and to end poor treatment of veterans. As traditions go, mistreating our veterans is a fully bipartisan endeavor. As comedian Jon Stewart pointed out:
- Under Reagan, the VA instructed its people to lie about their mortality rates;
- The Reagan administration denied liability in the Agent Orange contamination cases and suppressed evidence of harm to Vietnam veterans – a scandal that wasn’t rectified for another 20 years
- In 1932, 10,000 WW I veterans marched on Washington DC to demand the war bonuses they’d been promised 15 years earlier – when the protest swelled to 20,000 Hoover sent in the Army which came in with bayonets fixed and sabers drawn, followed by tanks, and blood was spilled and lives were lost;
- In 1783, soldiers took Congress hostage to try to get the money the government had promised them; heir leaders were sentenced to death (the sentences were later commuted).
One less charitable than I might suggest that Curl’s employer could view this level of incompetence as scandalous and conclude that “someone” needs to be held accountable.