It’s the attempt by the federal government to make legal acts, or marginally illegal acts, literally a federal case.
President Obama is currently embroiled in three situations labeled as political scandal. The IRS scandal is the most problematic in that it involves a highly disliked arm of government that affects almost everyone’s lives. But I agree that the REAL scandal in the IRS issue is that there are lots of political groups on both ends of the political spectrum getting tax-exempt status, when that designation should be limited to more cultural/civic issues. Since the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court in 2010, there have been far more organizations of every political stripe trying to influence elections, sometimes illegally. Also, the richer applicants fell under lesser scrutiny, a real class distinction. The President has shown public indignation over this particular issue, but he may be missing the bigger picture.
The notion that the Benghazi story is bigger than Watergate and Iran contra combined suggests that the “silly season” has already begun, Bob Woodward’s assertion notwithstanding. If there are altered documents, it may be Republicans feeding them to the mainstream media. At the end of the day, the real story on the government side will be that the US was ill-prepared for an attack in a hot spot, on a significant day (9/11 in 2012) despite warnings within the Administration, that no help was available to those who died there; that’s the scandal. The “talking points” of who said what, and when? An issue will be made of this, but it seems like usual interagency jockeying, rather than malicious intent to me.
I’m much more concerned by the unethical seizure of phone records of Associated Press journalists in connection to media leaks; it’s not just that First Amendment “freedom of speech” thing; it’s a Fourth Amendment “unreasonable search and seizure” thing, which has the effect of stifling whistleblowers. It’s the attempt to make legal acts, or marginally illegal acts, literally a federal case. One saw this in the Aaron Schwartz case, huge governmental overreach. The story of the octogenarian nun in federal prison for protesting may tick you off as it did me.
The President, as noted, seems to be worked up over one of these issues, but is more defensive about the other two. I would wish he’d get more excited about trampling people’s constitutional rights, but that does not appear to be in the cards. I find his behavior disappointing, to say the least.
Still, when the I word gets thrown around, I agree with this assessment: “it would take about fifty of each of the three to collectively equal Watergate, let alone the impeachment and incarceration we should have had over Iraq.”
I made the most unfortunate error of listening to the news all afternoon on Friday, April 19.
* I have been to Boston several times in my life, though not in the past five years. I had an ex whose family lived near there. I loved the mass transit in the region.
* My very good friend Karen used to live in Somerville, which is just north of Cambridge, part of the area where a lot of the activity on Friday took place. Her sister, who I have known for decades, still lives in that section, and I was wondering how much she had directly affected by the shutdown.
* I won $17,600 on JEOPARDY! in Boston in 1998, with friends Karen and Judy, and Judy’s son Max in the audience.
* Some talking head wondered if the bombing in Boston would make Americans more sensitive to the ravages of war that take place in Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere. My guess is no.
* A lot of bad info from CNN, who had reported a bomber had been captured on April 17, then awkwardly walked back its own story on-air later that afternoon.
* Amy’s poem Boston Meltdown reminded me why I stopped watching ABC News; it was the cult of personality – “Diane Sawyer’s my friend!” – which rankles me.
* As terrifying and awful as the Marathon bombing was on Monday, April 15, the shootout, manhunt, and capture on April 19 was tenser in that one knew what COULD happen with the remaining suspect. My daughter in particular was tense over the fact that the Watertown neighborhood looked like a war setting.
* I made the most unfortunate error of listening to the news all afternoon on Friday, April 19. Tried listening to NBC but it kept reloading on my computer. Listened to four hours of CNN, expecting the door-to-door search would surely glean the suspect. No go. Then CNN timed out on my computer. Paying attention gave me a terrible headache.
* Yet then listened to CBS News when the announcement that the suspect was not captured but that the lockdown was over (wha!), but had gone to dinner when the capture of the alleged second bomber took place.
*Still, there were two interesting threads in the interviews of the suspects’ families. Their uncle in Maryland, who called the young men “punks,” wore the ethnic badge of shame, that their alleged actions brought shame to the Chechen people, that was very much like all of South Korea seemed to feel after it was revealed that the Virginia Tech shooter was from there. I’d forgotten that the VT massacre (32 dead, 17 wounded) was this time of the month (April 16, 2007).
* The mother and father, back in the former USSR, and the aunt in Canada, conversely, seemed to think the younger son was incapable of such heinous actions. The aunt, who is a lawyer, was particularly fond of the theory that her nephews were framed. One CNN reporter suggested the mother was “deluded”; a mother not believing her son was a killer seems understandable. The classmates of the younger suspect, who survived the shootouts, expressed great surprise as well.
* Even before this, I had pretty much decided that I wasn’t a big fan of large crowds such as New Orleans at Mardi Gras and Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
* The family went to see West Side Story at Albany High School Sunday afternoon. It was quite good, especially the young woman playing Anita. I wonder, though, if the decision to have a sign on the front window, which said they would be taking extra precautions as a “result of Boston and other recent events,” was a function of the violence in the musical. Everyone was wanded.
* In the sermon, the pastor noted she had scrapped what she was thinking about in terms of her sermon after Monday afternoon. She noted that times were also difficult when Psalm 23 was written: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
SamuraiFrog writes: “The trailer for Now Is Good promised me only half of what I’m feeling right now, after having watched the film this morning.” Very touching blurring of film review and personal recollection.
Stephen Colbert interviewed Jon Stewart “at the Wellmont Theatre, a fundraiser for the Montclair Film Festival. While the two have discussed their work onstage together before, this was their first lengthy public one-on-one. And despite their 14-year professional relationship, each brought forth stories that surprised both each other and the sold-out audience.”
How Superman’s Butt Saved Christmas. “Blame SamuraiFrog for this one, folks — he gave me the title! I deny all accountability,” Jaquandor pleaded. “Except for the part where I write the following tale. Which I’m doing stream-of-conscious, right off the top of my head. No editing.”
The key lesson of Watergate seems to have been “it’s not the crime, it’s the coverup.”
Five burglars involved with the break-in of the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel on June 17, 1972, were arrested; a couple more, involved in the operation, were also detained. The term used by President Richard Nixon’s Press Secretary, Ron Ziegler, to describe the event was “a third rate burglary attempt.” The seven were tried and convicted, President Richard Nixon was reelected in a landslide, and that was that. Except for the fact that two years later, the President was forced to resign in order to avoid almost certain impeachment.
I could not do justice to the story in such limited space – I recommend this Washington Post retrospective – but I do want to convey how important this story was to me personally, and how it played out provided an optimism about “the process” that I have seldom had since.
The US Senate had a select committee operate from May 17 to August 7, 1973, and shown in rotation by the three major networks. Riveting story and I watched it as often as possible, as did most of the country, though some soap opera fans were furious; this was better than the made-up stuff.
It got REALLY interesting when White House assistant Alexander Butterfield revealed that there were listening devices in the Oval Office of the President. Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox subpoenaed the tapes, as did the Senate, but Nixon refused to release them, citing executive privilege and ordered Cox to drop his subpoena, which Cox refused. On October 20, 1973, Nixon demanded the resignations of Attorney General Richardson and his deputy William Ruckelshaus for refusing to fire the special prosecutor, finally getting the reluctant Solicitor General Robert Bork to do so; this was referred to as the “Saturday night massacre.” It was pretty much downhill from there, with each new revelation pointing closer to RMN himself.
I remember SO many of the characters in this drama. Chair of the Senate select committee Sam Ervin of North Carolina had a folksy demeanor, yet stayed on task. During the House committee hearings on impeachment, Republican House member William Cohen of Maine’s looked pained as he recognized his President’s failings. Charles Colson was convicted of obstruction of justice; he became involved in prison ministry, and he died only a couple of months ago (Arthur had a take on him).
It reminded me how checks and balances used to work, with even Republicans communicating to a GOP chief executive that an abuse of power had taken place. And it was also a time when a vigorous press was a true fourth estate, holding government accountable, but in turn, holding itself responsible for what is published in return. I do miss those days. Oh, here’s the trailer to the film All The President’s Men, which addresses the latter aspect.