With revelations this week of three scandals involving the Obama administration, it's a fitting time to reflect on the president's biggest controversies since he took the national stage.
1. IRS Crucifixions
EPA official Al Armendariz famously explained his philosophy for enforcement to a crowd in 2010:
“It was kind of like how the Romans used to, you know, conquer villages in the Mediterranean … they'd find the first five guys they saw, and they'd crucify them. And then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.
It looks like Armendariz wasn’t the only bureaucrat who held that vision. Presently developing reports reveal that the Internal Revenue delayed processing tax-exempt applications for conservative groups by up to three years; asked burdensome and inappropriate questions; sought to get lists of people who were involved with the groups; leaked the information to liberal groups; and tried to alter the missions of conservative groups to make them more liberal, in one case telling a group that it would be required to promote abortion.
All three of the most recent controversies threaten to become full-blown scandals. The president’s view that his administration was above the law was apparent long before his re-election; his desire to use the government to transform America was evident as well. Should Americans therefore be surprised by recent revelations, or are they getting the change they voted for?
2. Seizing Records
It was revealed by the Associated Press on Monday that the Justice Department had seized the records of more than 20 separate phone lines belonging to the company or its employees, citing a national security leak as the reason.
Lucy Dalglish, dean of the University of Maryland's College of Journalism, suggested that the seizure was unprecedented in scope. “The only reason you would do that is to intimidate the media and federal employees. An administration that values a free press would very narrowly target such an action. This is a tactic of intimidation. I have seen nothing like this.”
Attorney General Eric Holder claims he had no knowledge of the operation. If Holder is telling the truth, someone in Justice violated departmental guidelines by failing to seek Holder’s authorization. Holder was scheduled to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
Did President Obama acknowledge that the attack on the Benghazi consulate was terrorism, or did he attribute it — as United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice did — to videos on YouTube? Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post suggests that the administration did not attribute the attack to terrorism, and today assigned its fervent objections to the contrary a score of four Pinocchios — the maximum given to inaccurate or dishonest statements.
In the midst of auditor warnings that Solyndra was on the brink of bankruptcy, Obama said in 2010 that Solyndra demonstrated the “promise of clean energy” was “not just an article of faith.” The Department of Energy forked over $535 million in loans to help Solyndra out, and shortly after the company did indeed declare bankruptcy.
5. Tax Cheats
The president believes that the rich should pay more in taxes — unless they work for his administration, in which case he leaves the amount they should pay to their own discretion. It was reported last year that 36 Obama aides owe $833,970 in back taxes. Though most mainstream media outlets ignored that story, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s failure to pay Social Security or Medicare taxes when he worked for the IMF was more well-reported in 2009.
6. Bitter Clingers
Two months later, Obama himself suggested that Americans might not support him because they were “bitter” and “cling to guns and religion.” It was a strange argument considering Americans “cling” to those things less than people in other regions that the President has never mentioned. He has yet to condemn, say, Russia, Africa, or the Middle East for any similar faults.
7. Guns to Mexico
Earlier this month, the president blamed illegal guns and drugs from the United States for causing violence in Mexico. He omitted any reference to Fast and Furious, the operation whereby the ATF encouraged gun retailers to sell merchandise to suspected traffickers and cartel members in order to somehow “track” the members back to their leadership. The ATF lost track of the guns, which have been linked to more than 300 deaths. Not to let the operation go to waste, it was later discovered that the ATF had discussed the possibility of using the operation to argue in favor of putting tighter restrictions on law-abiding gun owners.
8. Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers
As that first election went by, the controversies became more burdensome. In spite of Obama’s objection to those bitter people who clung to guns and religion, it was discovered that he had attended the church of Rev. Jeremiah Wright — who suggested that attendees should sing “God damn America.”
It was also discovered that Obama had a social relationship with ‘60s bomber Bill Ayers, who held a fundraiser for Obama when he first ran for office in 1995, and whose stated goals once included killing “the rich.”
9. Michelle Obama
Little must the president have known in February 2008 that when his wife was criticized for saying that she had never been proud of America before her husband won support for elective office, it would be one of the smallest problems of his elective career.