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Sunday, Dec 21, 2014
Commentary

Proliferating scandals expose truth about Obama

BY JOHN KASS Chicago Tribune
Published:

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Dogged by scandal, and with his press secretary presumably now curled up in the fetal position and breathing into a brown paper bag, it’s obvious President Barack Obama is in need.

Our president must find his happy place again, away from irritating controversies.

Like Benghazi, where four Americans died and he stood before the United Nations and made a phony reference to a ridiculous video in order to save his politics at the expense of the truth.

And now it’s known that his Internal Revenue Service was used to threaten conservative and tea party groups and quash political dissent. The IRS also leaked damaging information from secret files against his political enemies to the media, prompting some to call him President Barack Milhous Obama.

Another scandal, involving the Justice Department seizing reporters’ phone records hoping to find administration leaks, is a chilling assault on the First Amendment that would have made Nixon or J. Edgar Hoover smile.

What Obama requires is another relaxing vacation. This time, the man needs a visit to Happy Land.

So please take my hand, Mr. President, and we’ll fly there, over those political storm clouds in Washington, to where things were just about perfect:

Back home to Chicago. Grant Park. November 2008.

Can you remember the looks of genuine adoration in their eyes?

Some were so overcome they couldn’t help but weep for joy. Others barely stopped their lips from twitching. Still others were wiggly with excitement, like puppies unable to keep still, and we know what puppies do when they’re excited.

Many hugged and offered high-fives, or loudly clapped, or clinked glasses and gave each other profound smiles of satisfaction and joy.

And that was just the journalists.

The rest of Obama’s voters were ecstatic too. But as historians will no doubt tell us, American journalists were especially thrilled.

Not all. A few grumpy types complained that messianic politics is never healthy for the Republic. But who could listen with all that joy in their ears?

The Republican establishment — the War Party — had been vanquished, and deservedly so, for talking out of both sides of its mouth about the need for a smaller government while feeding from that monstrous defense industry trough. They’re in the wilderness still, and should remain there for a while.

And Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton had already had her wings clipped. Remember? She and Bill had dared suggest that Obama had played the old Chicago race card on her in the Democratic presidential primary — that primary of the 3 a.m. phone call. The media response was to crush her.

There was no memo, but the messengers gathered with common purpose, as if compelled by journalistic pheromones to do what must be done. And it was done. To Hillary. For her apostasy, she was almost cast out.

Because Obama wasn’t just another politician. Reporters flocked to him as if he was the gentle forest faun, Mr. Tumnus straight out of the Narnia tales.

And American journalism was like that little girl in the C.S. Lewis stories, Lucy Pevensie, graciously accepting his tea and cakes, nodding off to the music of his woodland pipes, sleeping on his couch, smiling.

It was odd and somewhat frightening to watch so-called journalistic iconoclasts cleaving desperately to the myth of Obama as savior. His mouthpieces came up with excellent lines that were repeated endlessly, my favorite being that the guy from Chicago would transcend “the broken politics of the past.”

Obama doesn’t bother me. I disagree with his politics, but that’s not what’s galling. What’s appalling was the pack mentality of journalists — and I don’t need polls to tell me that most are liberals — who were so eager to wag their tails at his approach.

Benghazi is trouble enough for Obama, so troubling that a liberal soccer friend (yes, I do appreciate diversity of opinion) greeted me by sarcastically chanting, “Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!” as if that dusty, bloody town in Libya doesn’t mean a thing.

But it means something to Obama’s credibility, which is now in tatters. And it means something to the four dead Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. It means something to the whistle-blowers who say they were pressured not to talk.

And Benghazi means something to the presidential prospects of Hillary Clinton. The former secretary of state’s snarky comment “What difference, at this point, does it make?” will hang from her neck like the dead albatross in the poem. By 2016 it should be exceedingly ripe.

These days, Benghazi is no longer being viewed as some isolated artifact in a glass jar. The other scandals have joined it, and combine in organic fashion to produce a president on the defensive. The Obama administration insists its fingerprints aren’t on this IRS business, and the president himself condemns it as an outrage.

But it is worse than an outrage. And the president was the beneficiary. If he were truly angry, he’d have fired people immediately. The push by the White House for an “independent” investigation is also an outrage.

It is the Congress’ job to investigate. Let them ask the IRS why it provided information damaging to tea party members and conservatives to investigative reporters at ProPublica.

Using the IRS to smother dissent and grabbing the phone records of The Associated Press isn’t something a gentle Mr. Tumnus would do.

But it is something done by politicians from Chicago, where government is the muscle that shuts the mouth.


John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may send him email at jskass@tribune.com.

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