The Administration

Marc Rich's death brings up a name Eric Holder can't want back in the news

Eric Holder Jr., then deputy and later acting attorney general in the second Clinton administration, was so stained by the pardon that his boss, Bill Clinton, issued to billionaire fugitive from American justice Marc Rich on Jan. 20, 2001 — the day Clinton handed over the White House to George W. Bush — that Holder told friends and reporters his public career was over.


It's all a question of emphasis

There is an old joke about a retailer named Fink, who had a sign in his store window that read: "My name is Fink, and what do you think? I sell clothes for nothing." A customer picked up a suit and started to walk out when Fink stopped him and said he owed him $40 for the clothes. “But your sign said you sold things for nothing," the hapless customer replied. Fink said, "My sign asked, ‘What do you think? I sell clothes for nothing?’ It was all a question of emphasis.”

I think of this old joke as I ponder what happened at the IRS when someone decided to question whether groups seeking charitable status were truly charitable or in fact were political. There would be nothing wrong with IRS officials noting the use of 501(c)(4) status to advance political versus charitable purposes by some organizations and instructing employees to watch for this and assure that is not done. That would be their job.


What's holding Obama up?

Why does Obama boast an average approval rating of 48 percent when he scores terribly on each issue he is now handling? Here’s the rundown in the latest Bloomberg News poll:


Scandals combine to form perfect storm

When it rains, it pours.

The combined weight of the three growing Obama administration scandals is weighing down the White House and overwhelming its ability to control the story or advance its agenda.

In hospital triage, this is the equivalent of not having enough bed space.

Each scandal, if it occurred by itself, could potentially be dealt with. But their combination is forming a narrative that the White House is not being honest amid a culture of “scandal.”

The three controversies, the IRS targeting of conservative groups, the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attack and the Justice Department's targeting of AP reporters, are unique. They will ebb and flow on their own terms and in their own way, as news develops.

But each poses a serious political threat to the administration.


Issa and IRS: What Issa knew and when he knew it

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) was one of the first officials in Washington to know of the existence and substance of the inspector general's report on the Internal Revenue Service. 

For some time Issa maintained his silence about it, stating that it was important to have a nonpartisan and objective investigation before leveling criticism. Should Issa be subpoenaed and put under oath? 


The Republicans’ obsession

I’m tired.

Under Bill Clinton we had to endure the Republicans’ obsession with so-called "scandal" Whitewater, the death of Vince Foster, the travel office, and finally Monica Lewinsky and impeachment.

It was all so exhausting and so useless and so far from doing the people’s business.

Nevertheless, Bill Clinton had one of the most successful presidencies in modern times.

Ever since Barack Obama was elected, various elements of the Republican Party have engaged in nothing but petty character assassination, false accusations and partisan political attacks designed to undermine his presidency.


Obama’s 'New Superior Man'

“The patina of high-mindedness the president enjoyed is gone ... Something big has shifted.”  — Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2013

The spookiest thing of all perhaps is that with the overnight rise of Obama from nowhere in Chicago to the Oval Office is the uptick again in the world of global "New Superior Man." 

Granted, it is a hot, foamy latte version of the beast that stalked the heart of Russia in the early 1800s and would rise to shake the world in 10 days, then tear its fabric for 100 years. The rise of Superior Man also brought the world one of its greatest literary works: Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, and the anti-hero who would echo today through Nietzsche, Lenin, Trotsky, Bulworth, Bono, Bill, Obama.


Shielding the press

The White House has asked Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to reintroduce a press shield law, …   The move comes after questions were raised about the seizure of Associated Press phone records by the Justice Department as part of a national security leak investigation. — Politico, May 15, 2013
ERIC HOLDER: IT WASN’T ME. — The Daily Beast, May 15, 2013

Poor President Obama. He needs good counsel and isn’t getting it from his attorney general. While a federal shield law is overdue, it won’t cure the problem that generated these blurbs above. 

Whether reporters are protected from government investigations of their sources is a matter of policy rather than constitutional law. Eminent journalists such as the late Anthony Lewis and jurisprudential scholars like the late Ronald Dworkin agree. 

But the policy considerations are so strong that the Supreme Court and most jurisdictions recognize the need to protect the independence of media, through case precedents and statutes. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have shield laws, and most others have limited protections which balance reporters’ rights with legitimate government secrets. Congress has wrestled with passing a federal shield law for decades, unsuccessfully.


IRS abuse and leak investigations

First, I propose readers ignore those who imitate the usual suspects in "Casablanca," whether they are Republicans who offer their latest ritual condemnation of President Obama and predictions of great GOP victories or Democrats, if you can find any these days, who offer their latest ritual defense of whatever President Obama does. 

Some things have clearly gone wrong. Serious people discuss why. Regarding the IRS scandal, two thoughts: It is entirely legitimate to test whether overtly partisan political groups meet the legal standards of the tax code they employ to minimize taxes. And it is entirely illegitimate, morally wrong, politically indefensible and wholly unacceptable to use the tax code as a weapon to single out any political party or point of view without applying the same standards to all.


The left's real shame

Obama’s failure to push his gun control agenda through the Democratic-controlled United States Senate revealed the craven political power of big government.

A president with the assistance of a friendly media can drive emotional messages featuring victims, along with media-certified four-Pinocchio statements to try to whip the nation into a frenzy to urge legislation. Yet, only when it fails does the real big government beast expose itself.