Twenty-nine years before the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., John Dean, then the White House counsel, sent a list of names to IRS Commissioner Johnnie Walters. On the list were names of enemies of the Nixon campaign that were to be investigated and audited and generally harassed by the tax-collecting agency.
That was among the revelations that came from the Watergate investigation, which eventually led to the resignation of President Nixon.
The scandal is not that Obama told the IRS commissioner to investigate the Tea Party because he wanted to win reelection. The scandal here is that relatively low-level bureaucrats can launch investigations on their own volition to harass citizens with whom they disagree politically. The scandal here is a government that is too big, has too much power and has lost the trust of the American people.
It was not a good week for Team Obama on the scandal front. The House Government Reform and Oversight Committee probed deeper into the attack on our Embassy personnel in Benghazi, Libya, and what it found were State Department employees who were flabbergasted at the assertion of United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice that the attack was caused by a video. No one mentions that one of the victims of that spin was the guy who produced the video. He was thrown in jail as if he had a hand in the planning of the attacks. But the video had nothing to do with the attack, and Rice appears to have lied about the linkage to further the administration’s political goals.
That’s the power of government these days. A government bureaucrat can throw you in jail to help promote a political agenda.
The government has a lot more power than it did in 1972, at the height of the Watergate shenanigans. Since 9/11, the security apparatus is much more intrusive. That can be both good and bad. The good comes when videos are compiled to capture the Boston bombers in three days. The bad comes when we give a bunch of bureaucrats the power to ruin lives at their own whim.
The government is going to become a much bigger power in the health industry, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. The government already is a huge player in the world of healthcare, especially with Medicare and Medicaid. ObamaCare is going to make the government the pre-dominant player, and I bet you a lot of Americans who currently have healthcare are not going to like it very much. It is no fun when the decision of a federal bureaucrat makes your health insurance premiums go up 75 percent to 100 percent.
Since 1972, the government has spent an inordinate amount of money and other resources fighting a war on drugs. As a result, we have the highest incarceration rate in the world. More Americans are in prison than in any other country — more than in China, than Russia, than Europe. And we like to call ourselves the land of the free.
Some people want to give the government even more power. If it were up to New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Americans wouldn’t be able own guns, drink Big Gulps, buy cigarettes or eat a decent donut. The media desperately wants the Senate to pass a gun control bill. Some conservatives want the government to check the immigration status of every worker and use drones to patrol from the border to Disneyland in California.
But the more power we give the government, the more power we give government bureaucrats. And when you give more power to government bureaucrats, they do things like launch audits of perceived political enemies.
The real scandal is big government.
Feehery is president of Quinn Gillespie Communications and spent 15 years working in the House Republican leadership. He is a contributor to The Hill’s Pundits Blog and blogs at thefeeherytheory.com