Posts Tagged ‘obama’

President Honorius

October 14, 2015

Recently Stephen Green of Vodkapundit wrote a post titled President Nero referring to President Obama’s seeming cluelessness on the state of the world under his leadership, particularly the president’s prioritizing action on climate change as post Cold War order is breaking up into chaos. Obama is fiddling while the Middle East burns. There is much worth reading here yet I think that Stephen Green is being more than a little unfair to Nero. Nero did not, after all, really play the fiddle, or his lyre as the violin had not yet been invented, while Rome burned down. In fact, Nero did everything that could be expected of an emperor in that disaster. Nero was not a particularly good emperor, to be sure, yet his reign was not a complete disaster, especially early on while his advisors Seneca and Burrus still lived. Despite the short civil war after his death and the rebellion in Judea, the Roman Empire was still strong and whole at the end of Nero’s reign. In fact, the next century was to prove to be the height of the Pax Romana under the Flavian Dynasty and the Five Good Emperors. Perhaps a better fit for President Obama might be a later emperor, Honorius who was emperor when the Visigoths sacked Rome in AD 410.

 

Honorius

Honorius

Honorius was Emperor of the Western Roman Empire from 395 to 423. The Roman Empire had been first divided into Western and Eastern halves by the Emperor Diocletian about a century earlier. After ending the period of incessant civil wars and foreign invasions that had nearly destroyed the Empire, Diocletian realized that one man was unable to meet the challenges of ruling the entire empire and so had divided it. The two halves were not seen as a division into two separate empires, simply a means to divide the labor of ruling but although strong emperors could rule over both halves of the empire, after the third century it was divided more often than not with the Greek speaking East and the Latin speaking West becoming more estranged over time.

085 Eastern & Western Roman Empires Map

The last emperor to rule over the whole Roman Empire was Honorius’s father Theodosius the Great. After his death in 395, the empire was divided for the last time between his two sons Arcadius and Honorius. Arcadius was the elder brother and so inherited the more desirable Eastern Empire where he ruled from Constantinople, while Honorius became the Western Emperor. Both emperors were minors when they acceded to their thrones and neither ever really showed much talent for ruling but the wealthier and more urbanized Eastern Empire proved to be better able to weather Arcadius’s inept rule. The West was not so fortunate and Honorius’s reign was a disaster from beginning to end with continuing invasions by the barbarian Germans and continual civil war by usurpers. At the beginning of Honorius’s reign the true ruler of the West was his guardian, Stilicho a Roman general of mixed Roman and German descent who had been related by marriage to Theodosius. Stilicho was perhaps the last Roman ruler who could have saved the Western Empire from destruction. He had some success in holding the Empire together but proved unable to prevent the invasion of Gaul by the Germans in 406 and the subsequent abandonment of Britannia. By this time, Stilicho’s enemies at court had persuaded Honorius that Stilicho was planning to supplant him and Honorius ordered Stilicho’s arrest and execution in 408, along with the execution of anyone he perceived to have been an ally of Stilicho, including a  large number of Germans living in Italy. This proved to be not a very good idea, since by then, the Roman army was largely made up of Germans, large numbers of Honorius’s soldiers simply deserted leaving Italy defenseless against the invading Visigoths under their king Alaric.

The Visigoths did not intend to capture Rome or conquer the Roman Empire. Indeed, they did not believe such a thing was possible. They, along with their kinsmen the Ostrogoths had fled into Roman territory to escape the Huns. Alaric wanted to negotiate with the Roman government for a homeland to establish an independent Visigothic kingdom allied to Rome. Alaric decided to threaten the city of Rome to compel the Roman government to negotiate in good faith. Honorius and his court were not greatly concerned however because it had been a long time since Rome was actually the capital of any part of the Roman Empire. He was safe in the city of Ravenna with its impregnable defenses and kept putting Alaric off until he was exasperated enough to sack Rome on August 24, 410.

Sack was perhaps too strong a word for the actions of the Visigoths. They did systematically take anything of value they could carry away, but there was no destruction of buildings or slaughter of the population. The Visigoths could not believe they had actually captured Rome and they acted more like awestruck tourist than barbarian plunderers. Meanwhile Honorius was distraught upon learning that Rome had been taken, until the messenger clarified that he meant the city and not Honorius’s pet chicken Roma. Then Honorius lost interest in the news.

Honorius managed to survive as Emperor until 423 while his empire crumbled around him. By the time of his death, Gaul, Spain, and Britannia were all lost to Rome and the Western Empire was limited to Italy and parts of Africa. The Western Empire itself lingered  under the rule of increasingly feeble puppet emperors and their German masters until finally the warlord Odoacer grew tired of the pretense in 476 and deposed the last Western Emperor.

We don’t have barbarians sacking Washington D.C. or New York, at least not yet, but it would be hard not to see that President Obama’s fecklessness has made the world a more dangerous place for us and our allies. He seems to be as little concerned about the collapsing international order previously upheld with American strength as Honorius was about the fate of the city of Rome. Unless the next president can repair some of the damage Obama has done, future historians may well identify Obama as the president who presided over the beginning of the end of the American Empire.

 

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Prosecute Them?

December 19, 2014

Shortly after I finished that last post I checked my e-mail and found this.

David-

Please sign the petition by Daily Kos and Demand Progress demanding accountability for the just-revealed torture by the CIA.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has released the CIA torture report — after over 170,000 people signed our petition demanding they do so — and the details make us sick to our stomachs.

Simply put, the United States has tortured people — meaning “waterboarding” and much more — in direct violation of its own War Crimes Act.  And it violates the U.N. Convention Against Torture — which President Ronald Reagan signed.

We cannot allow what happened in the Bush-Cheney Administration to happen again.

Attorney General Eric Holder must appoint a special prosecutor to hold accountable those who committed such crimes, and the Obama Administration must dismiss CIA head John Brennan and all employees at the CIA who were involved.

But despite his purported opposition to torture, President Obama isn’t going create meaningful repercussions for it unless we force him to:

Sign the petition by Daily Kos and Demand Progress: Demand accountability. Dismiss and prosecute all those at the CIA responsible for authorizing and overseeing the implementation of torture.

Thanks.

-Demand Progress

As I said before, it is unfortunate that such things as enhanced interrogation techniques, or torture if you will, are used by agencies of the United States government. In an ideal world, no one working for the US government would ever use such techniques nor would they be necessary. We do not live in that ideal world. In the real world, there are people who want to do us harm. I am not greatly concerned about the civil rights of such people nor do I care very much for their reasons for wanting to harm us. It may well be that they have legitimate grievances against US policies.  I do not care. Whatever reasons they may have do not justify the murder of innocent Americans. I am not willing to risk the lives of my fellow Americans just to satisfy critics who will never be satisfied. If torture is at all effective at gaining information that will prevent another 9/11 than it can and should be used. I am also not willing to see the people tasked with preventing another such atrocity prosecuted for trying to protect us.

Torture is bad, there is no doubt about it, but we are not always given a clear choice between good and bad. More often the choice is between less bad and more bad. I can think of worse things than torturing suspected terrorists. If the people at Demand Progress and Daily Kos believe that the use of torture somehow causes the US to lose the moral high ground (as if these people on the left will ever concede that the US has ever held the high ground) perhaps they need to be reminded of just who our enemies are and what they can do.

Waterboarding doesn’t seem so bad, does it?

 

The Great Tsunami of 2014

November 5, 2014

I expected the Republicans to make some gains yesterday, the opposing party usually does in midterm elections. In my more optimistic moments, I even considered the possibility that there would be a Republican wave. This didn’t seem too unlikely considering the unpopularity of President Obama at the moment. My optimism was tempered by the knowledge that the GOP has an uncanny knack for screwing up elections at the last moment. Still, a wave seemed possible. I never expected what actually happened, a complete rout of the Democrats. This was not just a wave but a tsunami.

Here are some numbers. The Republicans gained at least seven seats in the Senate gaining the majority. Previously, the Democrats held 55 seats to the Republican’s 45 but now the ratio is 52 Republicans and  45 Democrats. The race in Alaska has not been called yet and there will have to be a runoff in Louisiana. Also, in Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner has apparently won reelection in a close race but his opponent Ed Gillespie has not conceded and there may be a recount. There is then the possibility of the Republicans picking up three more seats in the Senate.  In the House of Representatives the Republicans  gained 12 seats expanding their majority from 233 Republicans to 199 Democrats to 244 Republicans to 180 Democrats. This is the largest majority the Republicans have had in the House of Representatives since 1946.

 

On the state level, the Republicans have increased the number of Republican governors by two. Previously there were 29 Republican governors and 21 Democrats. Now there will be 31 Republicans and 17 Democrats. The Republicans made impressive gains in state legislatures. Of the 98 chambers, two per state (except for Nebraska which has a non-partisan and unicameral legislature), the Republicans controlled 59. Now they will control 67 chambers and in no fewer than 24 states the Republicans will control both the state legislature and the Governor’s mansion. This is the best they have done since the 1920s.Winning control of  state governments is even more significant than the federal government since most of the real “action” in law making still takes place at the state level. The national media, based in New York and Washington tends to over emphasise the importance of Washington D C and does a real disservice by tending to neglect the actions of state governments.

Mere numbers don’t tell the whole story. The Republicans made serious inroads into what should have been safe Democratic territory. There are new Republican governors in Illinois, Massachusetts and Maryland. All of Arkansas’s seats in the House of Representatives are held by  Republicans for the first time in 141 years. There seem to be more Black Republicans this year. Mia Love from Utah was the first Black Republican woman in the House and Tim Scott was the first Black  from South Carolina to be elected to the Senate since the Reconstruction era. Also from South Carolina, the Indian Republican Nicki Haley was reelected. Republicans also made gains with the Hispanic vote. Perhaps the idea that the Republican Party is doomed to irrelevance because of demographics should be reexamined.Need I remind the reader that Alan West, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz are all Republican heroes despite not being White?

Well it was an amazing election, perhaps even a historical one, but I hope the Republicans don’t blow it over the next two years. They should keep in mind that 2016 could be just as bad for them as 2014 was good. In the meantime, while gloating is unseemly and I certainly shouldn’t do it, I hope I can be forgiven for enjoying what is best in life, just a little.

 

There was a lot of lamentation of Democratic women, and men, last night.

Stinkburgers

April 7, 2014

Last week, President Obama spoke in Ann Arbor Michigan. Among other things, he expressed support for raising the minimum wage and attack Republican policies. Here is an article from the Washington Post.

President Obama compared the Republican budget plan to a “stinkburger” or “meanwich” during a speech here Wednesday, using a series of zingers in an attempt to strike a contrast with the GOP on economic issues in an election year.

In a speech to an enthusiastic crowd of 1,400 at the University of Michigan, Obama repeatedly mocked Republican ideas about how to improve the economy, as he touted his own proposal to raise the minimum wage.

Obama, who visited the local Zingerman’s deli before the speech, said that Republican proposals to cut taxes for wealthier Americans and federal investments in education, as well as replace his federal health-care program, would harm the economy.

The GOP has proposed the same ideas so many times, Obama said, “It’s like that movie ‘Groundhog Day,’ except it’s not funny. If they tried to sell this sandwich at Zingerman’s, they’d have to call it the stinkburger or the meanwich.”

Obama’s appearance here was the latest in his bid to put pressure on Republicans to support his proposal to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. Republicans have opposed the plan, citing federal estimates that it could eliminate up to 500,000 jobs, even as it raised wages for many more.

In the state that is home to the U.S. auto industry, the president cited the example of Henry Ford more than a century ago, who Obama said gave workers raises so they could “afford to buy the cars they were building.”

Setting the stage for a vote on the plan in Congress, Obama said the GOP will have to make clear whether they support paying the lowest-paid workers more money: “You’ve got a choice: You can give America the shaft, or you can give it a raise.”

Stinkburgers? Meanwiches? Has Mr. Obama been getting Malia and Sasha to write his speeches for him? I know what points he was trying to make he was trying to be humorous, but that just sounds silly. I am afraid that our political discourse has come a long way since the days of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

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Carbon Pollution

November 18, 2013

I have gotten another assignment from Organizing for Action.

David —

This may sound crazy, but it’s a fact: Today, there are no emission limits on our nation’s single largest source of carbon pollution.

About 40 percent of all carbon pollution in America comes from our power plants, but we don’t have anything in place on a national level to regulate the amount of carbon they put into the air.

That’s why the EPA announced a new proposal to set carbon pollution standards for power plants, the same way we regulate other dangerous substances, like arsenic and mercury. It’s a common-sense way to start to make a very real dent in reducing carbon pollution.

Right now, the EPA is asking for the public’s input on these new limits on carbon emissions — add your name to show your support, and we’ll pass it along.

Climate change is real — there’s no credible scientific debate anymore. We’re seeing its effects more and more every year. That’s why we need to do something about it — that includes taking action to reduce our carbon emissions.

President Obama knows how crucial this is. The Climate Action Plan he laid out this summer set guidelines for these proposed EPA rules and laid out a roadmap for further carbon pollution reduction, expanded renewables, and more energy efficiency projects.
He’s keeping his word on climate change — and now we need to do our part.

Add your name today to support the EPA’s proposal to clean up our power plants:

http://my.barackobama.com/Support-the-Presidents-Climate-Plan

Thanks,

Jack

Jack Shapiro
Deputy Climate Campaign Manager
Organizing for Action

By carbon pollution I assume he means carbon dioxide. Mercury and arsenic are pollutants. They are not found naturally in the Earth’s atmosphere in any appreciable amounts and are hazardous to human health. Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring

Carbon dioxide

Not a pollutant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

compound in the Earth’s atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is not  hazardous to human health except in concentrations great enough to displace oxygen. Carbon dioxide is essential to life on Earth. Without it, plants cannot photosynthesize and the Earth  would be a frozen wasteland. It makes no sense to talk of carbon pollution especially in comparison with arsenic and mercury. Either the people responsible for this e-mail, and the whole talking point about carbon pollution, are ignorant of the science of the Earth’s atmosphere or are dishonest and using semantic games rather than actual facts to convince people. If they want to make the argument for reducing carbon dioxide emissions to reduce global warming, then they should make that argument. The fact that they do not make that argument perhaps says something about their credibility.

As is happens, current levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are neither unusual or unprecedented. There is good reason to believe that in ages past levels were far higher than today’s. In the Jurassic Period, carbon dioxide levels were five times the present levels. The long term trend is decreasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and eventually there will not be enough for life on Earth to survive.

 

The Sound of Silence

August 31, 2013

A long time ago, back when I was in fifth or sixth grade, my class went on a field trip of sorts to the Hanover College Library. We were supposed to be doing research for some project or other. when I had gathered the books and materials I needed and sat down at a little table, I discovered that I couldn’t concentrate. Something was wrong. After several minutes, I realized what was wrong. The place was silent. I don’t know if the walls and ceilings were made of some sort of sound dampening material or if it was some design of the building, but there was no sound at all. As a person who has grown up in our mechanized era, constantly surrounded by noises and machinery, I found silence to be unnerving. It was almost as if the absence of sound was aloud and distracting sound of its own. I hated the silence. (Incidentally, years later I found the library at Indiana University to be very loud. Somehow the ventilation system was always making loud knocking noises and swooshes of air. I loved it and could spend hours happily reading there.)

In politics recently, I have noticed a certain lack, especially as we seem headed for military action against Syria. Where did all the peace groups go? Whatever happened to Code Pink? Where is Not In Our Name? Where are the massive protests against Obama’s wars? Why are there no demands that Obama be tried for war crimes? Why isn’t Maureen Dowd proclaiming the absolute moral authority of grieving parents? (That “grieving mother” opposes military action against Syria, by the way. Cindy Sheehan may be a left wing loon and a lover of dictators, but at least she is consistent.) Why are policies that caused outrage while Bush was in office now greeted with silence when done by Obama?

I have an idea. Maybe I am too cynical, but could it be just possible that all of that outrage was simply for political posturing? Could it be that it was not so much Bush’s policies they opposed but Bush? Could they all be a bunch of hypocrites. It does seem odd that all of these anti war movements disappeared almost the same day Barack Obama was inaugurated. Come to think of it, notice that the Occupy Wall Street movement with its 99% against the 1% only lasted as long as the wealthy Mitt Romney was running for president. Maybe I am getting paranoid as well as cynical. The silence does seem odd, though.

Bracing for Climate Change Policies

June 24, 2013

Brace yourselves. President Obama is getting ready to address climate change.

David, this is huge news:

President Obama is set to announce his plan this week to address the growing threat of climate change.

We’ll know more specifics on Tuesday, but it’s expected he’ll offer a bold, national approach to reducing carbon pollution — and lay out a vision to lead global efforts to fight climate change.

The powerful, well-financed forces who still deny the science behind climate change aren’t going to like this — and they’ll be fighting this progress every step of the way. In fact, before he’s even seen the plan, House Speaker John Boehner is calling it “absolutely crazy.”

That’s why President Obama is calling on all of us — anyone who believes that climate change is a threat — to join him in taking action right now.

Add your name today — say you’ll do your part to help fight climate change:

http://my.barackobama.com/Stand-Up-Against-Climate-Change

Thanks — more on this soon.

Jon

Jon Carson
Executive Director
Organizing for Action

Get ready for higher electric bills and gasoline prices, if Obama manages to have his way on this.

By the way, Britain just had its coldest spring since 1962, and the fifth coolest spring since they began keeping records. This is part of global warming, no doubt.

Crossing the Line

June 14, 2013

The Obama administration has determined that the Assad regime in Syria is using chemical weapons against the rebels and so has decided to send arms to the rebels. As CBS News puts it.

The Obama administration has concluded that Syrian President Bashar Assad‘s government used chemical weapons against the rebels seeking to overthrow him and, in a major policy shift, President Obama has decided to supply military support to the rebels, the White House announced Thursday.

“The president has made a decision about providing more support to the opposition that will involve providing direct support to the [Supreme Military Council]. That includes military support,” Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes told reporters.

President Obama has repeatedly said that the use of chemical weapons is a “red line” that, if crossed, would be a “game changer” for more U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war.

“The President has been clear that the use of chemical weapons – or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups – is a red line for the United States,” said Rhodes in a separate written statement.

“The President has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has,” he continued.

In terms of further response, Rhodes said, “we will make decisions on our own timeline” and that Congress and the international community would be consulted.  Mr. Obama is heading to Northern Ireland Sunday for a meeting of the G8 group of nations; Rhodes indicated the president will consult with leaders of those countries.

“Any future action we take will be consistent with our national interest, and must advance our objectives, which include achieving a negotiated political settlement to establish an authority that can provide basic stability and administer state institutions; protecting the rights of all Syrians; securing unconventional and advanced conventional weapons; and countering terrorist activity,” Rhodes said.

To date, the U.S. policy on Syria has primarily focused on offering the rebels nonlethal assistance and humanitarian aid.

I think that this is a very bad idea. There are no good guys in this conflict. On one side there is a vicious secular Arab nationalist/socialist government that has an awful human rights record. On the other side there are rebels who are Islamist and almost certainly have ties to al-Qaeda and will probably impose Sharia law on Syria. Neither side is likely to be grateful for any aid we provide and both sides hate us and the West. As far as I can tell our only options are staying out of this conflict or, if we’re feeling especially cynical and Machiavellian, to keep the fighting going as long as possible.

And then there’s this from the Los Angeles Times.

Two years into a civil war that shows no signs of ending, the Obama administration is considering resettling refugees who have fled Syria, part of an international effort that could bring thousands of Syrians to American cities and towns.

A resettlement plan under discussion in Washington and other capitals is aimed at relieving pressure on Middle Eastern countries straining to support 1.6 million refugees, as well as assisting hard-hit Syrian families.

The State Department is “ready to consider the idea,” an official from the department said, if the administration receives a formal request from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, which is the usual procedure.

I don’t think this is a good idea either. Hasn’t the bombing of the Boston Marathon taught us anything about the wisdom of allowing refugees from war-torn Muslim countries? We really do not need to import more radicalized fanatics who hate us into this country. In fact, I would suggest, as a matter of policy, that no Western country accept Muslim immigrants under any condition and the Europeans should consider ways of evicting the immigrants who are slowly taking over their countries.

 

 

Obama is no Nixon

May 23, 2013
President Nixon meets with China's Communist P...

President Nixon meets with China’s Communist Party Leader, Mao Tse-Tung, 02/29/1972 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I ran across this defense of Richard Nixon by William Kristol at the Weekly Standard, via The Virginian, via Instapundit.

The thoughtful Carl Cannon has written a piece, “Richard Milhous Obama,” concluding that our current president has more in common with our 37th than President Obama’s partisans would like to acknowledge. The estimable Victor Davis Hanson has weighed in, defending against liberal dissents the proposition that “Nixon Is a Fair Comparison” with Obama.

I protest. Will no one stand up for Richard Nixon? Richard Nixon was a combat veteran, a staunch and brave anti-Communist, a man who took on the liberal establishment and at times his own party’s as well, a leader who often thought for himself and had the courage of his convictions, a president who assembled a first-rate Cabinet and one who—while flawed both in character and in policy judgment—usually tried to confront the real problems and deal with challenges of his times. Richard Nixon led neither the country nor his own administration from behind.

I worked for Richard Nixon (well, I worked for two months in the Nixon White House in 1970 as a summer intern). I voted for Richard Nixon (in 1972, my first vote, against George McGovern—and one about which I have no regrets). I knew Richard Nixon (very slightly—I met him on a few occasions in groups in the late 1970s and the 1980s, and then a couple of times when I worked for Vice President Quayle). And so I feel obliged to rise to Richard Nixon’s defense, and to say, with all due respect, to our current president: Barack Obama, you’re no Richard Nixon.

If Richard Nixon had had the kind of fawning media coverage that Barack Obama has had, he would be considered one of our greatest presidents. If Barack Obama had had the hostile media coverage that Nixon had, I doubt he would ever have been elected president. Nixon had his faults and even though he was considered a conservative, he was far too big-government oriented for my liking, still I think he deserves a little better legacy than he has gotten. I have to disagree with the Virginian’s comment, though.

Keep in mind that on the international front, Richard Nixon single-handedly pried the Communist alliance between the USSR and China apart. The Nixon IRS never actually went after Nixon’s enemies. And Nixon didn’t plot the Watergate break-in. Barack Obama is not fit to tie Richard Nixon’s shoes.

The first sentence is not quite true. In fact the alliance between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China was strained from the beginning. Stalin didn’t really want Mao to take over China. He preferred a weak China divided between the Nationalists and the Communists to a united China that might be a threat on the Russian border. After Stalin died, the Soviet Communist Party under Khrushchev became somewhat more pragmatic while the Chinese Communists under Mao still retained their revolutionary ardor. The Russians became alarmed at Mao’s casual attitude on nuclear war with the rest and were dismayed by the insanity of the Great Leap Forward. Mao thought that Khrushchev and the Russians were appeasing the  West. The alliance ended by 1959 and in 1969  there was a brief border war between the two Communist powers.

Nixon deserves credit for opening relations with China but he hardly did it single-handedly and Mao was just as interested in opening relations with the United States for his own reasons.

 

Auditing the Tea Party

May 14, 2013

It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you. During the last election cycle some Tea Party and conservative groups noticed that the IRS was unusually curious about their tax exempt status. This might be dismissed as anti-government paranoia, except that last Friday an official from the IRS admitted to doing just that.

An IRS official apologized on Friday to tea party organizations and other conservative groups for inappropriately targeting them during the 2012 election, the Associated Press reports.

The groups, which enjoyed tax-exempt status under the internal revenue code, were singled out for additional scrutiny of their tax exemption if their names included the words “tea party” or “patriot.” In several cases, the groups were asked to provide a list of donors for review, usually a violation of IRS policy.

“That was wrong. That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive, and it was inappropriate. That’s not how we go about selecting cases,” said Lois Lerner, the head of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups. “The IRS would like to apologize for that.”

Lerner said the additional scrutiny was initiated by lower-level employees working out of Cincinnati, and that the practice was not a product of political bias. She told the Associated Press that high-level officials were not informed of the practice. On a conference call on Friday, IRS officials said they did not know whether any administration officials at the White House or Treasury Department were aware of the practice.

During the election, several conservative groups cried foul over what they saw as undue pressure justify their tax-exempt status, accusing the IRS of sending arduous questionnaires seeking information about their members’ political activities.

The story that it was just a few low level employees didn’t last long.

Higher-level Internal Revenue Service officials took part in discussions as far back as August 2011 about targeting by lower-level tax agents of “Tea Party” and other conservative groups, according to documents reviewed by Reuters on Monday.

The documents show the offices of the IRS’s chief counsel and deputy commissioner for services and enforcement communicated about the targeting with lower-level officials on August 4, 2011, and March 8, 2012, respectively.

The two communications occurred weeks and months before Doug Shulman, then the commissioner of the IRS, told congressional panels in late March 2012 that no groups were being targeted for extra scrutiny by the tax agency.

The IRS has maintained that its senior leadership did not know for some time that lower-level agents were applying extra scrutiny to applications for tax-exempt status from groups with key words in their names, such as “Tea Party” and “Patriot.

The agency said in a statement on Monday that Steven Miller, who is now acting IRS commissioner, was first informed in early May 2012 that some groups seeking tax-exempt status had been “improperly identified by name” and subjected to extra scrutiny.

Late on Monday, Senate Finance Committee Republicans said Shulman was briefed on the targeting in May 2012, a date not previously disclosed. An aide said committee staff learned this on Monday from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), an independent IRS watchdog.

It keeps getting worse and worse. The Tea Party weren’t the only ones selected for special attention by the IRS.

The Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of conservative groups went beyond those with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names—as the agency admitted Friday—to also include ones worried about government spending, debt or taxes, and even ones that lobbied to “make America a better place to live,” according to new details of a government probe.

The investigation also revealed that a high-ranking IRS official knew as early as mid-2011 that conservative groups were being inappropriately targeted—nearly a year before then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman told a congressional committee the agency wasn’t targeting conservative groups.

The new disclosures are likely to inflame a widening controversy over IRS handling of dozens of applications by tea-party, patriot and other conservative groups for tax-exempt status.

The details emerged from disclosures to congressional investigators by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. The findings, which were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, don’t make clear who came up with the idea to give extra scrutiny to the conservative groups.

The inspector general’s office has been conducting an audit of the IRS’s handling of the applications process and is expected to release a report this week. The audit follows complaints last year by numerous tea-party and other conservative groups that they had been singled out and subjected to excessive and inappropriate questioning. Many groups say they were asked for lists of their donors and other sensitive information.

On Sunday, a government official said the report will note that IRS officials told investigators that no one outside the IRS was involved in developing the criteria the agency now acknowledges were flawed.

In my opinion this is worse than the scandal regarding the Benghazi attacks last September 11. It is regrettable and unfortunate that four Americans lost their lives and an investigation is in order to determine what went wrong, but the worst that the Obama administration can be charged with there, is gross incompetence and negligence, and a coverup to ensure that the narrative that al-Qaeda was in retreat not be challenged. The issue with the IRS is the deliberate use of the federal government’s power to harass people and organizations opposed to the administration.

Is President Obama responsible for the questionable activities of the IRS? Probably not directly. Richard Nixon almost certainly neither knew of or authorized the break in at Watergate. He was still responsible for the scandal because the President sets the tone for his administration. The Nixon administration became one in which the suggestion that someone break into the Democratic National Committee headquarters and install listening devices was not instantly dismissed as illegal and insane, but was approved and acted upon. President Obama probably never suggested that the IRS should investigate Tea Party organizations, but the employees at the IRS must have suspected that such activity would be condoned by President, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun” and “punish our enemies in the voting booth“. Barack Obama has never seemed to be especially interested in getting along with his opponents. Perhaps it is a legacy of his days as a community organizer, but Obama seems to be more interested in destroying those who oppose his policies, which makes this whole affair all the more chilling.

 

 


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