Google+
Close
Obama’s Watergates
Denial, evasion, “Let me be perfectly clear” — is this 2013 or 1973?


Text  


Comments
2173
Victor Davis Hanson

The truth about Benghazi, the Associated Press/James Rosen monitoring, the IRS corruption, the NSA octopus, and Fast and Furious is still not exactly known. Almost a year after the attacks on our Benghazi facilities, we are only now learning details of CIA gun-running, military stand-down orders, aliases of those involved who are still hard to locate, massaged talking points, and the weird jailing of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.

We still do not quite know why Eric Holder’s Justice Department went after the Associated Press or Fox News’s James Rosen — given that members of the administration were themselves illegally leaking classified information about the Stuxnet virus, the Yemeni double agent, the drone program, and the bin Laden document trove, apparently to further the narrative of an underappreciated Pattonesque commander-in-chief up for reelection.

Almost everything the administration has assured us about the IRS scandal has proven false: It was not confined to rogue Cincinnati agents; liberal and conservative groups were not equally targeted; and there were political appointees who were involved in or knew of the misdeeds.

Advertisement
The NSA debacle can so far best be summed up by citing Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who has now confessed that he lied under oath (“clearly erroneous”) to the U.S. Congress. Even his earlier mea culpa of providing the “least untruthful” statement was an untruth.

TIMELINES
Yet the truth does come out. None of these scandals so far has been as ignored as the initial Watergate break-in and associated Nixon-administration misdeeds. If the doctrinaire press is now leading from behind, instead of launching a full-scale attack as it did in the Watergate years, the media as a whole are far more diverse than in 1973, with so many different venues and agendas that it’s difficult to suppress the truth for long.

Remember, between when the Nixon operatives drew up their initial plans to commit illegal acts in early 1972 and when the media furor over cover-ups and lying forced Nixon out of office in late summer 1974, the time elapsed was over 30 months — a period as long as or longer than the gestation of the present scandals. Recall also that no one died in Watergate; that the IRS resisted, not abetted, calls to go after critics of the president; and that Attorney General John Mitchell did not lie under oath to Congress. Scandals wax and wane, but until the truth is told, they never quite end.

THE DENIALS
There is also nothing new in administration denials. Both President Obama and his press secretary, Jay Carney, characterized the Benghazi, IRS, AP, and NSA allegations as “phony.” So too Nixon’s press secretary, Ron Ziegler, characterized the Watergate break-in as “a third-rate burglary attempt” and insisted that “Certain elements may try to stretch the Watergate burglary beyond what it is.” In August 1972, when news of the break-in first got out, Nixon himself assured the nation, “I can say categorically that . . . no one in the White House staff, no one in this Administration, presently employed, was involved in this very bizarre incident.” The Obama administration’s variation on outright denial is “What difference, at this point, does it make?” And when Jay Carney declares, “I accept that ‘stylistic’ might not precisely describe a change of one word to another,”  I am reminded of Ron Ziegler’s quip, “This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.”

THE EXODUSES
By the summer of 1974, Richard Nixon was almost alone. His attorney general, John Mitchell; his closest two advisers, Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman; his White House counsel, John Dean; and a score of others — some of them directly involved, others only tangentially mentioned — had resigned, had been fired, or had been indicted. Those not involved simply wanted out of the administration, lest they suffer from guilt by association.

Less than a year after Benghazi, all the chief participants in reacting to the attack are gone from their positions: Susan Rice left the U.N. ambassadorship and is now a very quiet national-security adviser; Hillary Clinton is no longer secretary of state; we have both a new defense secretary and a new CIA director; the ranking military officer responsible for the area around Benghazi, General Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, has retired.

Likewise there have been several resignations and suspensions from the IRS. I don’t think James Clapper will last long as director of national intelligence — such a high-ranking official simply cannot confess to lying under oath to a congressional committee and expect ever again to be taken seriously. Eric Holder may prove to be Obama’s version of a steadfast-to-the-very-last General Haig; yet, like the mostly silent Susan Rice, he has been so tainted with scandal as to have little reputation left other than for being loyal to the president, and is thus irrelevant.



Text  


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

NRO Polls on LockerDome

Subscribe to National Review