Trust

by Peter Kirsanow

We don’t yet know who hacked Sharyl Attkisson’s computers at the very time she happened to be digging into the Benghazi scandal. Perhaps it was a rival reporter, a rogue partisan, or just some guy in a basement with too much time on his hands.

But we’re at a remarkable point in our history when a majority of Americans probably — and with good reason – consider their own government the most likely suspect. There have always been those who’ve first blamed The Government for any manner of nefarious deeds. But their numbers were usually small and invariably in the minority. Now, however, the government no longer enjoys the benefit of the doubt.

This is a troubling development. A free people should always maintain a healthy skepticism about their government. That skepticism has been growing among conservatives particularly for the last few decades, and accelerating over the last few years.

But one senses that we’ve now crossed a significant line. The skepticism has been infused with a hint of trepidation: The bewildering crescendo of recent scandals suggests our government no longer considers us citizens, but rather subjects. Peggy Noonan recently noted the major difference between Watergate and today’s scandals. In the former, she contends, the players on either side were prominent and powerful — the president’s election campaign was going after the Democratic nominee for president. In the IRS scandal, on the other hand, it’s the massive governmental agency most feared by the American people going after ordinary Americans. In Benghazi, it was the U.S. government leaving ”ordinary” (but extraordinary) Americans to die.

In just the last few weeks we’ve learned that the IRS has targeted average Americans because of their political and religious beliefs, the federal government has secretly been collecting mountains of data on Americans not suspected of any crimes whatsoever, and reporters have been subjected to wiretaps and similar intrusions. We’ve also seen a Director of National Intelligence render the “least untruthful” testimony he could provide, and an attorney general render testimony that many suspect was much more untruthful.

The burden of proof remains with government officials to explain why, on any proposition, large or small, they deserve our trust. But recent events show they should be required to convince us even beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s unlikely they’ll be able to do so any time in the foreseeable future.

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