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The Republicans get an opportunity and a caution
President Obama has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. In elevating truth-challenged U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice to the government’s premier national security position, Mr. Obama effectively flashed an upturned middle finger toward his critics as if to say, “I’m large and in charge. If you have a problem with her, then come and get me.”
Why not accept his invitation? Barely six months into his second term, the defiant chief executive apparently failed to notice that imperial overreach has become the hallmark of his administration. Those latest excesses have handed Republicans a sword as they try to wrest control of Congress in 2014.
Although each morning brings more revelations, the record already justifies a throw-the-rascals-out campaign. To wit:
Benghazi as avatar: With the presidential election barely two months away, it was vital last fall not to awaken a peacefully sleeping baby — even if an American ambassador was dead.
It was more important for the Obama administration to extend the prevailing media myth that our national security was in capable hands. Osama bin Laden was still dead, wasn’t he?
In fact, our “victory” in Libya was a lead-from-behind farce, Iran was creeping ever closer to a nuclear weapon, and the Syrian civil war threatened to explode into a regional catastrophe. Hence, the absurd cover story about the flash-mob video.
“Cover-up” may be too strong a term, though. The Nixon White House preferred “modified, limited hang-out.”
Selective injustice: First came Operation Fast and Furious, the absurd Justice Department program that sold sophisticated weapons to Mexican drug cartels. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. snuffed a congressional contempt citation on that one — the middle finger again.
He was more forthcoming when it was revealed that the Justice Department had feverishly pursued the phone records of Fox News reporter James Rosen — and even his parents. Well, huffed the attorney general, you can’t be too careful about protecting national security from burrowing reporters.
Oh, really? Then how about Eric Sanger, the Washington bureau chief of The New York Times, who in early 2012 dropped that little bomb about the Stuxnet virus being deployed against Iran? Who in the West Wing was investigated for betraying the secret that was at code-word level?
Or was that just part of the “new normal,” investigating one of the administration’s few media adversaries while protecting its allies? Just remember: Mr. Holder is the John Mitchell of the Obama administration.
The IRS as weapon: The Republican poster child for 2014 likely will be the wonderfully named Faris Fink, the hapless Internal Revenue Service employee forced to defend his agency’s wasteful spending before a suddenly angry Congress.
It turns out that the IRS wasted millions of dollars on plush conferences and feasting, and failed to follow standard accounting practices it demands from the rest of us.
Less annoying and hilarious, but far more serious, is the growing evidence that the IRS was deliberately used by the White House to harass its enemies. Maybe that’s just Chicago-style politics, but most taxpayers would be delighted to see IRS bureaucrats doing some serious prison time.
More important, Republicans now have an issue tailor-made to take to a livid electorate: Abolish the IRS as well as the incomprehensible U.S. tax code. The “fair tax” is an idea whose time has arrived.
Domestic spying: On the 69th anniversary of D-Day, it was revealed that the National Security Agency is eavesdropping on the cellphone records of millions of Verizon customers, all to reinforce the ideal enshrined in the NSA’s middle name.
Though most of my military career was spent in the Army equivalent of the FBI, it now appears that requirements once drilled into every credentialed investigator — such as reasonable search and probable cause — apparently have been trashed.
With all those digital-data flows, maybe that is why the FBI never bothered to tell the Boston police about the travel habits of the Tsarnaev brothers — or their potential terrorism connections. The major difference between the Nazis and the jihadis? Back then, we knew who our enemy was.
We have badly overstepped the traditional boundaries of American civil liberties just as our citizens have forcibly been reminded that political limits exist for a reason. Lord Acton famously said, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The Obama administration rejoinder: “But absolute power without accountability is really neat.”
To win in 2014 and beyond, the Republicans will need to provide convincing alternatives on defense, foreign policy, immigration reform and restoring American competitiveness. Against all odds and most expectations, it appears that the electorate may be prepared to listen.
Col. Ken Allard, retired from the Army, is a military analyst and author on national security issues.
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