- - Monday, June 20, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It’s not the crime, but the cover-up. This is the first rule that every administration, Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative, learns, and usually the hard way. Some crimes are more serious than others, but a little crime, like a little acorn, can grow into a mighty scandal or a mighty oak.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch learned this Monday when, no doubt under careful instructions from the White House (which the White House naturally denies), she released a heavily edited transcript of the conversations between Omar Mateen and police negotiators when he was in the midst of killing 49 men and women in Orlando.

Someone, whether at the Justice Department or at the White House, had carefully cleaned up the transcript to change references to “Allah” to “God.” In his actual words, Mateen told negotiators: “Praise be to Allah, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of Allah. I let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.” The words were spoken in Arabic.

The transcript, as rewritten by the Obama administration, was sanitized: “Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God. I let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.” The rewritten version further deleted the words “Islamic State” and the name of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to whom Mateen said he pledged allegiance. Ms. Lynch later reversed course and released an uncensored version.

The original transcript was clearly released under pressure from Republicans and the media — House Speaker Paul Ryan called the altered transcript “preposterous” — and it supports the consistent Obama narrative that Omar Mateen was not a radical Islamic terrorist, just a religious nut of no particular religious belief who had slipped off the rails. He could have been a Jew from Brooklyn, a Baptist from Mississippi, a blue-eyed Lutheran from Minnesota or a fair-haired Episcopalian from anywhere.

The administration assigned its crack theologians to defend the rewrite. “[Mateen] does not represent the religion of Islam,” says Ron Hopper, the assistant special agent in charge of the revisions, “but a perverted view. Part of the redacting is meant to not give credence to individuals who have done terrorist attacks in the past. We’re not gonna propagate their violent rhetoric.”

Agent Hopper may well be correct that Omar Mateen propagated a perversion of Islam; there are indeed millions of loyal and peaceful Muslims in America and elsewhere. But it is not the job of the White House, the FBI or any other government agency to interpret the doctrines of any religious group. A law-enforcement agency has a responsibility to find and report “just the facts, ma’am,” and leave the interpretation to others.

The rewritten transcript is of a piece with the president’s stubborn refusal to call the radical Islamic threat by its real name. He thinks this is the way to make the terrorists go away. Language accomplishes something fundamental when it is used to distinguish fact from fiction. If the president understood that he would not now have scrambled egg arrayed across his face. The U.S. military would not have been hobbled to win the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, grandmothers would not be subjected to full-body pat-downs at airports, and the FBI might have connected enough dots to stop Omar Mateen before he killed 49 innocents.

Loretta Lynch, faithful to the president as all presidential aides are expected to be, would not now be nursing cuts and bruises sustained when President Obama threw her under the bus. Mr. Obama is afflicted with a deadly view that the world’s No. 1 danger is not Islamic terrorism, but American exceptionalism. The American people are a fair and generous people, perfectly capable of reading the facts and acting accordingly. Barack Obama, for all his gifts, does not understand America, and never has. If he did, he would know that Americans have no appetite for lies, deceptions and humbug, washed down with moonshine.

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