Friday, June 19, 2009

In firing AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin last week, President Obama probably thought he and his wife, Michelle, were the ones “sending the message.”

After all, dispensing petty political retribution on behalf of one’s crooked friends is the “Chicago way,” is it not? And the firing of Mr. Walpin would no doubt have lasting benefits for the Obamas, too, seeing as inspectors general throughout the federal government would get the message that “FOBAMs” - or “Friends of Barack and Michelle” - were not to be touched in the future.

What Mr. and Mrs. “Hope and Change” failed to take into account was that when you circumvent the law to protect political hoodlums, you have a way of becoming political hoodlums yourselves.

As has been widely reported, Mr. Walpin was the lead federal investigator into financial abuses committed by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson - a major Obama backer caught misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money.

As a result of Mr. Walpin’s investigation, the corporation that runs AmeriCorps agreed that Mr. Johnson should be barred from receiving any federal grant money in the future, while Justice Department officials began investigating criminal charges against him. Unsurprisingly, though, Mr. Johnson began receiving preferential treatment from the Obamas and their corrupt cronies almost as soon as the new president took office.

Despite Mr. Johnson’s acknowledged misconduct, a new AmeriCorps leader and a new acting U.S. attorney began pushing for a settlement that would lift his suspension and free him from having to repay the money he stole from the taxpayers.

Their rationale? The city of Sacramento would be unable to receive federal bureaucratic bailout dollars unless Mr. Johnson’s suspension was lifted - a fact Mr. Johnson deliberately deceived Sacramento voters about during his campaign.

Mr. Walpin opposed any such “deal.” In fact, when it became clear Mr. Johnson’s suspension would be lifted, he wrote to Congress explaining the horrible precedent that would be set by stripping inspectors general of their primary enforcement tool.

In response to Mr. Walpin’s insistence that the law be followed, Mr. Obama set an even worse precedent. He fired Mr. Walpin.

In fact, the special counsel to the president for “ethics and government reform” was the Obama official who fired Mr. Walpin, giving him an hour to either resign or be terminated.

Mr. Obama - who made bales of political hay over former President George W. Bush’s Justice Department firings - has now proven he’s no different. Specifically, he has trampled all over the intent of the very law he co-sponsored last year, which requires the president to give Congress 30 days notice and an explanation of cause before firing inspectors general.

Apparently, shielding his political allies from the consequences of their actions wasn’t enough - Mr. Obama had to take it a step further by bending the law to exact vengeance on an investigator who was merely doing his job. In true Chicago “gangster” fashion, getting his crony off the hook was merely a prelude to the larger operation - silencing future dissent.

Thinking he could do as he pleased, Mr. Obama’s initial justification for this cool display of corruption was that he had “lost confidence” in Mr. Walpin. When Republicans and Democrats in Congress refused to be mollified by this explanation, the White House shifted into “plumbers” mode.

Now the Obama machine is engaged in an elaborate campaign to smear Mr. Walpin, accusing him of being “confused,” “disoriented” and “unable to answer questions.” We’ve seen this sort of behavior before - from a president who eventually had to give up his office.

The firing of Gerald Walpin is a chilling reminder that for all of Mr. Obama’s talk of change - and sponsorship of legislation that appears to provide it - many of his actions are nothing more than glorified political thuggery, providing protection to his friends and retribution to his enemies. The only question is when conduct like this catches up with him.

Bill Wilson is president of Americans for Limited Government.

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