With each developing scandal, the picture of an arrogant administration abusing its power grows clearer.
The Justice Department leaks documents to attack a whistleblower on the Fast and Furious case. The Internal Revenue Service begins targeting conservative political and religious groups a day after an officer of the union representing IRS employees meets with President Obama. The Justice Department, it now turns out, hasn’t limited its snooping to The Associated Press, but has included Fox News, the administration’s archnemesis in the electronic media.
Each blockbuster revelation builds upon the previous in a story so compelling that even the most servile lapdogs in the Washington press begins to stir from a five-year slumber and return to their proper role as watchdogs. It’s too soon to talk impeachment, or even to hint at it, but nothing should stop Republicans from taking a seat and enjoying the spectacle.
Gary Pruitt, the CEO of The Associated Press explained to CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday why he thinks the Justice Department began spying on his reporters. The White House “was misleading the American public” by denying an attempted Islamic terrorism plot on the first anniversary of death of Osama bin Laden. The Associated Press was about to go to press with the story.
For five days, the news agency waited for national security concerns to dissipate, and then went with the story. Mr. Pruitt was told the White House was disappointed because it wanted to take credit for foiling the plot; if true, the administration would look like it’s retaliating against the AP for “scooping” the president. No judge ever reviewed the secret Justice Department subpoena for the AP’s phone records. “The message being sent is,” said Mr. Pruitt, “if you talk to the press, we’re going to go after you.”
The FBI did obtain a warrant before demanding that Google turn over the personal emails of James Rosen, the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News. The agency intended to build a federal case against Mr. Rosen “at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator” of a State Department employee who leaked information about North Korea in 2009. Taking down a top reporter at Fox News for his accurate reporting about the administration could be counted on to dissuade whistleblowers from talking to the network, which took the broadcasting lead on Benghazi and the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal.
Intimidation continues to be the theme on Tuesday, when Steven T. Miller, the retiring acting commissioner of the IRS, faces his second Capitol Hill grilling session over mistreatment of Tea Party groups. Though he will be appearing before the Democrat-controlled Senate Finance Committee, Mr. Miller shouldn’t expect the usual excessive leniency. Sens. Max Baucus of Montana and Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the panel’s top Democrat and ranking Republican, respectively, gave Mr. Miller less than two weeks to produce 41 sets of documents related to the scandal. Both senators call the IRS actions “a clear breach of the public’s trust.”
Bob Schieffer of CBS, a sometime-friend of the administration, scolded the White House on Sunday for reminding him of Watergate with its inept handling of the scandals. “I have to tell you that is exactly the approach that the Nixon administration took,” he said.
When the luminaries of the left ask the right questions, Republicans need not add much to the debate. Republican politicians must choose their words with moderation and give the scandals some room to develop on their own. These scandals won’t be buried in the backyard with the dog’s bones. It’s too late for that. For now, the partisans should heed the ancient political advice that when your enemy is destroying himself, stand clear and give him room to work.
The Washington Times