Something happens to men and women when they gain a proximity to power. Most in public service, one can only assume, begin with noble purpose: to serve, to change and improve the world — whether that be a small town or, literally, the world.
Soon enough, many — not all, but many — want only to stay in that position of power, and will do what it takes, whatever it takes, to stay there. Where once they talked only of their dreams and ambitions, not for themselves, but for those they served, soon enough they spend their days tearing down — their campaign foes, opposing political parties and, in the end, anyone who doesn’t think like them.
Both parties are guilty of it, but Democrats seem to relish the dysfunction. The most liberal among them eventually lose all perspective, begin to believe that the ends justify the means, dismiss criticism as driven by partisanship and end up far, far away from where they began.
These past few weeks have brought some pure examples of this miserable human trait. The perpetrators: the Democratic leader of the Senate; a former secretary of state; and the highest law official in the land, the attorney general.
Sen. Harry Reid, first elected to the House in 1982 (and, by the way, set to leave office a millionaire), took to the Senate floor during the height of the 2012 presidential campaign to allege that Republican Mitt Romney hadn’t paid taxes in 10 years. He claimed an anonymous source had come to him out of the blue and told him so.
“Let him prove that he has paid taxes, because he hasn’t,” the Nevada Democrat said. He knew it was a lie then, but said it anyway. Mr. Romney had been rising in the polls and the senator from Searchlight decided to do whatever it took to defeat his fellow Mormon.
Last week, the senator, who is retiring in 2017, was asked about lying on the Senate floor. “I don’t regret it at all. They can call it whatever they want,” he said in an interview with CNN. With a smirk, he added: “Romney didn’t win, did he?”
He could not have been clearer: “I lied, but I don’t care because the ends justified the means.” In the interview, Mr. Reid wore dark glasses to mask a major eye injury he suffered while “exercising.” Doctors say he may lose sight in one eye. If this symbolism were in “House of Cards,” viewers would groan: The senator literally went blind while in office.
Hillary Clinton, about to announce a run for president, was also caught in a lie last week. After news emerged that, as secretary of state in President Obama’s first term, she kept a private server at her home to avoid using a government email account, she said in a press conference that she did so in order to use just one device for correspondence.
But — shocker — it was not so. Mrs. Clinton also used an iPad to communicate with associates. Most of her top aides also had accounts on her private server, so there is no government record of many of her emails.
What did Hillary say? Absolutely nothing. She’s ignored the story and, not surprisingly, reporters haven’t bothered to ask her about the obvious lie she told.
Last is Eric Holder. The outgoing attorney general recently claimed that racism was “endemic” in the Ferguson Police Department. But the Justice Department didn’t release a supposed trove of emails that proved the charge when it released its report last month.
The department finally did so last week. As TheGatewayPundit.com reported, there are 74 employees at the department. Three sent offensive emails. That’s 4 percent of the police force, and one wasn’t a cop but a court clerk. Mr. Holder lied when he said racism was pervasive in the department.
On Wednesday, Fox News reporter James Rosen asked White House press secretary Josh Earnest whether President Obama would condemn Mr. Reid’s lie about Mr. Romney. Mr. Rosen referenced the president’s comments that same day at the opening of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston.
“We live in a time of such great cynicism about all our institutions,” Mr. Obama remarked. “And we are cynical about government and about Washington, most of all. It’s hard for our children to see, in the noisy and too often trivial pursuits of today’s politics, the possibilities of our democracy,” the president said.
“I wonder,” Mr. Rosen asked Mr. Obama’s mouthpiece, “if President Obama, who has lamented this incivility in our politics, this disrespect in our politics, has any view of Harry Reid telling Dana Bash in response to this question, well, Romney didn’t get elected, did he?”
Mr. Earnest dodged, talking only about “a partnership that will go down in history as a remarkably productive one.”
“But it’s the president’s choice and his spokesman’s choice to call out conduct unbecoming of our highest elected officials when it is, in fact, unbecoming,” Mr. Rosen pressed. “Are you going to take that opportunity now?”
Said Mr. Earnest: “Not for something that’s 3 years old.”
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.