Why Obama can’t wave away this scandal
By John Podhoretz
November 23, 2013 | 9:30am
The media shielded the president from every criticism — until he betrayed a liberal cause
People are puzzled: Why would Barack Obama have lied about how wonderfully everything was going to go with ObamaCare when officials in his administration knew perfectly well that disaster was going to strike?
In one sense, the answer is simple: At the time, just before Oct. 1, Republicans were insisting ObamaCare be delayed or defunded. The president and his team weren’t going to give the enemy the satisfaction of agreeing — or the potent ammunition that would have come from a rueful admission the system wasn’t ready.
Today, a bipartisan agreement to delay ObamaCare seems like it would have been a pretty good deal. It didn’t look that way at all in the last two weeks of September.
But there’s a deeper reason he and his people lied: They did it because they could. They did it because nearly five years in the White House had given Obama and his team confidence they would not face the music and they could finesse the problems until they got fixed.
Consider the events that would have been unprecedented scandals in a Republican administration — with teams of reporters digging and scratching daily at every nook and cranny in every bureaucratic corridor — that have instead been covered dutifully but with relatively little passion and almost no follow-up. Why? Because it would have hurt Obama, that’s why.
First, the Obama Justice Department.
Attorney General Eric Holder has survived three scandals that would have felled a Republican. His department attempted to soft-pedal its responsibility for the so-called “gunwalking” policy called Fast and Furious — which led to the murders of US border agents by Mexican drug-cartel members with guns effectively provided to the killers by the Justice Department.
He approved the secret surveillance of Fox News Channel reporter James Rosen in a leak investigation on the outrageous grounds that Rosen was a possible “co-conspirator” in an act of espionage. And he approved similar tactics against reporters at the Associated Press in another leak investigation.
Holder’s still there. Obama defends him. When was the last time you heard Rosen’s name mentioned, or the AP story referenced, or Fast and Furious come up?
Second, the Internal Revenue Service.
The IRS’s own acknowledgement that it had targeted conservative groups with anti-liberal agendas has led to shamed retirements, hasty changes at the top of the agency and officials pleading the First Amendment. These efforts were clearly undertaken to find means by which to aid Democratic efforts in the 2010 and 2012 election. One can only wonder at what would have been done to George W. Bush by the media had similar outrages been perpetated on leftist groups in 2003 and 2004. Obama suffered . . . a little. A very little.
Third, the State Department.
The unconscionable behavior of State Department and White House officials during and after the killing of four Americans in Benghazi at the height of the 2012 race — during which the American people were deliberately and consciously misled — has had no lasting consequences whatsoever. Obama felt free to select the chief liar, Susan Rice, as his national-security adviser without experiencing a moment’s fear about how her appointment might become a scandal.
Fourth, making law from the White House.
In 2011, the president said that owing to Republican recalcitrance in the House of Representatives, he would use his executive authority to get things done. And he has. As Tara Helfman writes in the December issue of Commentary, the magazine I edit, “Notwithstanding President Obama’s constitutional duty to enforce the law of the Untied States, where federal laws conflict with his policy preferences on gay marriage, illegal immigration and drug policy, the president has simply opted not to enforce or defend them.”
Moreover, to strengthen his hand with Hispanic voters in 2012, he ordered the Justice Department to follow certain provisions of a law governing illegal immigrants that has yet to be approved by the Congress. That is unprecedented.
So, if you want to understand the blindness and arrogance of the Obama White House in failing to appreciate the wave of rage and disappointment and disgusted wonderment that would hit them in the wake of the ObamaCare rollout, you need only consider these factors.
He has always had the protection of his liberal base.
He has always had the protection of Senate Democrats, who have not acted in any way to trouble him regarding these scandals and who have impeded aggressive investigations into them.
And he has always had the protection of the mainstream media.
As a result, Barack Obama and his administration have said what they felt they needed to say and done what they felt they needed to do for immediate political gain. They did so this time. But this time was different, because this time he was mishandling and discrediting the great liberal desideratum of our time — a national health-care system.
This time he hasn’t gotten away with it.