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Why didn’t Romney… why didn’t the Republicans… root out these Obama scandals before the last election?
Here’s a list — to be lengthened — of things that might have happened:
1. The President’s machinations were so devious and brilliant and that it was just too hard for the Republicans to uncover them in time to enlighten the voters.
2. The Republicans had good reason to believe that the American people resisted thinking ill of the famously likeable President and so they pursued campaign strategies that allowed people to maintain this treasured belief. Their idea was: He’s a nice guy but it would be good to switch to this other person who’s also nice and will do an even better job. That’s lame, we can see in retrospect, but it was the decision at the time.
3. The Democrats’ theme was the meanness of Republicans, and muckracking and mudslinging would have risked reinforcing that theme. It seemed like a better bet to stay clean, especially once the scrappier candidates — Gingrich and Santorum — lost out to the gentlemanly Romney.
4. Obama’s prime target was the Tea Party (which had crushed him in the 2010 midterms), and the establishment Republicans were at odds with the Tea Party movement. I’m not saying I believe this, but sober reflection tells us we need to redraw the line between paranoia and vigilance. The theory is that establishment Republicans appreciated the suppression of the Tea Party.
According to Eric Holder, Eric Holder is no more responsible for the investigation of the Associated Press than Barack Obama is for events in Benghazi according to Barack Obama. That was Holder’s theme in his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, which I first read about yesterday in a post by Allahpundit at Hot Air.
Looking around for a narrative account of Holder’s testimony this morning, I find the liberal hack Eleanor Clift writing at the Daily Beast about Holder’s response to questions involving “the secret subpoena of the AP’s phone records” in the leak investigation:
He couldn’t remember when he recused himself, or even exactly how he did it, only that it was before the subpoena was issued, and that a staff search revealed nothing in writing. Alabama Republican Spencer Bachus nailed it when he said, “Do you think it would be a best practice to memorialize that recusal in writing?” By then, the subject had come up several times, and Holder said that just thinking about it through the hearing, his critics were right.
Fear not that anything untoward has occurred. Holder promised: “I pledge to the American people an after-action analysis.” Well, alright.
John and Paul comment on the AP leak investigation here. I urged the Bush administration to investigate the worst national security leaks mostly involving the New York Times in “Exposure” for the Weekly Standard and many times on Power Line. Indeed, I urged prosecution of the reporters involved, who seemed to me to have violated our espionage laws. Yesterday former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said that the Bush administration once considered issuing the type of subpoena that the Justice Department issued against the AP, but ultimately opted against it. Did any Bush administration leak investigation expose the wrongdoers (other than those whose names appeared in the bylines of the Times articles)? I don’t think so.
The notorious national-security leaks that were featured on page one of the Times during the Bush administration seem to me to have done vastly greater harm than the leaks involved in the AP story. Here is the original AP story of May 2012 that appears to have triggered the leak investigation in which the AP phone records were subpoenaed. (I found the AP story via Max Fisher’s comments on the investigation.) Here are the key paragraphs about the AP’s communications with the White House:
The AP learned about the thwarted plot last week but agreed to White House and CIA requests not to publish it immediately because the sensitive intelligence operation was still under way.
Once those concerns were allayed, the AP decided to disclose the plot Monday despite requests from the Obama administration to wait for an official announcement Tuesday.
The White House confirmed the story after the AP published it on Monday afternoon. Caitlin Hayden, the deputy national security council spokeswoman, said in a statement that Obama was first informed about the plot in April by his homeland security adviser John Brennan, and was advised that it did not pose a threat to the public.
Conor Fridersdorf takes a look at the subpoena of the AP phone records in the context of Holder’s characterization of the leak investigation. It seems to me that Friedersdorf raises a good question about the alleged harm caused by the AP story. I think it’s fair to say that skepticism is warranted and, as to Holder’s testimony yesterday, a laugh track would be appropriate.
NOTE: In the original version of this post, I said exactly the opposite of what I meant about the apparent seriousness of the leaks leading to the AP article versus the leaks leading to the notorious Times articles. I have revised the post accordingly.
STEVE adds: The Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank also thinks Holder’s appearance was pathetic, calling it an “abdication”:
Holder seemed to regard this ignorance as a shield protecting him and the Justice Department from all criticism of the Obama administration’s assault on press freedoms. But his claim that his “recusal” from the case exempted him from all discussion of the matter didn’t fly with Republicans or Democrats on the committee, who justifiably saw his recusal as more of an abdication. . . when the Justice Department undermines the Constitution, recusal is no excuse.
The cracks in the dam are starting to leak.
50 years ago, the nation witnessed seven dramatic days in May, as helmeted policemen used dogs and fire hoses against black children chanting freedom songs and hymns in Birmingham, Alabama. More than 3,000 peaceful demonstrators were arrested. The images from those days, including that of Birmingham police chief “Bull” Connor, are indelibly etched in the minds of those of us who saw them, and many of those who have seen them replayed since.
The events of May helped solidify national sentiment in favor of civil rights for blacks. President Kennedy reportedly said at the time that Connor had done as much for the civil rights movement as Abraham Lincoln. That’s a gross exaggeration. But by June 1963, Connor had done more than Kennedy for civil rights.
Indeed, looking back at reports by major northern newspapers of the Birmingham demonstrations (full disclosure — I was looking for material on baseball, not civil rights), I was struck by the criticism leveled at the Kennedy administration for doing so little on behalf of civil rights for blacks. Kennedy had campaigned hard for the black vote, and he scored a coup late in the 1960 campaign when he came to the defense of Martin Luther King, who had been imprisoned in Georgia. Upon his release, King stated:
I understand from very reliable sources that Senator Kennedy served as a great force in making the release possible. I think a great deal of Senator Kennedy, I have met him and I’ve talked with him on three different occasions since the nomination and I think a great deal of him. But I would not, at this point, endorse any candidate because of the non-partisan position that I follow.
Unfortunately, as of May 1963, the Kennedy administration had proposed no significant civil rights legislation. Moreover, it had often failed even to set the right tone on civil rights.
Among the criticisms I came across in reading newspapers from May 1963 were these:
Kennedy appointed Charles Merriweather to head the export-import bank, even though (according to critics) he had ties to the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens Council. Kennedy made the appointment on the recommendation of former Alabama governor Patterson, a key Kennedy supporter in the state.
The Kennedy administration rejected the recommendation of the Civil Rights Commission that it move to cut federal aid to Mississippi in response to that State’s treatment of black citizens.
Robert Kennedy failed to defend 10 civil rights marchers who were arrested at the Alabama-Mississippi border when they tried to cross state lines to deliver a petition — as was their constitutional right — to the governor of Mississippi.
Later in 1963, the Kennedy administration finally proposed major civil rights legislation, which became the basis for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But it’s not unfair to say that, in this effort, Kennedy was leading from behind — the northern response to the events like those that take place in Birmingham showed that the nation was beyond ready to enact sweeping civil rights legislation. All it took was a president willing to take on Southern Democrats.
Kennedy’s delay, and his tepid support for civil rights in general, is difficult to defend. It appears to be based on political calculation — a desire not to ruffle the feathers of Southern Democrats who, to be fair, held disproportionate power in the U.S. Senate and whose constituents would have a say in the upcoming 1964 election.
Kennedy’s approach to civil rights reminds me in some ways of Obama’s approach to gay marriage and immigration reform. Obama was elected with the strong support of gays and Hispanics. Yet well into his administration, he had done nothing much to promote the pet projects of these groups, and was drawing some fire as a result. That began to change in the run-up to the 2012 election.
But Kennedy’s failure to move seems more cynical than Obama’s. For one thing, the injustices to blacks in the early 1960s far exceeded the injustice, if any, to gays and illegal immigrants. For another, opposition to civil rights legislation for blacks in the early 1960s was essentially regional, which is not the case with the issues as to which Obama was slow off the mark.
In any case, it is worth recalling not just that Republicans were instrumental in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (a point often made), but also that, for most of his administration, John Kennedy was no good friend of the civil rights movement.
I’ve been skeptical if not dismissive of all the loose talk that the multiple scandals piling up around Obama would be sufficient to bring about his impeachment–until this afternoon. Let’s remember that impeachment didn’t work out too well with Clinton, and the evidence of his bad behavior was a lot more direct than it is (so far) with Obama. In the case of Nixon, it will be recalled, it required a tape recording of his collaborating in the obstruction of justice to bring about the tipping point that doomed his presidency. But for that tape, he might have been able to tough it out as Clinton did.
But there’s always been an important contrast between the Nixon and Clinton cases–and the unfolding Obama mess–that tends to get lost in the Standard Heroic Narrative that liberals and journalists tell themselves at Watergate revival campfires. Nixon had deeply angered members of both parties in Congress with his attempts to gain control of pork barrel spending, such that his support among Republicans was already somewhat diminished when the storms of Watergate broke.
Hence the news this afternoon that the Obama administration may have even secretly obtained phone records for members of Congress is going to be a bombshell if true. See what Rep. Devin Nunes told Hugh Hewitt this afternoon:
Rep. Nunes: I don’t think people are focusing on the right thing when they talk about going after the AP reporters. The big problem that I see is that they actually tapped right where I’m sitting right now, the Cloak Room.
Hewitt: Wait a minute, this is news to me.
Nunes: The Cloak Room in the House of Representatives.
Hewitt: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Nunes: So when they went after the AP reporters, right? Went after all of their phone records, they went after the phone records, including right up here in the House Gallery, right up from where I’m sitting right now. So you have a real separation of powers issue that did this really rise to the level that you would have to get phone records that would, that would most likely include members of Congress, because as you know…
Nunes: …members of Congress talk to the press all the time.
Hewitt: I did not know that, and that is a stunner.
Nunes: Now that is a separation of powers issue here, Hugh.
Only thing missing now is a batch of thumb drives hidden in someone’s pumpkin patch.