Saturday, May 18, 2013

The 10 P.M. Phone Call

Clinton and Obama discussed Benghazi. What did they say? 

Stay Shocked

By Peggy Noonan
The Wall Street Journal
May 17, 2013
Political Cartoons by Jerry Holbert
So many people are sad about America and cynical about its government. They don’t expect anything good to happen. They think certain poisons have entered the system and nothing can be done about it. Leviathan will not be cut back or tamed, Leviathan will go on abusing the citizen. People are all too willing to believe the Internal Revenue Service is hopelessly political in its judgments and actions. They are not shocked. They don’t think anything can be done, that the system cannot be corrected. They just grip the arms of the seat and wait for the weather to get worse.
But cynicism aids and abets deterioration. You’ve got to stay shocked. It’s disrespectful not to.
* * *

It actually is shocking that the IRS appears to have become political and ideological in a way that is systemic. It is shocking that the president claimed he read about the targeting of conservatives just last Friday, in the newspapers, and today the New York Times reports the leadership of the Treasury Department was told the charges were being investigated a year ago.
And it has to be remembered that this is not your ordinary scandal. Your ordinary scandal is an embarrassment. Somebody did something bad and there’s an investigation or hearings. People are made to suffer for their missteps, if only in terms of notoriety and legal expense. Sometimes the innocent or mostly innocent are dragged in, too. But in the end it passes. Some new laws are passed or rules instituted. And we move on to the next scandal. In a government populated by humans there will never be a lack of them.
But the IRS scandal is different because it speaks of the political corruption of a major and crucial governmental agency to whose rules and regulations every American—everyone who has a job or a bank account, or who engages in a financial transaction—is subject. Most people will never have an interaction with the State Department or the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the IRS deals with an intimate and sensitive part of your life, your personal finances. It is the revenue-collecting arm of the government. It is needed. It does necessary work. When that work is done well it is rarely noted and almost never celebrated. When it’s done badly it’s a terrible thing, because it means a citizen was treated badly or abused. But as an agency it couldn’t be more important to the national mood, the national atmosphere.
If we allow it to become politically corrupt that scandal will not pass, it will be with us every day.
* * *

Which gets us to soon-to-be-former IRS chief Steven Miller’s testimony today before the House Ways and Means Committee.
It gave a bit of a shock. He’s the head of an agency accused of major wrongdoing but his attitude was arrogant, nonresponsive, full of gamesmanship. His general tone? I am insulated, baby. You can’t touch me. You can make your little speeches and I’ll endure them with my best approximation of a poker face, but at the end of the day what can you do? I’m leaving. I have a pension. You can’t prove a thing It was so bad that by the end it occurred to me he might be a secret whistleblower who’s trying to enrage Congress into digging in and finding out what really happened to the IRS, and how, and when, and who did it, and what the rest of the administration knew.
Mr. Miller repeatedly suggested his agency hadn’t engaged in political targeting, it was just a matter of “mistakes” made “by people trying to be more efficient in their workload selection.” He said the IRS was guilty of bad “customer service.” He said he had never misled Congress when he testified, previously, that conservative groups were not being targeted: “I answered the questions as they were asked.” He stonewalled and nonanswered. Who started the targeting? “I don’t have that name for you.” This from the head of an agency in a government hell-bent to get to the bottom on this.
There was an interesting moment when Mr. Miller admitted under questioning that the IRS’s seemingly spontaneous public acknowledgement of and apology for the targeting of conservatives was not, really, spontaneous, but part of a spin operation. He provided insight into the new IRS mindset in this exchange with Rep. Tom Price of Georgia:
Price: “Is it illegal what they have done?”
Miller: “It is absolutely not illegal.” . . .
Price: “Do you believe it is illegal for employees of the IRS to create lists to target individuals and groups and citizens in this country?”
Miller: “I think the Treasury Inspector General indicated that it might not be, but others will be able to tell that.”
Price: “What do you believe?”
Miller: “I don’t believe it is.”
Oh. Well that would explain that.
* * *

So where does this go? Congress will have more hearings next week. Meaning, I suppose, that more IRS officials will be made momentarily uncomfortable. Also the attorney general, Eric Holder, says the FBI will launch an investigation. The president has said he doesn’t want a special prosecutor to look into the scandal because the investigations of Congress and the Justice Department should be enough.
But they’re not. An independent counsel, with his particular powers and particular independence, is needed.
The targeting of conservative groups and individuals by the IRS was a political operation that had political effects. We know this because only people with certain assumed political views were targeted and abused. No liberal groups were. According to today’s Washington Post, the Barack H. Obama Foundation, run by the president’s half-brother and named after their father, sailed through to tax-exempt status in a matter of weeks.
When a problem is political it’s best to have politically independent people investigate it.
Again, if what happened at the IRS is not stopped now, it will never stop. The next White House will come in and they’ll know they can do it too. And if they’re unlucky enough to be caught, they’ll have a have a few uncomfortable moments in Congress, and a few people who were going to retire in the summer will retire in the spring. And it will all go on.
We are at a point now where you can make a list of things that, all combined and allowed to continue, can kill America. This is one of them. Widespread belief that the revenue-collecting arm of the US government is hopelessly corrupt is one of them.
There is such a thing as national morale. Ours could use a boost. People have grown cynical. They expect nothing good to happen. They expect it all to be swept under the rug. They expect no one to pay a price. It is a matter of profound public need that the U.S. government show and prove that it is capable of correcting itself, that Leviathan can stop itself.

The Autocrat Accountants

Once government is ensnared in every aspect of life, a bureaucracy grows increasingly capricious. 

Political Cartoons by Eric Allie

Speaking at Ohio State University earlier this month, Barack Obama urged students to pay no attention to those paranoid types who “incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity.” Oddly enough, in recent days the most compelling testimony for this view of government has come from the president himself, who insists with a straight face that he had no idea that the Internal Revenue Service had spent two years targeting his political enemies until he “learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this.” Like you, all he knows is what he reads in the papers. Which is odd, because his Justice Department is bugging those same papers, so you’d think he’d at least get a bit of a heads-up. But no doubt the fact that he’s wiretapping the Associated Press was also entirely unknown to him until he read about it in the Associated Press. There is a “president of the United States” and a “government of the United States,” but, despite a certain superficial similarity in their names, they are entirely unrelated, like BeyoncĂ© Knowles and Admiral Sir Charles Knowles. One golfs, reads the prompter, parties with Jay-Z, and guests on the Pimp with a Limp show, and the other audits you, bugs your telephone line, and leaks your confidential tax records. But they’re two completely separate sinister entities. So it’s preposterous to describe Obama as Nixonian: BeyoncĂ© wouldn’t have given Nixon the time of day.

If you believe this, there’s a shovel-ready infrastructure project in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you. In April last year, the Obama campaign identified by name eight Romney donors as “a group of wealthy individuals with less than reputable records. Quite a few have been on the wrong side of the law, others have made profits at the expense of so many Americans, and still others are donating to help ensure Romney puts beneficial policies in place for them.” That week, Kimberley Strassel began her Wall Street Journal column thus:
Try this thought experiment: You decide to donate money to Mitt Romney. You want change in the Oval Office, so you engage in your democratic right to send a check. 
Several days later, President Barack Obama, the most powerful man on the planet, singles you out by name. . . . The message from the man who controls the Justice Department (which can indict you), the SEC (which can fine you), and the IRS (which can audit you), is clear: You made a mistake donating that money.
Miss Strassel wrote that on April 26, 2012. Five weeks later, one of the named individuals, Frank VanderSloot, was informed by the IRS that he and his wife were being audited. In July, he was told by the Department of Labor of an additional audit over the guest workers on his cattle ranch in Idaho. In September, he was notified that one of his other businesses was to be audited. Mr. VanderSloot, who had never previously been audited, attracted three in the four months after being publicly named by el Presidente. More to the point he attracted that triple audit even though Miss Strassel explicitly predicted in America’s biggest-selling newspaper that this was exactly what the Obama enforcers were going to do. The “separate, sinister entity” of the government of the United States went ahead anyway. What do they care? If some lippy broad in the papers won’t quit her yapping about it, they can always audit her, too — as they did to Miss Strassel’s sometime colleague Anne Hendershott, a sociology professor who got rather too interested in Obamacare and wrote about it in the Journal and various small Catholic publications. The IRS summoned Professor Hendershott to account for herself, and forbade her husband from accompanying her, even though they filed jointly. She ceased her political writing.

A year after he was named to the Obama Dishonor Roll, the feds have found nothing on Mr. VanderSloot, but they have caused him to rack up 80 grand in legal bills. This is what IRS defenders (of whom there are more than there ought to be) mean when they assure us that the system worked: Yes, some rich guy had to blow through the best part of six figures fending off the bureaucrats, but it’s not like his body was found in a trunk at the airport or anything, if you know what I mean, Kimmy baby.  

Mr. VanderSloot is big enough, just about, to see off the most powerful government on the planet. Most of those who’ve caught the eye of the IRS share nothing in common with him other than his political preferences. They’re nobodies — ordinary American citizens guilty of no crime except that of disagreeing with the ruling party. Yet they were asked, under “penalty of perjury,” to disclose the names of books they were reading and provide the names and addresses of relatives who might be planning to run for public office — a kind of pre-enemies list. Is that banana-republic enough for you yet? Not apparently for Juan Williams, fired from NPR for thought crime a couple of years ago, but who was nevertheless energetically defending the IRS exertions on Fox News on Thursday evening.

Left-wing groups had their 501(c)(4) applications approved in weeks, right-wing groups were delayed for months and years and ordered to cough up everything from donor lists to Facebook posts, and those right-wing groups that were approved had their IRS files leaked to left-wing groups like ProPublica. The agency’s commissioner, a slippery weasel called Steven Miller, conceded before Congress that this was “horrible customer service” — which it was in the sense that your call is important to him and may be monitored by George Soros for quality control.

A civil “civil service” requires small government. Once government is ensnared in every aspect of life a bureaucracy grows increasingly capricious. The U.S. tax code ought to be an abomination to any free society, but the American people have become reconciled to it because of a complex web of so-called exemptions that massively empower the vast shadow state of the permanent bureaucracy. Under a simple tax system, your income is a legitimate tax issue. Under the IRS,everything is a legitimate tax issue: The books you read, the friends you recommend them to. There are no correct answers, only approved answers. Drew Ryun applied for permanent non-profit status for a group called “Media Trackers” in July 2011. Fifteen months later, he’d heard nothing. So he applied again under the eco-friendly name of “Greenhouse Solutions,” and was approved in three weeks.

The president and the IRS commissioner are unable to name any individual who took the decision to target only conservative groups. It just kinda sorta happened, and, once it had, it growed like Topsy. But the lady who headed that office, Sarah Hall Ingram, is now in charge of the IRS office for Obamacare. Many countries around the world have introduced government health systems since 1945, but, as I wrote here last year, “only in America does ‘health’ ‘care’ ‘reform’ begin with the hiring of 16,500 new IRS agents tasked with determining whether your insurance policy merits a fine.” So now not only are your books and Facebook posts legitimate tax issues but so is your hernia, and your prostate, and your erectile dysfunction. Next time round, the IRS will be able to leak your incontinence pads to George Soros.

Big Government is erecting a panopticon state — one that sees everything, and regulates everything. It’s great “customer service,” except that you can never get out of the store.

— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2013 Mark Steyn

Friday, May 17, 2013

Today's Tune: Neil Diamond - Soolaimon

Treasure State Treasury

John Clayton’s Stories from Montana’s Enduring Frontier offer regional history at its best.
Stories from Montana’s Enduring Frontier: Exploring an Untamed LegacyBy John Clayton
(The History Press, 175 Pages, $19.99 paper)
Montana’s history really began when it ran out of “frontier.” That is, when growing towns and economic development began to give it a distinct character. There was no frontier to its west because the Pacific Northwest region had been settled first. As with any other Western state, the Hollywood myths ring false. The state’s true history is its 20th century, as it was animated by agriculture, mining, railroads, and its nascent “tourism industry.” Montana’s history is biography about the people who made these things.
In Treasure State author John Clayton’s Stories from Montana’s Enduring Frontier, we learn that the vision of one man was the catalyst for building the famed Beartooth Highway; that Charles Russell traded drawings for drinks in Great Falls saloons; and that John “Liver-Eating” Johnston’s colorful life even transcended Hollywood myth. These well written essays appeared in a variety of regional publications such as Montana Quarterly and High Country News.
Charlie Russell came west from St. Louis at sixteen to be a cowboy. It was 1880 and he timed it right, as the “open range” cattle culture on the Montana plains was at its height following the conclusion of the Indian wars. In “The Best Kind of Cowboy Hero” we learn that Russell worked on ranches and sketched this milieu. Unlike his great contemporary, Frederick Remington, Russell was artistically unschooled, and wasn’t interested in making paintings of ideas, or portraying the western historical record on canvas, as Remington did. Russell’s talent lay in his sharp rendition of daily life, and “an emotionally evocative depiction of cattle ranching and a strong sense of storytelling.” His famous painting “The Last of 5,000” depicts an emaciated cow surrounded by wolves on a frozen prairie, as commentary on what ranchers endured during the nightmarish winter of 1886-’87.
In “Origins of the Beartooth Highway,” Clayton tells the fascinating story of the engineering feat that connected Red Lodge, Montana with Yellowstone National Park. The road was completed in 1936 thanks to the visionary effort of one Dr. Johann Carl Frederick Siegfriedt (1879-1940). Siegfriedt was a beloved physician and civic-minded citizen of Red Lodge, once serving a term as mayor. In 1924 one of the local coal mines shut down and the town faced a dicey economic future. Dr. Siegfriedt at the head of a group of like-minded prominent citizens decided that the key to Red Lodge’s prosperity was linked to Yellowstone, seventy miles west on the other side of the formidable Beartooth Mountains. The project took four years and involved the sort of engineering hazards found in unforgiving terrain. This and the development of travel routes into Glacier National Park marked the beginning of Montana’s modern tourism industry.
“Vacation to the 1830s” is a whimsical look at the modern-day “Rendezvous” phenomenon in the West. Every summer, certain historical sites such as Fort Bridger and Pinedale, Wyoming, and Cache Valley, Utah, are visited by fur trade-era reenactors, who dress in period costumes and perform the wilderness rituals (minus the legendary debauchery) of the annual gatherings of mountain men. Clayton observes: “For a country so supposedly ignorant of history, America is full of reenactments: colonial villages, Civil War battles, restored Victorian homes.” And nowadays Jim Bridger and Kit Carson taking a weekend away from their day jobs to entertain tourists.
John “Liver-Eating’” Johnston was the prototype for Jeremiah Johnson, the 1972 film about such men starring Robert Redford. As “The Mountain Man Who Outshone His Legends” tells us, the real life Johnston shared much of the character of his Hollywood counterpart, but was even more interesting. He arrived late (1840s) in the Rockies as the beaver trade wound down and eventually found work supplying firewood to Missouri River steamboats, hunting, trapping, and generally wandering. He got his nickname when in his absence a Crow war party killed his pregnant Flathead wife, and in the ensuing years a vengeful Johnston killed a number of Crow men in single encounters, allegedly feasting on the liver of one victim. In old age he was “Dad” Johnston, the first sheriff of Red Lodge. Clayton relates the amusing story of Johnston’s final interment in Cody, Wyoming, at a tourist venue called “Old Trail Town” in 1974. Cody boosters, after losing Buffalo Bill Cody to Colorado in 1917, lacked a genuine dead western legend, and got one in Johnston. They even lured Robert Redford to Cody to serve as a pallbearer in the July 4th ceremony.
“Resurrecting Haydie Yates” (born Emma Hayden Eames in 1897) is the story of a Montana ranchwoman with roots in the aristocratic East. She was a staff writer at the New Yorker in the late 1920s, eventually buying a ranch after spending a few summers as the guest of Irving “Larry” Larom’s “Valley Ranch” near Cody, Wyoming. Larom was a Princeton graduate who is credited with inventing dude ranching, as he encouraged rich Eastern friends to spend summers at the Valley Ranch and pay for the privilege. Haydie married a Yale graduate and World War I veteran named Ted Yates, and the young couple bought a 3,200 acre ranch on Lodge Grass Creek on the east slope of the Big Horns north of Sheridan, Wyoming just over the Montana line. But the working cattle ranch failed, albeit taking years to do so, and the Yates’ eventually retreated to New York, where Haydie continued her journalistic career with three editorial jobs at what were once called “women’s magazines.” Her western experience produced a remarkable memoir 70 Miles From a Lemon (1948). The title describes the ranch’s remoteness from a favorite grocery store in Sheridan. In it she writes: “No other place out there could ever be as much our hearts’ desire as that perfect spot on the Lodge Grass.”
A book about Montana wouldn’t be complete without a good outlaw story. And in “Fame and Bandits” Clayton chooses one that took place just down the street from his home in Red Lodge. On September 18, 1897, four associates of Butch Cassidy’s “Wild Bunch” (although Cassidy himself was not present) attempted — and failed — to rob the Carbon County Bank. A four-day, 80-mile pursuit by a mounted posse like the one in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid resulted in the capture near Lavina, Montana, of Harvey Logan, alias “Kid Curry,” Walt Putney, a notorious Wyoming horse thief, and Harry Longabaugh, alias “The Sundance Kid” — himself. The fourth, George “Flat Nose” Currie, avoided capture halfway through the pursuit by detouring to Columbus, Montana, where he decamped on a train. The three failed bank robbers were imprisoned in Deadwood, South Dakota, to answer charges about a bank robbery in nearby Belle Fourche, and where five weeks later they escaped into the mists of legend and historical contention related to these outlaws, especially Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Harvey Logan-Kid Curry committed suicide as the Pinkertons closed in on him following a botched train robbery in Colorado in 1904. The lives and ends of the rest remain a mystery.
These are just a handful of historical essays in a collection that is a great introduction to Montana history for the general reader.

The IRS Scandal Started at the Top

The bureaucrats at the Internal Revenue Service did exactly what the president said was the right and honorable thing to do.

By Kimberly A. Strassel
The Wall Street Journal
May 16, 2013

Was the White House involved in the IRS's targeting of conservatives? No investigation needed to answer that one. Of course it was.
President Obama and Co. are in full deniability mode, noting that the IRS is an "independent" agency and that they knew nothing about its abuse. The media and Congress are sleuthing for some hint that Mr. Obama picked up the phone and sicced the tax dogs on his enemies.
But that's not how things work in post-Watergate Washington. Mr. Obama didn't need to pick up the phone. All he needed to do was exactly what he did do, in full view, for three years: Publicly suggest that conservative political groups were engaged in nefarious deeds; publicly call out by name political opponents whom he'd like to see harassed; and publicly have his party pressure the IRS to take action.
Mr. Obama now professes shock and outrage that bureaucrats at the IRS did exactly what the president of the United States said was the right and honorable thing to do. "He put a target on our backs, and he's now going to blame the people who are shooting at us?" asks Idaho businessman and longtime Republican donor Frank VanderSloot.
Getty Images
At the White House, President Obama addresses the IRS scandal, May 15.

Mr. VanderSloot is the Obama target who in 2011 made a sizable donation to a group supporting Mitt Romney. In April 2012, an Obama campaign website named and slurred eight Romney donors. It tarred Mr. VanderSloot as a "wealthy individual" with a "less-than-reputable record." Other donors were described as having been "on the wrong side of the law."
This was the Obama version of the phone call—put out to every government investigator (and liberal activist) in the land.
Twelve days later, a man working for a political opposition-research firm called an Idaho courthouse for Mr. VanderSloot's divorce records. In June, the IRS informed Mr. VanderSloot and his wife of an audit of two years of their taxes. In July, the Department of Labor informed him of an audit of the guest workers on his Idaho cattle ranch. In September, the IRS informed him of a second audit, of one of his businesses. Mr. VanderSloot, who had never been audited before, was subject to three in the four months after Mr. Obama teed him up for such scrutiny.
The last of these audits was only concluded in recent weeks. Not one resulted in a fine or penalty. But Mr. VanderSloot has been waiting more than 20 months for a sizable refund and estimates his legal bills are $80,000. That figure doesn't account for what the president's vilification has done to his business and reputation.
The Obama call for scrutiny wasn't a mistake; it was the president's strategy—one pursued throughout 2012. The way to limit Romney money was to intimidate donors from giving. Donate, and the president would at best tie you to Big Oil or Wall Street, at worst put your name in bold, and flag you as "less than reputable" to everyone who worked for him: the IRS, the SEC, the Justice Department. The president didn't need a telephone; he had a megaphone.
The same threat was made to conservative groups that might dare play in the election. As early as January 2010, Mr. Obama would, in his state of the union address, cast aspersions on the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, claiming that it "reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests" (read conservative groups).
The president derided "tea baggers." Vice President Joe Biden compared them to "terrorists." In more than a dozen speeches Mr. Obama raised the specter that these groups represented nefarious interests that were perverting elections. "Nobody knows who's paying for these ads," he warned. "We don't know where this money is coming from," he intoned.
In case the IRS missed his point, he raised the threat of illegality: "All around this country there are groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity, who are running millions of dollars of ads against Democratic candidates . . . And they don't have to say who exactly the Americans for Prosperity are. You don't know if it's a foreign-controlled corporation."
Short of directly asking federal agencies to investigate these groups, this is as close as it gets. Especially as top congressional Democrats were putting in their own versions of phone calls, sending letters to the IRS that accused it of having "failed to address" the "problem" of groups that were "improperly engaged" in campaigns. Because guess who controls that "independent" agency's budget?

The IRS is easy to demonize, but it doesn't exist in a vacuum. It got its heading from a president, and his party, who did in fact send it orders—openly, for the world to see. In his Tuesday press grilling, no question agitated White House Press Secretary Jay Carney more than the one that got to the heart of the matter: Given the president's "animosity" toward Citizens United, might he have "appreciated or wanted the IRS to be looking and scrutinizing those . . ." Mr. Carney cut off the reporter with "That's a preposterous assertion."
Preposterous because, according to Mr. Obama, he is "outraged" and "angry" that the IRS looked into the very groups and individuals that he spent years claiming were shady, undemocratic, even lawbreaking. After all, he expects the IRS to "operate with absolute integrity." Even when he does not.
Write to
A version of this article appeared May 17, 2013, on page A13 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The IRS Scandal Started at the Top.

Obama’s tapped-out trust

By Published: May 16

Political Cartoons by Michael Ramirez

Leaving aside the seriousness of lawlessness, and the corruption of our civic culture by the professionally pious, this past week has been amusing. There was the spectacle of advocates of an ever-larger regulatory government expressing shock about such government’s large capacity for misbehavior. And, entertainingly, the answer to the question “Will Barack Obama’s scandals derail his second-term agenda?” was a question: What agenda?

The scandals are interlocking and overlapping in ways that drain his authority. Everything he advocates requires Americans to lavish on government something that his administration, and big government generally, undermines: trust.

Liberalism’s agenda has been constant since long before liberals, having given their name a bad name, stopped calling themselves liberals and resumed calling themselves progressives, which they will call themselves until they finish giving that name a bad name. The agenda always is: Concentrate more power in Washington, more Washington power in the executive branch and more executive power in agencies run by experts. Then trust the experts to be disinterested and prudent with their myriad intrusions into, and minute regulations of, Americans’ lives. Obama’s presidency may yet be, on balance, a net plus for the public good if it shatters Americans’ trust in the regulatory state’s motives.

Now, regarding Obama’s second-term agenda. His reelection theme — reelect me because I am not Mitt Romney — yielded a meager mandate, and he used tactics that are now draining the legitimacy that an election is supposed to confer.

One tactic was to misrepresent the Benghazi attack, lest it undermine his narrative about taming terrorism. Does anyone think the administration’s purpose in manufacturing 12 iterations of the talking points was to make them more accurate?

Another tactic was using the “federal machinery to screw our political enemies.” The words are from a 1971 memo by the then-White House counsel, John Dean, whose spirit still resides where he worked before going to prison. Congress may contain some Democrats who owed their 2012 election to the IRS’s suppression of conservative political advocacy.

Obama’s supposed “trifecta” of scandals — Benghazithe IRS and the seizure of Associated Press phone records — neglects some. A fourth scandal is power being wielded by executive branch officials (at the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) illegally installed in office by presidential recess appointments made when the Senate was not in recess.

A fifth might be from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who solicited funds from corporations in industries that HHS regulates to replace some that Congress refused to appropriate. The money is to be spent by nonprofit ­— which does not mean nonpolitical — entities. The funds are to educate Americans about, which might mean (consider the administration’s Benghazi and IRS behaviors) propagandize in favor of, Obamacare and to enroll people in its provisions. The experienced (former governor, former education secretary, 10 years in the Senate) and temperate Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) compares this to the Iran-contra scandal, wherein the Reagan administration raised private funds to do what Congress had refused to do — finance the insurgency against Nicaragua’s government.

Obama’s in­cred­ibly shrinking presidency is a reminder that politics is a transactional business, that trust is the currency of the transactions and that the currency has been debased. For example:

Obama says: Trust me, I do not advocate universal preschool simply to swell the ranks of unionized, dues-paying, Democrat-funding teachers. Trust me, I know something not known by the social scientists who say the benefits of such preschool are small and evanescent.

Obama says: Trust me, the science of global warming is settled. And trust me that, although my plans to combat global warming, whenever the inexplicable 16-year pause of it ends, would vastly expand government’s regulatory powers, as chief executive I guarantee that these powers will be used justly.
Obama says: Trust me. Although I am head of the executive branch, I am not responsible for the IRS portion of this branch.

Obama says: Trust me, my desire to overturn a Supreme Court opinion (Citizens United) that expanded First Amendment protection of political speech, and my desire to “seriously consider” amending the First Amendment to expand the government’s power to regulate the quantity, content and timing of political advocacy, should be untainted by what the IRS did to suppress advocacy by my opponents.

Because Obama’s entire agenda involves enlarging government’s role in allocating wealth and opportunity, the agenda now depends on persuading Americans to trust him, not their lying eyes. In the fourth month of his second term, it is already too late for that.

Read more from George F. Will’s archive or follow him on Facebook.

Read more on this issue: Michael Hirsh: Five myths about Benghazi David Ignatius: In IRS and AP scandals, a frighteningly impotent government E.J. Dionne Jr.: Facts sacrificed to the false god of ‘narrative’ Michael Gerson: Government’s heavy hand felt in IRS, AP scandals Greg Sargent: Washington’s contradictory Obama narrative Dana Milbank: Eric Holder’s abdication Jennifer Rubin: Mr. President, the fish rots from the head

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Today's Tune: Steve Earle And The Dukes - Transcendental Blues (Live)

Benghazi Emails Directly Contradict White House Claims

Obamacare's empress strikes again

By Philip Klein
May 16, 2013

According to the Washington Post, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius "has made multiple phone calls to health industry executives, community organizations and church groups and asked that they contribute whatever they can to nonprofit groups that are working to enroll uninsured Americans and increase awareness of the law."
According to the Washington Post, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius "has made multiple phone calls to health industry executives, community organizations and church groups and asked that they contribute whatever they can to nonprofit groups that are working to enroll uninsured Americans and increase awareness of the law."

In 2010, shortly after President Obama's health care legislation was signed into law, I dubbed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius the "Empress of Obamacare" for the vast new powers she inherited. Reading through the text of the law, I counted more than 2,500 references to the secretary of HHS, of which more than 700 referred to instances in which she "shall" do something and more than 200 cases in which she "may" take regulatory action.
Back then, it was scary enough that any individual would have so many arbitrary powers -- from determining what type of insurance every American must purchase to deciding which insurers could sell policies on new government-run exchanges at what price. But in the intervening three years, it's become even more alarming, because Sebelius has demonstrated a continued pattern of intimidation and abuse of her office.
With a nation digesting news that the IRS targeted conservative groups for special scrutiny and that the Department of Justice obtained phone records of Associated Press journalists, the past week has brought plenty of reminders about the nature of government power.
In the midst of these stories, the Washington Post reported that Sebelius "has made multiple phone calls to health industry executives, community organizations and church groups and asked that they contribute whatever they can to nonprofit groups that are working to enroll uninsured Americans and increase awareness of the law."
Soliciting help from an industry that Sebelius has wide-ranging regulatory power over is clearly unethical, and quite possibly illegal. But it is not unusual behavior for Sebelius.
As governor of Kansas, Sebelius refused to release documents crucial to the investigation of Planned Parenthood and late-term abortionist George Tiller, a major campaign contributor. It was later revealed that in 2005, while under her control, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment shredded documents crucial to the investigation, claiming it was part of "routine document destruction."
In June 2010, months after the passage of Obamacare, Secretary Sebelius warned private insurers participating in Medicare Advantage against increasing premiums. Then in September 2010, Sebelius offered a broader and more blistering warning to all health insurers against citing the health care law as a reason for increasing premiums even though the law contains a raft of new requirements that naturally drive up the cost of insurance.
"[T]he Administration, in partnership with states, will not tolerate unjustified rate hikes in the name of consumer protections," Sebelius wrote. "[W]e will not stand idly," she declared, warning that she would exercise her power to deny "unreasonable rate increases."
She also threatened to bar insurers who didn't cooperate from the new insurance exchanges, which the CBO estimates will eventually cover 24 million people and receive $1.1 trillion in subsidies over the next decade.
In a June 2012 letter, the Government Accountability Office found that HHS failed to demonstrate that it had the legal authority to divert $8.3 billion to finance a program that helped temporarily offset the impact of Medicare Advantage cuts during an election year.
Just a few months later, in September 2012, the government's Office of Special Counsel determined that Sebelius violated the Hatch Act -- which bars partisan political activity by federal employees on the job -- when she appeared at an event in her official capacity to promote Obama's re-election. The office referred the matter to Obama for disciplinary action, but he took none. Lower-level government employees are routinely dismissed for much less egregious violations of the statute.
In the rush to pass Obamacare, Democrats couldn't fully flesh out their vision for America's health care system. So they left it to regulators to work out key details, and the secretary of HHS became the one regulator to rule them all. Time and again, Sebelius, the Empress of Obamacare, has demonstrated that she cannot be trusted as a judicious steward of this incredible power.
Philip Klein ( is a senior editorial writer for The Washington Examiner. Follow him on Twitter at @philipaklein.

Eric Holder on Secretly Monitoring the Press: "I Know Nothing"

Katie Pavlich | May 15, 2013

Under pressure from lawmakers Wednesday to explain why the Department of Justice secretly monitored the personal and work phones of Associated Press reporters, Attorney General Eric Holder shielded himself from responsibility by claiming, "I don't know."
According to Holder, Deputy Attorney General James Cole signed off on a subpoena allowing for the monitoring of AP reporters and editors after Holder recused himself from the case. The law requires the Attorney General of the United States to sign off on subpoenas related to press monitoring. Holder claimed throughout the hearing that because he recused himself "early on," he knew nothing about the details of DOJ snooping.
Here is a list of a few of Holder's quotes in response to the phone monitoring case:
I recused myself because I thought it would be inappropriate for a fact witness to lead the investigation

I don't know, I was recused from the case.

I do not have a factual basis for that answer because I was recused from the case.

Again Mr. Chairman, I don't know what happened there with the interaction between DOJ and the AP, I was recused from the case.

I simply don't have a factual basis to answer that question.

I am not familiar with the reasons why the subpoena was constructed in the way it was because I was not part of the case.

The head of the RNC called for my resignation even though I was not the one who made that decision.
I know nothing.
Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgran was less than satisfied with Holder's no-knowledge answers.
"I want to know how and why you recused yourself," Lofgren said. "It seems clear to me the actions of the department have in fact impaired the First Amendment....The regulations say that these records should not be contained in a compulsory manner."

Holder said he took no formal steps when he recused himself from the case and did not submit his recusal in writing. He said to the Committee that he appointed people within DOJ to take over the case. Holder claimed Wednesday that because he recused himself, he was completely separate from the case and the people working on it. Holder said the White House probably found out about DOJ monitoring or AP reporters by "reading the newspapers."
On the IRS targeting of conservative groups, Holder said that an apology from IRS officials isn't enough to escape criminal prosecution of laws were broken in the process. Many violations inside the IRS, including using IRS power to intimidate someone or a group for political purposes, amounts to a five-year felony.
"Anybody who has broken the law will be held accountable," Holder said.