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When it comes to exposing administration incompetence, we are in a target rich environment. John Fund reviews the unfolding, cringe inducing, tales of government idiots. Pickerhead never begrudged the president’s golf rounds figuring if he was on the links that was less damage he could do to the country. Turns out though, he outsourced the presidency to Valerie Jarrett. It is easy to believe she was heavily involved in many of the things that have gone bad for this bunch of miscreants.
The recent spate of Washington scandals has some liberals finally confessing in public what many of them have said privately for a long time. The Obama administration is arrogant, insular, prone to intimidation of adversaries, and slovenly when it comes to seeing that rules are followed. Indeed, the Obama White House is a strange place, and it’s good that its operational model is now likely to be finally dissected by the media.
Joe Klein of Time magazine laments Obama’s “unwillingness to concentrate.”
Dana Milbank of the Washington Post tars him as a President Passerby who “seems to want no control over the actions of his administration.” Milbank warns that “he’s creating a power vacuum in which lower officials behave as though anything goes.” Comedian Jon Stewart says Obama’s government lacks real “managerial competence” and that the president is either Nixonian if he knew about the scandals in advance or a Mr. Magoo–style incompetent if he didn’t.
But it was Chris Matthews of MSNBC who cut even deeper in his Hardball show on Wednesday. A former speechwriter for President Carter, he wondered if Obama “really doesn’t want to be responsible day-to-day for running” the government. He savaged the White House for using “weird, spooky language” about “the building leadership” that must approve the Benghazi talking points. “I don’t understand the model of this administration: weak chiefs of staff afraid of other people in the White House. Some undisclosed role for Valerie Jarrett. Unclear, a lot of floating power in the White House, but no clear line of authority. …
Kimberley Strassel details how the IRS scandal started with the one.
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.
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.
Weekly Standard learned from NBC’s Lisa Meyer the IRS chose to hide the scandal until after the election.
NBC’s Lisa Myers reported this morning (Friday) that the IRS deliberately chose not to reveal that it had wrongly targeted conservative groups until after the 2012 presidential election:
The IRS commissioner “has known for at least a year that this was going on,” said Myers, “and that this had happened. And did he share any of that information with the White House? But even more importantly, Congress is going to ask him, why did you mislead us for an entire year? Members of Congress were saying conservatives are being targeted. What’s going on here? The IRS denied it. Then when — after these officials are briefed by the IG that this is going on, they don’t disclose it. In fact, the commissioner sent a letter to Congress in September on this subject and did not reveal this. Imagine if we — if you can — what would have happened if this fact came out in September 2012, in the middle of a presidential election? The terrain would have looked very different.”
Jennifer Rubin watched the latest press conference.
President Obama’s press conference in the rain was not a success, if by success, his supporters would mean an event which convinces anyone who doesn’t work for him that he’s getting ahead of the scandal deluge. The sight of a Marine holding an umbrella over his head only added to the weirdness of the event.
So what did we learn?
1. He has full confidence in Attorney General Eric Holder, the man who purportedly recused himself (whenever) without putting it in writing (whatever). When asked about the untrammeled snooping on Associated Press reporters and editors, Obama said he doesn’t talk about a “pending case” (except in numerous shootings, the IRS, etc., I suppose). He reiterated his intolerance of leaks. In other words, the great liberal icon is pleased (“no apologies”) with an investigation that went far beyond anything previously undertaken against a media outlet.
2. He’s going to get the Internal Revenue Service in tip-top shape. Still, it’s an independent agency and all. (The willingness to show he is in charge is undercut by his insistence he had no idea what was going on there.)
3. His lip-service to the importance of a free press that holds him “accountable” suggests the most important attribute he now has is shamelessness. …
Peter Wehner calls him the “ad hominem president.”
1. President Obama is once again engaging in what psychiatrists refer to as projection, in which people lay their worst attributes on others.
In this instance, the most hyper-partisan president in modern times is ascribing that trait to Congressional Republicans. What we’ve learned about Mr. Obama over the years is that he that while he is unusually inept at governing, he’s quite good at campaigning. He certainly enjoys it, having taken the concept of the Permanent Campaign beyond anything we’ve ever seen. It turns out it’s the only thing he does well—no human being in history has raised campaign cash quite like he has—and it’s all he seems interested in doing.
On some deep, subconscious level, though, Mr. Obama seems ashamed of the path he’s chosen. And so the president projects those traits he loathes in himself on to others. To give you a sense of how deep the malady runs, the president does more than merely project; he actually preaches against the very character flaws he himself cannot overcome.
2. The president can hardly go a day without impugning the motivations of his opponents. They never have honest differences with the president. Instead they are suffering from an illness (“fever”), cowardice (afraid of what Rush Limbaugh might say about them), and lack of patriotism (caring about elections rather than future generations). Mr. Obama is the ultimate ad hominem president. …
Dana Milbank called him “president passerby” and now he’s turned his sights on the placeHolder.
As the nation’s top law enforcement official, Eric Holder is privy to all kinds of sensitive information. But he seems to be proud of how little he knows.
Why didn’t his Justice Department inform the Associated Press, as the law requires, before pawing through reporters’ phone records?
“I do not know,” the attorney general told the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday afternoon, “why that was or was not done. I simply don’t have a factual basis to answer that question.”
Why didn’t the DOJ seek the AP’s cooperation, as the law also requires, before issuing subpoenas?
“I don’t know what happened there,” Holder replied. “I was recused from the case.”
Why, asked the committee’s chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), was the whole matter handled in a manner that appears “contrary to the law and standard procedure”?
“I don’t have a factual basis to answer the questions that you have asked, because I was recused,” the attorney general said.
On and on Holder went: …
Jennifer Rubin on the Holder faux recusal.
Attorney General Eric Holder told the House Judiciary Committee he recused himself from the leak investigation involving sweeping surveillance of the Associated Press because he was a “fact witness,” meaning he had access to the classified data at issue and was questioned about it. But he can’t recall when he recused himself. And it wasn’t in writing. In one of the worst security leaks of which he is aware (he says), he never told the White House (he says) that he took himself out of the loop.
Remarkable really, even if true. John Yoo, who authored the enhanced interrogation memos in the Bush Justice Department and was widely criticized by the left for taking a broad view of executive power, was somewhat incredulous when I asked him about the Justice Department’s behavior. As for the paperless recusal, he told me, “There must be something in writing to at least the DAG [deputy attorney general].”
Former attorney general Michael Mukasey agreed, emailing me that ”it is inconceivable to me that you would not do it formally. Of course, you’d have to inform all the people who might otherwise have to contact you. Indeed, if you didn’t you might conceivably come into possession of information you should not have.” He added that “in the one case I can recall in which I recused myself I did it in writing. Hard to imagine how else you’d do it — shout ‘I recuse myself’ in your office? In the hall?”
But it is the unrestrained nature of investigation that is breathtaking, beyond anything Mukasey has seen, he told me. Yoo observed, “I cannot think of another example this broad that didn’t turn out to be unauthorized. The only comparable thing was cases where a court tried to get a journalist to reveal a source. But I cannot think of the actual monitoring of reporters and editors.” He added, “If something like that had ever come up during the Bush administration in my time at DOJ, I would have said it was unconstitutional.” …
As John Fund mentioned above, even Chris Matthews is starting to gag. Politico has the story.
President Obama “obviously likes giving speeches more than he does running the executive branch,” Chris Matthews said tonight.
Yes, you read that right: The MSNBC host who in 2008 felt a “thrill going up my leg” after hearing Obama speak has grown disenchanted. Tonight’s episode of Hardball saw Matthews delivering a rare, unforgiving grilling of the president as severe as anything that might appear on Fox News. …
You can’t make it up! ABC News tells us Sarah Hall Ingram, the IRS creep in charge of the tea party targeting, now runs the IRS health care office. Of course.
The Internal Revenue Service official in charge of the tax-exempt organizations at the time when the unit targeted tea party groups now runs the IRS office responsible for the health care legislation.
Sarah Hall Ingram served as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012. But Ingram has since left that part of the IRS and is now the director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office, the IRS confirmed to ABC News today.
Her successor, Joseph Grant, is taking the fall for misdeeds at the scandal-plagued unit between 2010 and 2012. …
And from the Examiner we learn Ingram got $100,000 in bonus over the last three years.
Sarah Hall Ingram, the IRS executive in charge of the tax exempt division in 2010 when it began targeting conservative Tea Party, evangelical and pro-Israel groups for harrassment, got more than $100,000 in bonuses between 2009 and 2012.
More recently, Ingram was promoted to serve as director of the tax agency’s Obamacare program office, a position that put her in charge of the vast expansion of the IRS’ regulatory power and staffing in connection with federal health care, ABC reported earlier today. …