June 18, 2009
How to Succeed in Politics Without Really Trying
As the Tribune Company reports (in nearly identical articles by the same reporters in the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times), and as noted by my old blogboss Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, President Barack H. Obama's firing of Gerald Walpin, Inspector General of AmeriCorps -- without the required notification of Congress 30 days prior and without giving any specific reason -- was not an aberration:
- Obama's Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, has just effectively neutered the department's Special Inspector General, Neil Barofsky -- the "watchdog" of Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a $700 billon program -- by denying him access to documents critical to an investigation he is conducting.
- The International Trade Commission, an independent federal agency -- four of the six commissioners are career Washington bureaucrats or Senate staffers -- has refused to renew the contract of its inspector general, Judith Gwynne; earlier, according to the Tribune articles, the Commission allowed one of their staffers to forcibly interfere with Gwynne's duties.
Both these other incidents allow some "plausible deniability" for the Obama administration: The ITC is an independent commission, and the White House now claims that Barofsky answers only to Treasury and disclaims any responsibility for his being handcuffed. But it's a bit thick to assume that the President of the United States has nothing to do with two incidents strikingly similar not only to his actions anent Walpin, but also Barack Obama's own electoral history prior to his presidential run.
(Amusingly, the law that Obama appears to have violated by abruptly firing Walpin, after giving him one hour to decide whether to do the decent thing and resign, was sponsored in the Senate by, among others, the junior senator from Illinois -- Barack H. Obama.)
ABC News has more details about how Secretary Geithner tightened the leash around the neck of Neil Barofsky, the once independent, now dependent Inspector General:
As part of his duties performing audits and keeping tracking TARP dollars, Barofsky asked the Treasury Department for some documents about a financial institution receiving tens of billions in taxpayer bailout dollars. The Treasury Department refused to hand them over, “on a specious claim of attorney-client privilege,” Grassley wrote. “It is my further understanding that this disagreement then escalated into broader questions about whether SIGTARP is subject to your direct supervision and direction, which may have been referred outside Treasury for an independent legal opinion.”
“The ability of Inspectors General to secure agency records subject to audit or investigation is essential to ensure the integrity and reliability of their work on behalf of Congress and the American People,” Grassley wrote. “The Inspectors General were created by Congress as a means to combat waste, fraud, and abuse and to be independent watchdogs ensuring that federal agencies are held accountable for their actions.”
Having been thwarted by the Treasury Secretary in trying to obtain the information necessary to investigate a particular financial institution -- on the risible grounds that allowing the Treasury Department's Inspector General to look at documents controlled by the Treasury Department somehow violates somebody's attorney-client privilege (the financial institution's privilege? the Department's privilege?) -- Barofsky complained to Secretary Geithner:
In a memo dated April 7, Barofsky -- referring to his office under the name SIGTARP, Special Inspector General for TARP -- clearly felt compelled to defend the independence of his office.
“SIGTARP believes that the Emergency Economic Stability Act of 2008…provides that SIGTARP is an independent entity within Treasury, that SIGTARP is not subject to the Secretary’s supervision, and that attorney-client privilege is not a bar to SIGTARP’s access to Treasury’s records or information,” Barofsky wrote to Geithner at the time.
But Treasury does not appear to be backing down: For the sin of investigating an unnamed "financial agency" that received "tens of billions in taxpayer bailout dollars," Barofsky's penance is to be told in no uncertain terms that he has no independent authority, and is simply to do what he is told... and to refrain from insubordinate and ill-mannered investigations of certain (unnamed) TARP recipients, whenever such probes make it hot for the political appointees. (Treasury jealously protects the anonymity of the institution; mayhap disclosure might make the real reason for short-circuiting the SIG too obvious.)
The precipitating incident involving Ms. Gwynne at the ITC is even more bizarre:
Separately, this week, the International Trade Commission told its acting inspector general that her contract would not be renewed. The trade agency is not subject to White House authority.
Grassley had become concerned about Judith Gwynn's independence because of a report this year that an agency employee had forcibly taken documents away from her as she tried to conduct an audit.
"It is difficult to understand why the ITC would not have taken action to ensure that the ITC inspector general had the information necessary to do the job," Grassley wrote on Tuesday.
Less than three hours after Grassley's letter was e-mailed to the agency, Gwynn was told that her contract would not be renewed. The contract is due to expire next month.
Presumably the next appointees to the job of Inspector General at both TARP and the ITC will be a bit more cooperative, or pliant, as it were, towards the very people he or she is expected to oversee. One of the Big Lizards axioms of life is that it's easy to win a political debate when you get to script both sides. The obvious corollary is that it's likewise easy to ensure you will never be embarassed by an investigation if you appoint one of your own to run it.
This is hardly unique to the Obamacle; but in the last century, the tactic does seem to be quite specific to liberals:
- Democrat Woodrow Wilson, thought by many to be the founder of modern liberalism, kicked off the tactic with a bang. In the midst of his second term, with the U.S. embroiled in World War I -- by the way, Wilson's 1916 campaign slogan was "He kept us out of the war!" -- he pushed Congress to enact the Secition Act of 1918... which made it a federal crime for foreign nationals or even American citizens to engage in "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" directed against the United States, the American flag, American troops -- or any branch of the United States government, including against President Wilson himself. Under Wilson's Sedition Act, people actually went to prison merely for dissenting against the war (including labor leader Eugene Debs). [That prohibition of "profane" language might well have tripped up the current president's former pastor...]
- Liberal Democrat and demagogue Franklin Roosevelt made an infamous attempt to pack the Supreme Court with enough new justices to allow him to beat every constitutional challenge to his New Deal socialist programs. He failed; but hey, at least he gave it the old Harvard try!
- And liberal Republican Richard Nixon just as memorably ordered Attorney General Elliott Richardson to fire Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor who had just demanded the White House hand over its secret tapes. After Richardson refused and resigned in protest, Nixon ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to do the dirt; when Ruckelshaus also refused and resigned, Nixon ordered Soliciter General Robert Bork to axe Cox; Bork complied. (For those who believe Nixon cannot have been a liberal because he was anti-Communist, please see the political careers of, e.g., Vice President Hubert Humphrey, President Harry Truman, and Sen. Estes Kefauver; for those who believe Nixon cannot have been a liberal because he was a Republican, please see the political career of Lincoln Chafee.)
The lesson was well learnt by the Obamacle. In his earlier elections, B.O. did a magnificent job of forcing off of the ballot every other candidate, leaving himself the only viable candidate:
- In his 1996 run for the Illinois State Senate, Obama sent supporter Ron Davis to disqualify signatures on the nominating petitions of the other three candidates in the race, including incumbent Democratic state Sen. Alice Palmer. Obama ran unopposed; surprisingly, he won the nomination, and subsequently the general election (the seat was safely Democratic).
In 2004, he decided he needed a promotion, so he ran for the United States Senate. His opponent was Jack Ryan, a retired Goldman Sachs multi hundred-millionaire and Chicago parochial school teacher. Ryan had been married to Jeri Ryan ("Seven of Nine" in Star Trek: Voyager), and they had divorced five years earlier. After a subterranean e-mail campaign by Obama supporters to the elite Chicago and national media, the Chicago Tribune and WLS-TV (ABC) sued to get their hands not only on the divorce file but the custody file as well, hoping to find some dirt on Ryan. Either Ryan. Or maybe on the kid.
A referee appointed by the court decided to release specific allegations Jeri Ryan had made during the custody hearing that her husband twice took her to a sex club where he wanted them (she said) to have sex in a room with other couples. Both Jack and Jeri Ryan had urged that the custody files not be released; but the Obamadroids and their media allies urged they be made public, presumably on the legal grounds that hurting the chances of Republican candidates is a constitutional imperative in Illinois.
In the wake of the "scandal" -- imagine, a politician who might be an exhibitionist! -- Ryan was forced by the party to resign and was replaced by joke candidate Alan Keyes. Obama went on to win in a 43-point landslide.
- And of course, even Obama's primary campaign in 2008 was tainted by the contretemps involving the Florida and Michigan delegations; and he only beat Hillary Clinton because the early states were mosly winner-take-all, while the delegates of the later states (when Hillary was ascendent) were proportially allocated.
Thus when the One We Have Been Writhing Under fires inspectors general -- or they are fired by his cronies, or even by independent commissioners who share the same quasi-religious belief in their own anointment by the gods to do whatever they see fit and proper -- he operates under a long, though not very honorable tradition of thinking himself above the law... even above a law that He, Himself, sponsored when he was a lowly junior senator from Illinois.
It's a liberal thing; you wouldn't understand.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 18, 2009, at the time of 5:50 PM
TrackBack URL for this hissing: http://biglizards.net/mt3.36/earendiltrack.cgi/3703
The following hissed in response by: Ken Hahn
When you elect a corrupt machine politician to the Presidency, you get a gangster administration. The Obama regime have set out to make Warren Harding look like a real reformer.
The following hissed in response by: snochasr
Actually, I understand it very well. You've just explained it to me. Liberals believe they are above the law. Liberals believe they are morally and intellectually superior to everybody else, and entitled to rule over us as they see fit. what's not to understand? Our trifling disagreements with these firmly held articles of faith?
The following hissed in response by: snochasr
Apparently this little breach of the separation of powers, including Obama's creating more czars than the Russians had Romanoffs, has caught the attention of the senior guy in the Senate, Robert Byrd. It would be a good thing if The One were called down from on high by his own party.
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