So many Obama-administration scandals are now buzzing through America’s newsrooms, that the scandals are actually competing with each other for media coverage. In normal times, each scandal would probably get the full attention of most media organs. But with a full plate of scandals ongoing – i.e., (1) the Benghazi embassy killings, (2) the IRS political corruption, (3) the FBI seizure of Associated Press phone records, (4) the FBI seizure of Fox reporter James Rosen’s phone records (and his naming as a possible “criminal co-conspirator), (5) the revelation of mega-data-mining of all Americans’ phone records by the National Security Agency, and (6) the recent Edward Snowden affair – there is simply not enough air-time and print-space to give all of them the attention they deserve. Indeed, a new report this week alleging that Hillary Clinton’s aides might have covered up criminal activities by State Department employees will probably merit little attention, except in more conservative news organs.
Communist dictator Josef Stalin famously (or infamously) said, “One death is a tragedy; a million deaths are a statistic” – thereby noting the truism that a million deaths will be ignored because they exceed the grieving capacity of a whole people. That’s how “Uncle Joe,” Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot got away with their terrible privations against their own people, as well as the people of other countries.
I believe something like this dynamic is at work right now, here in the USA – although, thankfully, on a less lethal scale than in Russia, etc. My theory is that the multiplicity of scandals within the Obama administration is deliberate, not accidental. People who understand how these things work are making sure that no one scandal will dominate the news cycle for very long before its impact is eclipsed by new scandals rushing in to use up all the air in the newsrooms. Consider how these scandals were serially rolled out. (In every case I have bolded important dates in the timeline of events.)
Benghazi. From the time of the September 11 attacks in Benghazi until early May of this year, only Fox News thought Benghazi was a real scandal waiting to bust out. Other news organs – notably the New York Times and the Washington Post – mocked Fox for raking over an “old” story that had been settled by State Department and administration spokespersons. United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on five different Sunday news shows on September 16, 2012, to link the Benghazi attack – which killed Ambassador Stevens and three other embassy staff – to a “flash mob” that went out of control while protesting an obscure, amateurish Internet video clip that dissed the Prophet Mohammed. This absurd tale, which the State Department and CIA knew to be false before Miss Rice’s TV appearances, was soon debunked by Fox News, which refused to let the story go.
On January 23, 2013, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to answer questions about State’s handling of security at the Benghazi embassy, as well as the Benghazi attack and other issues. When pressed for answers by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) about the Benghazi deaths, Mrs. Clinton showed a fine temper (and color) as she angrily retorted, “What difference, at this point, does it make?” News organs made much sport over Mrs. Clinton’s “slapdown” of the senator, while glossing over the obvious fact that she had ducked his question. She had made news with her picturesque posturing, but she furnished no report of conversations with survivors of the attack, or other useful info. Her show of temper shrouded the fact that she had given the senators nothing of substance.
After months of digging and prying by Republican Congressmen and Fox News, three State Department officials – Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism; Gregory Hicks, the former deputy of mission in Libya; and Eric Nordstrom, a former regional security officer in Libya – came before the House Intelligence Committee on May 8 to testify about the events that destroyed our Benghazi embassy in September. Their testimony – under oath, before the Intelligence Committee – related a different story than the ones told by Miss Rice and Secretary Clinton. They energized both the Congress and the media – including parts of the media that had ignored the story for months, or mocked it for “having no ‘there’ there.” The grilling Press Secretary Jay Crowley endured from the White House Press Corps, after the House’s Benghazi hearing, indicated that reporters across the political spectrum were more than a little provoked by the false line they had been fed.
IRS Politicization. Just as the Benghazi pot was coming to a boil – with media organs suddenly demanding to know why administration officials had misled the country about what really happened when our ambassador and three others were killed – revelations suddenly emerged about the IRS’s selection of conservative groups for special scrutiny on their applications for tax-exempt status. Like hounds chasing a new fox, most of the media dropped their newly energized Benghazi coverage to run after the more salacious IRS story.
Has anyone found out how those IRS revelations came out at that precise time? As nearly as I can make it out, a senior IRS official named Lois Lerner spilled the beans by answering a question deliberately planted with lawyers at an American Bankers’Association conference on May 10. The question gave her an opening to report that the IRS had been deliberately targeting groups that had Tea Party, Patriot, or other conservative key-words in their organizational names, for special examination. This markedly slowed the processing of their applications for tax-exempt status.
The IRS effort evidently began as early as 2010. Some groups’ applications still have not been processed, while many simply gave up because of the intrusive questions and requests for data from the IRS. Some political analysts believe the IRS’s slow-walking of these applications might have significantly affected the 2012 election.
While the election issue is intriguing and perhaps even critical, I still have found no explanation for why Miss Lerner chose that time and place to reveal this corruption in her agency. IRS higher-ups allegedly knew the planted question was coming – meaning that Miss Lerner did not plan these revelations on her own. Evidently, White House political honchos decided that disclosing this new scandal just as the Benghazi pot was reaching the boiling point would be an advantageous move. If this was not the case, how could it benefit Miss Lerner to blow the whistle – especially when she later stood before the Congress and took the Fifth on answering any questions? Obviously, she’s up to her neck in this, and she knows where all the bodies are buried. It could not have been her personal decision to disclose these matters.
Any scandal involving the IRS is politically explosive, since the public knows and fears no other federal agency as they do this one. If there’s a single citizen in the country who hasn’t heard of the IRS scandal, I’ll be surprised. The longer the IRS scandal remains in the public eye, the greater the possibility that the president, himself, could be implicated. This is dangerous for him.
Associated Press Phone Records. Accordingly, it’s not hard to see how important it would be to find some news that could trump the IRS revelations. What could that possibly be? Obviously, it must be something that threatens the media directly. The revelations on May 13 – just days after the IRS scandal broke on May 10 – showing that the FBI had seized the records for April and May of twenty Associated Press telephones would trump anything else in the eyes of the media. The uproar would cut clear across political lines and capture the attention of every part of the media. All other topics of interest – even the IRS scandal – would be tossed aside.
This is precisely what happened when Justice’s seizure of the AP records was announced. The ostensible reason given by DoJ for seizing the records was to discover who had leaked info about a foiled terror plot a day earlier than the government had planned to release the same info. This is very thin soup, as numerous media people – including AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt – have observed. Indeed, Mr. Pruitt sent a blistering letter to AG Holder, protesting government seizure of “…information about AP's activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know,” and demanding its immediate return.
The interesting (but not much examined) aspect of the AP incident, however, is that the phone record seizures were done secretly. Thus, the AP itself did not know its reporters’ phone calls were being combed through until DoJ chose to disclose what it had done. At this writing, there is no indication of who publicized the seizures, or why that precise moment (May 13) was chosen. Perhaps everyone in media is too busy obsessing over the seizures themselves – plus the threat of other seizures – to wonder about the timing of the disclosures or the identity of the DoJ person (or persons) who blew the whistle.
In news, timing is everything. Isn’t it possible that the news about the AP phone records was meant to dilute the attention on the IRS corruption scandal? More than possible, I daresay.
James Rosen. The next shock to Big Media’s system was the revelation that Fox News reporter James Rosen had been named as a “possible criminal co-conspirator” in an application for a search warrant to enable seizure of Mr. Rosen’s phone records. The warrant was obtained as part of an investigation into what Attorney General Eric Holder characterized as serious security leaks. Both Mr. Holder and President Obama have repeatedly assured reporters and the general public that they do not intend to prosecute Mr. Rosen, but named him a co-conspirator only to get a warrant to search his phone records to find a “dangerous” government leaker. Evidently, Mr. Holder had to judge-shop to get the warrant issued at all. It was later revealed that the phone records of Mr. Rosen’s parents were covered by the search warrant, too.
Again, we have no information on why the Rosen story broke when it did. Perhaps the timing is a coincidence, but it does appear to be an “exclamation point” on the AP story – as well as another dilution of the Obama administration’s Scandalorama.
Data-mining. In the last two weeks the public has been made aware that the National Security Agency is engaged in a massive data-mining exercise that includes the phone records of all Americans and non-citizens who reside in the country. The NSA says this tactic is being used to trace contacts with enemy terrorists. Officials insist that this is legal and that the NSA is doing nothing wrong with the data, but the public is disquieted by the activity – particularly in view of recent government misconduct within the IRS. Naturally, the media are chasing after this new scandal at full tilt.
At this writing, I haven’t discovered who released this information, or why. Almost certainly, the disclosure came from NSA officials. But why now? Was it to take the public eye off the James Rosen affair and earlier scandals? Nightly news reports are now filled with footage of NSA officials explaining why mining these “metadata” is entirely legal, and how the data help them to keep the country safe.
Perhaps all is as they say. I’m willing to presume so. But does anyone remember Benghazi, the IRS, the AP, or James Rosen? QED.
Edward Snowden. A former employee of Booz-Allen Hamilton – a private contractor to the NSA – has recently released information about NSA activities that constitute a serious security breach for the nation. His disclosures have split the country into civil-libertarian and national security camps, causing a great debate to arise across the electronic and print media. Mr. Snowden has fled to Hong Kong, where he continues to release new statements accusing our government of abusing Americans’ civil liberties. Again, our media are slavering after a new story, leaving others (see above) lying on the cutting-room floor.
Did our own security agencies set up Edward Snowden to speak out and create an international incident by fleeing to China? We’ll probably never know. Whatever the truth about his activities and the timing of his statements, there is little doubt that things have worked out as well as if all was orchestrated. The controversy over NSA’s data-mining has been pushed to the back burner, while the sensational story of – and debate over – Edward Snowden is pursued, full throttle.
As Joe Stalin might have said: One scandal is a story; many scandals are just a dust-storm.