One of the great things about the presidency is its power to control the news by addressing repeated crises, as the need arises. Some crises simply happen, externally, but some can be of an administration’s own making – also as the need arises. Experience shows that nothing so effectively drives untoward news coverage off the front page as another crisis of greater import than the last. Obama’s apparatchiks are masters at this diversionary art. One need only study events of the past year to see this.
In September 2012 – just before the November presidential election – a disastrous terrorist attack on our embassy in Benghazi, Libya, left the embassy compound destroyed and Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other embassy personnel dead. Top State Department officials – including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice – immediately leapt up to blame a “disgusting” YouTube video clip, which “defamed” the Prophet Muhammed, for whipping the Arab Street into a frenzy and pushing a spontaneous demonstration into the violent excess which destroyed the embassy and killed Ambassador Stevens.
Despite clear evidence that the violence was a coordinated attack carried out by organized Al Qaida elements, the cock-and-bull story about the video-clip-generated riots was flogged for a full week by administration officials until late-night comics began to crack wise about it. Officials certainly knew they were creating a political football that would be kicked around for weeks – possibly months – thereby diverting attention away from the unfunny fact that Mr. Obama and his Secretary of State had denied timely military assistance to the Benghazi embassy in its hour of sore need. Thus, the obvious lie about the Muhammed-video became the new (artificial) crisis subsuming the real crisis of the incompetent response to the Benghazi attack of 9/11/2012.
The YouTube Muhammed-defamer was pursued in full cry by Big Media through November, until Mr. Obama was safely re-elected. Secretary of State Clinton resigned in January 2013, after which she testified before the U. S. Senate. She made a big splash (and wonderful news copy), slapping down Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) by shouting in high dudgeon, “What difference, at this point, does it make [how they died]?” Big Media loved it. (What a woman!) All the lingering questions about why the cavalry were not sent to Benghazi were forgotten as Mrs. Clinton was carried off the field in triumph for head-butting a Republican Senator who had simply tried to discharge his oversight duties responsibly. (This is the woman who claims she is qualified to answer that 3 AM call on the Red Phone.) But I digress…
As the Benghazi story got legs and threatened to run amok, we suddenly learned that the IRS had been subjecting conservative political action groups to extra-close scrutiny to determine if they could operate as tax-advantaged organizations. In some cases, approvals of applications for tax-exempt status were delayed for years. Some organizations finally gave up trying to get approval.
At first, this politicization of the agency was attributed to a few “rogue” agents in the Cincinnati office. But the scandal grew as details gradually emerged, showing that this was a coordinated policy ordered from high levels of the Obama administration. Reporters formerly loyal to Mr. Obama found themselves conflicted between that loyalty and their much-neglected reportorial duties – knowing that they would be shouting from the housetops, should such a situation be found in a Republican administration. And in the midst of the hubbub, no one thought to ask how it happened that this scandal came out at the exact time when the Benghazi scandal was reaching critical mass.
Luckily, reporters were delivered from their dilemma over the IRS scandal by new disclosures about the National Security Agency’s extensive electronic spying on American citizens. Finally, a scandal touching a “liberal” issue had arisen. Left-wing groups had previously gone ballistic over this issue during the G. W. Bush administration, so it could hardly be ignored now, just because a Democrat president was in the Oval Office. Reporters went baying after it in full cry, leaving the IRS scandal on the cutting-room floor.
Closely following the NSA data-mining scandal were disclosures that Department of Justice officials had obtained a secret search warrant enabling them to tap into Fox Reporter James Rosen’s personal e-mail account, pursuant to possible charges. This intrusion even included intercept of communications between Mr. Rosen and his parents. Ultimately, no charges were brought against the highly respected reporter, but legions of faithful acolytes of Mr. Obama were aghast at the DoJ’s actions – the more so for their secrecy. It was clearly a shot across the journalistic bow, warning reporters to keep their curiosity circumspect and their rhetoric down, with respect to investigations of administration scandals.
All this has been forgotten, of course, during the hurly-burly of the “rollout” of the Affordable Health Care Act – a.k.a. “Obamacare” – and its disastrously deployed web-site. The latter was to be the high-tech tool by which tens of millions of Americans would supposedly sign up for health-care insurance for the first time, making the century-old progressive dream a reality.
What happened was more nightmare than dream for the long-suffering American public – not to mention panicked Democrats. In Ray Stevens’ words, “there came a great parting of the folding chairs…” as Dems knocked each other over trying to distance themselves from the fiasco of the opening of their dream legislation.
But then a new diversion took media eyes off the botched Obamacare web-site, as millions of individuals began to report receiving cancellation notices for health insurance policies they had expected to keep. They were learning that replacement policies would be much costlier than the ones they had lost. Mr. Obama’s much repeated promise – “If you like your health care policy, you can keep it. Period!” – was seen as mistaken, at best, and purposely fraudulent, at worst. Amidst the uproar, the president publicly said he regretted “…that people had been put in this situation, based on statements from me…” – thereby implying that he had no idea this “unintended” result would occur. Mr. Obama issued permission for people to retain their old policies for another year, provided that insurance companies and state insurance commissioners agreed. Big media ran with the wonderful news that Our President had fixed this problem.
The devil is always in the details, however. That last proviso was the undoing of Mr. Obama’s “fix,” as many insurance companies and state commissioners did not agree to set aside plans for conversion to the new law that they had been forming for over three years since its passage. In point of fact, insurance companies knew all along that individuals would have to buy new policies with higher premiums and deductibles when the AHCA kicked in. Soon news began to leak out that some 80 million people who have health insurance through their employers would also lose their current policies during the coming year, forcing purchase of more expensive new ones.
The dirty secret of why insurance companies supported the reform-legislation from the start is this: they expect to reap billions from it. Despite all his public posturing, Mr. Obama (and his gang) knew this, too. It was not a surprise. It was all part of the plan to “fundamentally transform the country,” as Mr. Obama repeatedly declaimed on his dramatic road to electoral triumph.
But the fat is in the fire now. With his approval numbers sinking to the lowest levels seen during his presidency, Mr. Obama has once again turned to the tried-and-true strategy of producing a more radical situation to draw attention away from undesirable events. This he has done with a sudden move to engage Iran on possible reduction of economic sanctions that are currently crippling that nation’s economy, in return for Iran’s promise to abandon (or, at least, slow) its progress toward developing a nuclear weapon.
In mere days an agreement was announced in which Iran committed to small technical reductions in its uranium-enrichment in return for significant relaxation of the painful sanctions. Big media trumpeted the wonderful news of Mr. Obama’s diplomatic “breakthrough.”
The dramatic story seemed to turn the president’s fortunes around – at least temporarily – although France, Syria and Israel all denounced the deal as worthless and ultimately dangerous. Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu condemned the deal as “a historic mistakewhich makes the world a much more dangerous place.” Some pundits compared it to Munich 1938 – the infamous deal in which France and Britain gave Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland to German Dictator Hitler as the price for “peace in our time,” in Neville Chamberlain’s immortal words. (As every schoolchild used to know, the result was nothing of the kind. A year later the world was at war.)
Ultimate results from the Iran deal’s substance appear to matter little to the Obama administration, however. They’ll handle all that later. Of far greater importance is the fact that all the analysis, critique, warnings, and political brouhaha have completely replaced the inconvenient coverage of the Obamacare fiasco. Diversion by crisis has pushed another scandal off the front page. It is glorious. What a happy day!
But the game is still running. Maybe that’s why the 1983 Matthew Broderick film, War Games, comes to mind – particularly, the scene where a virtual Soviet missile attack is ignored and not answered. There is great rejoicing in the war room when it’s seen that the attack was a “fantasy” (as Dr. Falken called it). But the crisis is not yet over. The game is still running. Soon the happy celebrants discover that Joshua, the uncontrollable, omnipotent computer, is working to crack the secret codes that will enable actual launch of the USA’s missiles without human intervention. In the film’s madcap climax, Broderick’s teen-aged, computer-whiz character stops the missile-launches by getting Joshua to play endless games of tic-tac-toe, in which there can be no winner.
Unfortunately, real life is not a movie. Our “game” with the Iranians is still running. But it’s not really a game. These crazed fools want the bomb, and nothing less. No compromise, no halfway, no nice-talk, so sitting down at the Table of Brotherhood. They plan to obliterate Israel, and they’re clearly insane enough to pull the nuclear trigger. A psychiatrist isn’t needed to see that a collection of nut-cases like this isn’t found just anywhere. Do we really think promises they make as part of any “deal” are worth a farthing? Mr. Netanyahu has already said that he does not, and that Israel will act accordingly.
At long last, Mr. Obama has run out the string on the crisis-escalation strategy. One character in War Games said it well: “Next step – World War III.”
Of course, that would push any other scandals off the front page. No problemo…