PJ Media

That Nineties Show

Enemies lists, IRS audits of same, cover-ups at high levels of government, an aloof president who has others do his (unspoken?) bidding — after the events of the past week, many have been comparing the Obama administration to another one that ended almost forty years ago. And while many of the comparisons of Barack Obama to Richard Nixon are indeed apt, one doesn’t have to go that far back in history to find an even better parallel.

For those of us politically aware in the 1990s, the Obama administration has come to seem like a bad rerun of the corrupt Clinton era, complete with witness intimidation and character attacks on their political opponents, stonewalling and obfuscating while claiming that their crimes are being “politicized,” false claims of “exoneration” by official reports, and, yes, even IRS audits of their political enemies. All with a sycophantic media complicit, and even incestuous and inbred, with the White House.

For example, several days ago, when the Benghazi scandal started to climb out of the grave to which the administration and its enablers in the press thought they had consigned it last fall, the first response from the president’s spokesman was that it was something that happened a long time ago, seemingly back in the Cambrian era of late 2012. As opposed, of course, to the Bush administration, which apparently remains evergreen four and a half years after its departure, at least when it comes to assigning blame for otherwise unexplainable and “unexpected” mishappenings during this one. Of course, as PJ Media’s Ed Driscoll points out, Jay Carney’s own corruption is not exactly new-fallen snow.

This was a standard tactic of the Clinton administration and its defenders, in every scandal from Whitewater and Castle Grande, to the illegal campaign donations from James Riady (who, in another case of what was old is new again, has somehow recently turned up in the new series as well). And then there was  John Huang and the Chinese donations (and others too numerous to recount in this brief piece), to L’Affaire Grand — the Lewinsky scandal.

In each and every case, the tactic would be to prevaricate, stonewall, and withhold requested documents for weeks, months or years. Then, when some evidence managed to evade the combined media/administration cover-up and come to light (such as Hillary Clinton’s law-firm billing records), it would suddenly become “old news.”

We’re seeing a repeat of other tactics as well.

In the nineties, whenever they were withholding documents, they would say “we’ve released thousands of documents,” not mentioning that they didn’t include all requested, or that they had been redacted of all useful information. We see exactly the same thing now. In the Fast and Furious Mexican gun-walking non-scandal, Attorney General Eric Holder (a notable cast member from the previous series, in which he played a corrupt Justice Department official who approved pardons of a man who had paid off Bill Clinton) said that they had released thousands of documents, many of them with pages entirely blacked out. Many more thousands remained unreleased, for which he was found in contempt of Congress. And just this past Sunday, Senator Jack Reed, running interference for a Democrat administration, said that “Congress has already had 11 hearings on the topic, over 25,000 pieces of documentation have been provided to the Congress.” But there remains much that we don’t know.

Another vintage Clinton tactic was the deployment of the passive (aggressive) voice: “mistakes were made.” As though those nefarious mistakes just made themselves, without any conscious human intellectual or moral agency involved. We saw it just this past Friday, in the wake of the suddenly disclosed IRS audit imbroglio:

“While Exempt Organizations officials knew of the situation earlier, the timeline reflects that IRS senior leadership did not have this level of detail,” the statement from the IRS read. “The timeline supports what the IRS acknowledged on Friday that mistakes were made. There were not partisan reasons behind this.”

No, of course not. How silly to think that there could be anything “partisan” about targeting groups that had expressed antipathy to the goals of the party in charge of the IRS before the audits and delays occurred, and had cost it control of the House shortly thereafter, after which the unjustified scrutiny increased. Yes, that would just be crazy talk, particularly after the president made jokes about it a year before it began. Who could think that an administration so willing to poke fun at the notion would really do anything to justify the obvious irrational paranoia of its enemies?

And it turns out that they were not only holding up their tax-free status and asking improper questions about donors, but leaking the answers to damage their perceived political enemies:

“There is little question that one or more employees at the IRS stole our confidential tax return and leaked it to our political enemies, in violation of federal law,” said NOM’s president Brian Brow, in a prepared statement. “The only questions are who did it, and whether there was any knowledge or coordination between people in the White House, the Obama reelection campaign and the Human Rights Campaign. We and the American people deserve answers.”

This too, as Mr. Carney might say, is old news. Bill Clinton’s IRS not only audited his enemies, but his administration also leaked damaging information on people whom it considered to be potentially politically damaging. One of the more egregious examples is Linda Tripp who, after she ignored the president’s threats to her family (via Monica Lewinsky), saw that her juvenile arrest record from her Pentagon file was leaked to the press.

In fact, the Clinton administration did with FBI files what the Obama administration seems to have done with IRS data. The fact that they had an unqualified former bar bouncer as head of White House security, who had access to potentially embarrassing information on many high-level people in Washington, may be one of the reasons that the Clintons were so seemingly impervious to scandals that would have brought down less ruthless people.

Another recurring theme of the old series was the “exoneration” of the principals by official reports. The Clintons used to claim that they were “exonerated” by the Pillsbury report on Whitewater. Then, when Robert Ray released his final report on the entire investigation, their lawyer, David Kendall, claimed that they were “exonerated” by it, this time for sure, despite the fact that neither report did anything of the kind. In fact, Ray’s report said that:

Insufficient evidence exists to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that either Governor or Mrs. Clinton knowingly participated in the criminal financial transactions used by McDougal to benefit Whitewater.

…The report, released yesterday, also said prosecutors could not rule out the possibility that Hillary Rodham Clinton played a role in the disappearance and mysterious discovery of her law firm billing records.

“Insufficient evidence beyond reasonable doubt” != “Exoneration,” despite Kendall’s attempted spin. What Ray was saying was not that there was no evidence of wrongdoing, but that there wasn’t enough to ensure a conviction, particularly given the experience with Susan McDougal. He was almost guaranteed to get a hung jury in any trial of either Clinton, regardless of the state of the evidence.

Similarly, the Obama administration has declared that the Accountability Review Board report by Thomas Pickering and Mike Mullen had absolved them of any wrongdoing, despite the fact that they failed to interview key witnesses and to uncover key facts, and the “Accountability Review Board” is under an accountability review of its own.

Even many of the cast of characters remain the same for both the new and the old series. As noted, Eric Holder is a returning player, with a more prominent role. And of course, one of the stars of the old show, Hillary Clinton, continues to demonstrate and expand upon her previous knack for misdirection and mendacity, with the help of her husband’s impeachment attorney, Cheryl Mills. But there are a lot of new players as well, most notably the charismatic (at least to some) Barack Obama.

But it’s not enough to revive a concept that had grown stale within the first year the first time around. Time to pull the plug on this misguided repeat.