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?