Here’s a thought experiment: what if a Republican administration, six years into its term, had inadvertently blown the cover of its top CIA operative in a war-torn hellhole during a surprise visit by a president who had undertaken the trip in a desperate effort to shore up his sagging popularity in the wake of numerous scandals, including one involving widespread and deadly corruption in the administration of Veterans Administration hospitals. To ask the question is to answer it: the legacy (formerly the “mainstream” media) would be skirling with criticism of the administration’s dangerous incompetence. Every day there would be scathing articles dilating on the president’s fecklessness and the fecklessness, if not, indeed, the criminal negligence of those around him. And it would be endlessly (and correctly) pointed out that, at the end of the day, it was the president, not his underlings who must bear the brunt of the criticism, for along with the stupendous power in the president, the Constitution also invest in him a great burden of public trust. Thus is was that James Madison, in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 insisted that there had to be a mechanism for removing a president not just for “treason” or “bribery” but for “incapacity, negligence, or perfidy.” To protect the country, incompetence and other instances of what another Founder, George Mason, called “maladministration” as well as criminal behavior were grounds for impeachment and removal.
But what if, to continue the thought experiment, the administration in question was Democratic rather than Republican? Once again, the question is self-answering. In that case, the media’s excuse factory would go into overtime. The specific articles produced by this exercise in extenuation vary according to circumstance. Sometimes it’s a matter of camouflage — “nothing to see here, move along” — sometimes it’s a sort of distorting mirror in which the large appear small and vice-versa. Sometimes it’s simply a sort of white-noise machine in which the ambient static cancels out unpleasant revelations from outside and induces slumber.
But I wonder just what is going to happen in the aftermath of this latest scandal. Is there anyone — anyone — who still believes that there was “not even,” as the President said, “a smidgeon of corruption” in the IRS — that it was merely happenstance, or the work of a few “rogue” employees, that explains why the overwhelming majority of citizens the IRS harassed were conservatives? Is there anyone — anyone outside the corridors of The New York Times, that is — who still believes the administration’s story about the Benghazi massacre — that it was sparked by a “rogue” internet video about Mohammed? Is there anyone who believes anything the administration says about Obamacare — “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health plan, period,” etc., etc. As I write, there is also the disgusting scandal surrounding the Veterans Administration, whose callous maladministration and “secret waiting lists” for infirm veterans has caused many deaths and untold suffering. The President says he’s “mad as hell” about it, but exactly what has he done?
While you cast about for an answer to that last question, ponder the latest scandal, just out of Afghanistan. This headline from Newsmax sums it up: White House Blunder Puts Whole CIA Unit in Peril.” Obama slipped secretly into Afghanistan to bolster his tarnished luster among the military in the wake of the VA scandal. It’s not clear how well that worked. As Newsmax reports, “The accidental disclosure of the identity of the top CIA agent in Afghanistan by the Obama administration could affect operations in that country — even target the entire unit for assassination by the Taliban.”
Gosh. Retired Air Force General Michael Hayden, who was director of the CIA and the National Security Agency, tartly observed that “It looks like a rookie mistake, but it’s in year six of the administration. It’s a bit stunning. You would never expect to see that in material that’s been made public.”
Indeed. But with this administration, one has learned to expect the unexpected. Next week, Encounter Books will publish PJM columnist Andrew McCarthy’s Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment. Notwithstanding the subtitle, the book does not argue for Obama’s immediate impeachment. Indeed, it argues against it. What it does, however, is catalogue the extensive evidence of lawlessness, incompetence, and arbitrary usurpation of prerogatives that the Constitution vested in Congress. It is an extraordinary, and a depressing, litany. Among much else, it makes you appreciate why James Madison would have insisted that impeachment was an “indispensable” mechanism to remove a “chief Magistrate” guilty of “incapacity, negligence, or perfidy.”