IN a commencement speech to Ohio State University graduates on May 5, President Barack Obama said this: “You've grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's at the root of all our problems. ... They'll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.”
Then again ...
In the days since that speech extolling the virtues of big government, Obama's administration has given new college graduates and Americans everywhere reason to be very concerned indeed about how that government operates.
Testimony from officials involved with the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, reveal an administration that was more concerned about winning re-election than it was about identifying the terrorists who attacked that compound on Sept. 11 of last year. Conservatives who insisted that hearings be conducted in order to get to the truth about Benghazi were vindicated by what was said on Capitol Hill. One high-ranking official said he was left slack-jawed and “embarrassed” by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's assertion on Sunday talk shows that the attack stemmed from an anti-Islamic video.
We also learned that the administration went to considerable lengths to cover up what happened. A mostly compliant media helped the cause by refusing to dig deeper at the time. But even some of Obama's staunchest media allies are throwing up their hands in disgust at two recent developments.
One was the disclosure that Internal Revenue Service workers had made it a point to harass conservative political groups that had “tea party” and “patriot” in their names, or that criticized the government or wanted to educate others about the Constitution. Obama's people made sure to point out that the IRS commissioner who told Congress last year that no political groups were being targeted had been appointed by George W. Bush. In other words: not our problem.
Obama originally said that “if” what was being said about the IRS were true, the allegations would be outrageous. But what was being said about the IRS was being said by the IRS — agency officials acknowledged the targeting had occurred and apologized for it. What's outrageous was Obama's indifference, his utter unwillingness to act in the face of controversy (under fire, he finally did force out the acting IRS commissioner and release documents related to Benghazi).
Obama also kept his distance after it was revealed his Justice Department had seized phone records of Associated Press reporters, apparently in an effort to figure out who leaked information regarding a national-security story. Such an assault on the Fourth Estate should concern any American who values a free and open media.
Yet it seemed to barely faze this president. Obama made it clear through his spokesman, Jay Carney, that there were no plans to step in. “We are not involved at the White House in any decisions made in connection with ongoing criminal investigations,” Carney said.
Even the Los Angeles Times was repulsed. “Retaliatory leak investigations and unjustified, open-ended searches such as that performed on the AP discourage that reporting and cow sources into submission,” the Times wrote. “Such searches may simplify the work of investigators, but they thwart the larger purpose of free debate, a grave sacrifice indeed.”
Obama seemingly couldn't care less. Not when there are wealthy who need to be taxed more, or oil pipeline projects that need to be blocked, or Democratic midterm elections to be won.
In his speech at Ohio State, Obama challenged those new graduates: “I dare you to do better. I dare you to be better.”
The president should follow his own advice.