Friday, May 17, 2013

The Year Obama would Rather Forget

by Boaz Bismuth

America in 2008 believed in a new politics. Barack Obama sold them that dream. The 44th U.S. president entered the White House as the president of all Americans, except that this nonpartisan president conducted himself like disgraced former President Richard Nixon. The scandal concerning Internal Revenue Service targeting of Republicans, exposed this week, showed Americans what they already knew: Obama is good for Democrats. 

This is not the only scandal that the administration is dealing with: The journalist phone-tapping scandal and the new revelations concerning the attack in Benghazi, where the U.S. ambassador was killed, are very embarrassing to Obama. This is without raising the issue of his very hesitant conduct toward the Syrian crisis. The new politics promised by Obama may have twice entered the White House but it has yet to enter the history books.

The year 2013, one gets the impression, is going to be very difficult for the president. So far, it has not brought him good luck. Most likely Obama denies any connection to any of these embarrassing events. But what to do, they are now his problems. 

At the president's direction, Attorney-General Eric Holder instructed the FBI to investigate the IRS scandal that is rocking the United States. Apparently, IRS officials targeted conservative groups as well as 75 groups affiliated with the tea party movement. Obama has called for personal measures against those responsible. 

Even if the president is not responsible for IRS harassment against right-wing groups, he is responsible for the current climate in America. The supposedly nonpartisan president is a president of divisions. The Republicans too, one must admit, contributed to the atmosphere of hatred between America's two political camps. But the president is also responsible for the atmosphere. How is it possible that in 2013 America, the IRS singled out organizations that had the word "patriot" in their name?

Could "patriot," from the point of view of an official body, have turned into a vulgar word?
The midterm elections in 2010 forced Obama to act with a little modesty toward the Republicans. This cost him his health (but not his health plan) and he had trouble giving credit to red state voters. 

Changing American demographics as well as the conveniently weak candidate who ran against Obama (Republican nominee Mitt Romney) allowed him to win the elections in spite of everything. It is not new politics that won in 2012 but rather lack of any alternative.

The Watergate trauma
Obama's inability to pass an amendment to the Gun Control Act or to instate immigration reform shows just how limited his power is and how much the Republicans can teach him a thing or two. Following Monday's press conference, Obama left for New York for a fundraiser for the Democratic Party. 

He also promised to work with the opposition to make sure his next 3.5 years in office are productive, but the Republicans are unlikely to be generous. At least not until they get some clarifications.

The fact that the U.S. tax authorities aggressively targeted tea party groups poses a significant problem for Obama, who had to admit that the Internal Revenue Service "inappropriately targeted conservative groups." Such an admission does not coincide with the new politics the administration claims to foster. 

That same press conference saw Holder pledge a nationwide IRS probe and vow to investigate allegations that the Justice Department had seized the phone records of 20 Associated Press reporters investigating Central Intelligence Agency operations against al-Qaida, which also uncovered a CIA operation to thwart a planned terror attack against an American commercial flight in 2012.

The CIA wanted to find out who AP's sources were, but the U.S. has been traumatized by such cases before; the Watergate scandal lives in infamy. 

Nixon and French former President François Mitterrand were each embroiled in their own wiretapping debacles. The Obama administration is expected to be in tune with the public's sentiments -- not their phones.

And then there is the 2012 terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. 

Obama's America, or, to be exact, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, could not imagine how anyone in Libya would want to harm Americans who were only there to help. The failure was so great that mere naiveté could not excuse it and even the MSNBC news network, which is a staunch supporter of Obama, hedged that the affair might result in the impeachment of an incumbent president.

In critical and dramatic moments, the Obama administration finds it difficult to forge the words "terror" and "al-Qaida" together in the same sentence. It may -- as ABC News exposed -- even remove them from its memos.

These are not simple times for Obama, but he can always visit Israel to lighten the mood. For the commentators here he will always be the "Great Obama" of the 2008 presidential campaign.

Boaz Bismuth


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

No comments:

Post a Comment