This week’s Courier Herald Column:
The cries of “I told you so” are reaching critical mass from the right side of the political spectrum. Those who have been in opposition to President Obama since his 2008 campaign have been grasping at each and every perceived weakness to justify why he should not be President. The range of critics have run the gambit from those opposed to his economic policies to those who have questioned the authenticity of his birth certificate, but are now focused on Benghazi, investigations of the DC Press, and the use of the IRS to punish political enemies as the justification that they were right all along.
This line of thinking is a political trap for Republicans, and they should avoid it.
The deliberate misrepresentation that a person who put a video on YouTube was responsible for the killing of four Americans in Libya and how that came to be does matter, despite the assertion of the former Secretary of State. The fact that the Attorney General appears to have authorized a warrant claiming a Fox News White House reporter was engaging in criminal activity as he was engaging routine and customary sources – i.e., doing his job – is a chilling restraint on the free press. And the use of the IRS to punish enemies crosses a line that even Democratic allies of the President are reluctant to defend.
In short, the President has some potential “real” issues to deal with in order to defend the reputation of his administration. And he, as the Commander In Chief, should be providing a full and unfettered accounting. Getting to the bottom of what actually happened, who knew, and when they knew should be the first start.
Instead, too many of the perpetual critics have jumped ahead – believing their visceral opposition has now been publicly justified – and are calling for resignation and/or impeachment. This overreach is how Republicans will likely end up snatching a political defeat from the jaws of potential victory.
The messaging should not be that every crank with a conspiracy theory from the past six years was really correct. Most were not. It should also not be about fast tracking an investigation to move swiftly to the punishment phase without clearly establishing guilt. That is not how our legal system works, and should not be how our political system works.
Instead, Republicans at this stage should be focused more on explaining the virtues of small government in reaction to these scandals derived directly from a government that is too big. Regardless which of the three are being defended, the administration seems to indicate that the government is too large to be managed by any individual, including the President.
When the President and his administration asserts that numerous rogue bureaucrats are running amok in an uncoordinated fashion to punish political enemies and conduct secret investigations of political opponents, then they are admitting – even demonstrating – that the federal government has grown too large, with too many bureaucrats endowed with unchecked power. In short, Democrats are conceding Republican points on the size and scope of governance.
While the formal investigations move to uncover the exact details and begin our system of due process, the political response should not be about proclaiming guilt, but rather should be using the opportunity to recommend solutions to shrink the size and scope of influence that Washington has on our everyday lives.
This administration is saying it can’t be responsible for the actions of mid-level bureaucrats who abuse the system and their power. Higher level ones, like Lois Lerner, continue to receive their salary while on leave despite refusing to answer questions before Congress to explain her conduct as a servant of the people. If there was ever an opportunity for Republicans to make the case against big government, this is it.
Republicans need not spend their time calling for impeachment, resignation, or personal vindication for all past claims made against this President. Instead, to reach those middle of the road voters who frankly have tuned Republicans out, the public discussion at this stage should be to point out the problems with large scale abuses of power.
The assumptions behind most recent political debate have been “my side is good and can handle power. Your side is evil and should not have it.” The current scandals give Republicans a solid chance to change the debate. It should no longer about who has the power of government, but should government have this much power over us at all?