“It is an immutable law of the universe that if you give government power, it uses it.”- Former Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA)
If, after 2016, we take away any real revelations and insights from
the Obama administration, it will be Republican-Libertarian Bob Barr's
maxim of government always using power if it has it given to it.
Perhaps, in a recycling of the Bush era cynicism of the overreach of
government power, we may also trot out Ben Franklin's bromide about
those who surrender liberty for a little security and deserving and
receiving neither. More often than not, though, we may recall for the
umpteenth time George Santayana's warning about those not heeding the
lessons of history being doomed to repeat it.
Journalists and kitchen table pundits on both sides of the political
spectrum and all those in between will no doubt dutifully trot out
pertinent or potentially pertinent quotes from men and women long dead
and gone but the most abstract takeaway from this AP phone record
seizure business that just broke yesterday (Suspiciously, at the very
beginning of the Monday-Friday news cycle) is that you simply cannot
trust your own government.
If the history of the last 10 or 12 administrations teaches us
anything, it's that Presidents, Senators, Congressmen and Cabinet
officials will construe being elected or reelected as a Constitutional
mandate to perpetrate, perpetuate and propagate any and all manner of
evil and perfidy on the American people and its most cherished
institutions. After all, we elect these men and women to represent us
and our interests, or so we're told. And the very act of reelecting
Barack Obama to a second term essentially gave him carte blanche
in his mind and those of his legal team, to spy on and kill American
citizens whether here or abroad. In other words, if the president does
it, it isn't illegal.
And that chilling and infamous quote
from Nixon's interview with David Frost may certainly prove to be very
relevant as a gleeful Republican Party that just wrapped up its Benghazi
hearings begins to unearth more and more dirt on this phone records
seizure scandal (And, if government teaches us one thing, it's that one
or two human bones that fall out of the closet only leads to an entire
graveyard of such bones. There's never such thing as one roach or
It's come out that Attorney General Eric Holder,
almost surely acting on orders from the Obama administration, signed off
on what is obviously an illegal seizure of the phone records
of 20 AP offices which right now involves at least 100 journalists,
although the number of those violated will expand as surely as the
rising death toll of the factory collapse in Bangladesh. This came about
after a May 7, 2012
report from the AP on our conduct in Yemen, by far the quietest front
in the perpetually foggy and vague War on Terror, and, most tellingly,
the administration's possible lack of honesty and transparency with the
American people. And the fourth amendment's latest violation seemed to
devolve on this paragraph:
unfolded even as the White House and Department of Homeland Security
assured the American public that they knew of no al-Qaeda plots against
the U.S. around the anniversary of bin Laden's death. The operation was
carried out over the past few weeks, officials said.
In true Big Brother form, the Obama administration then quietly
responded in the only way presidential administrations know how: To
prove how nontransparent it is by secretly seizing phone records of the
same news cooperative that had raised a mild question about that same
administration's transparency, or the seeming lack thereof, with the
Gleeful and giddy Republicans completely
bereft of a sense of irony will dive headfirst into this like so many
piranhas into a water buffalo carcass as they finally have a legitimate
scandal in which to wade with complete abandon. This is a spiteful and
venal Republican Party, let's not forget, that hadn't the slightest
problem with, and viciously defended, leaks against Bush's torture
prisons in Eastern Europe and his now-infamous circumvention of the
secret FISA courts. This is the same Republican Party that went after
Bill Clinton, if we're to believe the late Congressman Henry Hyde, in retribution for Nixon's near-impeachment
over Watergate (despite the fact the GOP was almost as dedicated to
pursuing Nixon as the Democrats. Nixon quit soon after Senator Barry
Goldwater informed Nixon in the Oval Office that enough Republicans were
on board in the Senate to impeach Tricky Dick unless he skedaddled.).
"Those Who Do Not Heed the Lessons of History Are Doomed to Repeat It and This Quote."
And the Republican Party and its spittle-flecked apologists can be
given some leeway in resurrecting Watergate, the scandal that doomed
countless faux scandals and tempests in teapots to have the suffix
"-gate" Velcroed to it. First, however, we need to differentiate
Watergate from the current scandal:
Watergate came about when then President Richard M. Nixon dispatched
various "plumbers" to break into Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office
to dig up incriminating evidence on the former Rand war analyst after
he'd leaked the Pentagon Papers to the NY Times and other
mainstream media outlets proving the Nixon and Johnson administrations
were saying one thing about their strategy in Vietnam and doing another.
This later expanded to Nixon ordering the FBI and CIA to wiretap
Democratic National HQ, blah, blah, blah.
Barack Obama surely signed off on the seizure of the AP phone records,
which are not the same as actual wiretaps. But that distinction is cold
comfort, indeed, as it automatically and with one fell swoop reversed
the roles of the media and government. As children, we were raised with
the idea that the media is supposed to be the watchdog of the government
in a free democratic society, not vice versa. As yet, there's no
smoking gun directly implicating Obama as the one found during the
Watergate hearings in Nixon's hand after the fact. Obama did not spy on
the opposition party as did Nixon but that's not the point.
The point is that the Obama administration viciously persecutes and
prosecutes whistleblowers as did the Bush administration and Nixon's. At
least in Nixon's case, Watergate came about because of his personal
sense of Learesque paranoia. With the Obama administration, this latest
circumvention and violation of the fourth amendment was coldly
impersonal and carried out as if it's an established way of doing
And that's the problem: It is.
Ellsberg, while he was persecuted by Nixon and his countless flaks, at
least never saw the inside of a jail cell, although he nearly did.
Wikileaks whistleblower Bradley Manning will have been in prison for
three years this May 26th and has been treated like a drunken, passed
out coed at a frat party. Having released incriminating video evidence
and much more of our true actions in Iraq after being fed a completely
different and much more benign narrative by the Bush administration, the
Obama junta then had Manning arrested and detained in dehumanizing
conditions while the case against him drags on toward its fourth year.
Considering the Obama administration's overt covering up for the
preceding administration, this persecution and prosecution of Manning
and other whistleblowers in the glorious Age of Obama shouldn't come as a
And if the
last several administrations have taught us anything it's that whatever
government currently in power will always more ruthlessly and
efficiently guarantee its own safety than that of the American people.
The underwear bomber arrested a little over a year ago embarrassed the
administration because after repeated assurances there was no credible
threat of an al Qaeda plot to avenge bin Laden's alleged killing, the
CIA days later thwarted just such a plot for just such a reason.
Of course, it would work far better in the interests of the Obama or
any other administration if it more often admitted it was wrong but that
it's constantly taking steps to assure the safety of all Americans. I'm
sure I speak for many when I say we can better live with a government
that's not infallible and upfront about it than one that viciously seeks
retribution when its fallibility is uncovered. But of course that's not
how government operates. As Bob Barr once famously said, if you give
power to government, it will use it and the only way they can respond to
embarrassment is to childishly seek retribution whatever the cost to
the Constitution they'd sworn to uphold.
If a direct connection to Obama and the seizure of the AP's phone
records can be established, then the President certainly needs to be
impeached and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for violating
the Constitution he'd sworn, twice, to uphold. But I would also
ask Republicans to search what ludicrously passes for their souls and
realize that, after Watergate and the countless war crimes of the Bush
administration, they are certainly no better than the war criminals of
the Obama administration. Because they are part of that government that
will unthinkingly use the power invested to it by the American people.