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M.D. Harmon: The Denier-in-Chief

Rogue tax collectors, warrantless wiretaps, federal shakedowns and foreign policy debacles have characterized President Barack Obama's second term in office.

Rogue tax collectors, warrantless wiretaps, federal shakedowns and diplomatic debacles are just a few of the scandals plaguing President Barack Obama’s 2nd term.

“That the power to tax involves the power to destroy (is) not to be denied.”

– Justice John Marshall, in McCulloch v. Maryland, 1819, slightly paraphrasing a statement made by Daniel Webster during arguments in the case.

Members of the tea party movement have “acted like terrorists.”

– Vice President Joe Biden, quoted by the Politico web site, agreeing with a statement to that effect by Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., at a closed-door Democratic caucus in 2011.

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People keeping track of Obama administration scandals can’t be blamed for having a hard time staying current.

As this is written, there are at least four major new instances of government malfeasance, some of which are already being called “tyrannical,” expanding every day.

And those are in addition to the long-standing “Fast and Furious” scandal involving the delivery of more than 2,000 modern weapons to Mexican drug cartels; or the gift of hundreds of millions of dollars in stimulus funds to bankruptcy-bound “green” industries like auto makers and alternative-power companies run by big Obama donors.

Tuesday’s announcement that Attorney General Eric Holder has asked the FBI to investigate the Internal Revenue Service for possible criminal actions after the agency targeted conservative groups is a step in the right direction — if Holder can be trusted, which remains to be seen, as he is a central figure in several of the current scandals.

Indeed, despite the clear need to start holding identifiable people responsible for their egregious mistakes and/or criminal actions — and either dismissing or prosecuting them — the Obama administration and the president himself seem slow to get off the starting blocks.

As recently as last week, President Obama was telling us that getting all excited about his and his cronies’ actions is just plain wrong.

As he advised graduates at Ohio State on May 5, “Unfortunately, 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. Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.”

However, it’s become excruciatingly clear that Americans would have been a lot better off if Obama himself had rejected those acting like tyrants under his authority.

And he could have done more along that line himself, too.

Currently, commentators and reporters are fighting hard to keep up with all the details of a list of scandals involving:

THE ADMINISTRATION’S failure to take an effective action to protect or rescue the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and three aides and security personnel who were murdered in Benghazi by well-armed Islamist attackers; followed by an multi-pronged effort to mislead the American people about the causes and circumstances of that attack.

An American citizen innocent of any involvement in the attack, but whose video was falsely blamed for it, was scapegoated by Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Basseley Nakoula remains in jail on probation-violation charges, while the jihadists actually responsible for the murders remain unconfined and unpunished in Libya and elsewhere.

THE ACQUISITION by the Department of Justice (DOJ) of two months’ worth of telephone usage compiled by hundreds of reporters employed by The Associated Press (AP), on the grounds of a national security investigation, is being called “unprecedented” and “chilling.”

The AP responded with “shock and outrage,” to the news that usage on 20 separate lines, both business and personal, had been obtained by agents working for Attorney General Eric Holder.

Speaking to the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple, a lawyer for the AP called the DOJ’s actions “outrageous,” saying they were “a dagger to the heart of AP’s newsgathering activity.”

Other media figures were equally upset, with some even using the N-word (no, the other N-word): “The Nixon comparisons write themselves,” BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith tweeted. Margaret Sullivan, the public editor for the New York Times, called the story “disturbing.” Washington Post editor Martin Baron called it “shocking.” CNN’s John King described it as “very chilling.”

Hey, conservatives tried to tell you, but you wouldn’t listen. Now you know the cost of turning your critical senses off when confronting a “progressive” leader.

CALLS WERE MADE by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to major health insurers and charities in the health-care field seeking “maximum” donations, some in the neighborhood of $1 million or more, to help publicize Obamacare after Congress denied funds for that purpose.

The New York Times quoted an insurance industry executive this weekend as saying, “Some insurers had been asked for $1 million donations,” and that “bigger companies have been asked for a lot more.”

If the idea of a government bureaucrat charged with regulating an industry soliciting huge amounts of money from the businesses she regulators to expand her agency’s programs doesn’t bother you, it’s difficult to say what might.

FINALLY, BUT BY NO MEANS the least significant, there is the fact that the Internal Revenue Service has been singling out conservative economic, political and social-action groups for “special scrutiny” regarding their requests for tax-exempt status under the law.

And while that scrutiny was first said to have been the product of “low-level workers in a district office in Cincinnati,” it turns out that Cincinnati is the office where the tax-exempt section of the IRS is headquartered, and that directions and inquiries about these groups had also come from other offices and from IRS national headquarters in Washington.

Not only was there “high-level” interest in these groups, some of them, such as the National Organization for Marriage, a group backing traditional marriage as an institution, had its confidential filings illegally shared with outside political groups on the other side of the issue by the IRS.

One liberal group acknowledged getting “whistle-blower” IRS data on 13 conservative organizations.

Among the groups intentionally targeted by the IRS included those containing “tea party,” patriots” or Glenn Beck’s “9/12 Project” in their applications.

Groups that said their interests included government spending, debt or taxation were also on the list, as were people “critical of how the government is being run” and others trying to educate the public via lobbying or advocacy to “make America a better place to live.”

Regardless of how many protestations Obama makes about how he was ignorant of this abuse and “found out about it when you did, by reading the newspapers,” his subordinates clearly knew about it — and flatly lied to Congress and the public when directly challenged.

Even though the affected organizations had been protesting their treatment, emails and other documents show that the IRS leadership knew of the effort in June 2011, and perhaps up to a year earlier.

Still, in March 2012, IRS Commissioner Douglas Schulman told a House Ways and Means Committee hearing that there was no political targeting by his agency, a direct falsehood.

The attitude of those at the top inevitably filters down to managers and workers. If lower-level workers were targeting conservatives, that’s not something they would have come up with on their own. They had to have managers who enabled and, as it now appears, ordered it to happen.

And when one of the nation’s highest elected officials calls tea party constitutionalists “terrorists,” the message gets through all down the chain of command.

Despite claims that the heightened scrutiny had “no effect,” at a minimum the groups had to spend much more time and money on complying with IRS requests, including such details as donor lists, resumes of directors and “plans of employees or members of employees’ families to run for public office.”

Days and dollars spent doing that inevitably detracted from the groups’ public activities during a hard-fought political campaign.

In addition, some groups were discouraged from even applying due to the IRS demands, thereby taking them out of an advocacy role whatsoever.

Finally, while it is perfectly appropriate to take Obama’s protestations of unawareness with skepticism — and, if you wish, disbelief — consider that even in the highly unlikely circumstance that he is telling the truth, he is confessing to utter incompetence as a leader.

Being unaware that his administration is responsible for such actions is an open admission that he is unfit for the position he holds. If he never ordered the actions in all the scandals listed above (and it is hard to imagine he was not directly involved in at least some of them), he hired the people who did do them.

A leader is judged by the quality of the subordinates he has chosen at least as much as he is by his own direct actions. If so many of those he has picked for positions of trust are unfit, that makes him unfit as well.

Otherwise, there is no such thing as accountability. Which, now that you think about it, seems to be the precise position of our Denier-in-Chief, who is always quick to blame others when things go wrong on his watch.

The phrase “It’s George Bush’s fault” has become a standing joke because Obama has blamed so many problems on his predecessor — and continues to do so, even when he is well-embarked on his second term in office.

Congress can no longer let this stand. A select committee should be appointed to investigate the Benghazi debacle, and a special prosecutor should be looking into the IRS excesses along with the FBI.

Secretary Sebelius needs to be told to quitting hitting up those she regulates for millions in cash and return whatever funds she has already collected.

And Attorney General Holder? He just needs to be fired.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at: mdharmoncol@yahoo.com

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