Mountains out of mole hills
July 16, 2013
We have been confronted by what seems endless federal scandals the last six months. I believe that it is important for Americans not to lose faith in their government as the GOP/Tea Party would like you to do as a means of regaining the White House and Senate.
The Tea Party House is now dedicating one third of its time to these "scandals" and is neglecting governing or making serious attempts at problem solving — which is what we sent them to Washington to do. It is also why Congress now has a 10 percent approval rating — the lowest in history. We should examine these so-called scandals and distinguish between political demagoguery against our president and more serious malfeasance. We also need to understand the underlying origins of these problems. There are now three what I call "mole hills" and one mountain that need our attention.
First is the unforeseen Benghazi tragedy. After the fall of strong man Gaddafi, Libya became a semi-lawless country of disparate warring tribes without a viable central government and was flooded with weapons. Embassy/consulate security funds were cut by more than $300 million by the GOP/Tea Party House in 2011-12. Ambassador Stevens twice turned down offers for more military security. We had no timely assets available to prevent the tragic, sudden and unexpected attack on 9/11. Initial CIA information was clouded and unclear and Administration statements were confused. As facts became known, more accurate statements were released. The GOP/Tea Party has politicized this tragedy, hoping to undermine Hillary Clinton's popularity. This is a mountain out of a mole hill — an unforeseen tragedy and hardly a scandal. We had nine embassy attacks and dozens killed under Bush and the Democrats did not make partisan issues of those events.
Second is the fake IRS scandal. After Bush turned the Supreme Court hard right, they handed down the "Citizens United" decision quickly undermining years of bipartisan campaign finance reform by allowing wealthy corporations and individuals to secretly donate large sums to so called 501C-4 tax free organizations which were supposed to be mostly non-political. Immediately, the IRS was swamped with applications from predominately Tea Party sympathizers for 501(C)4 tax free status and secret funding and whose intentions were 100 percent political. Some applications were delayed six to 15 months and Tea Party fronts were singled out for extra scrutiny. No applications were turned down based on pure partisanship. Instead of clarifying the criteria for 501(C) status and solving the problem, Congressman Darrell Issa wants to make fake political theater out of this mole hill.
We should examine these so-called scandals and distinguish between political demagoguery against our president and more serious malfeasance.
Third is the Department of Justice tracking phone records of reporters in an attempt to find who is leaking top secret information that was endangering our operatives in the Middle East. Holder was within the law collecting the information but overly aggressive and cast too wide a net in my opinion. We really need a bipartisan legislative solution known as a "reporters shield law" to narrow such investigations of reporters' sources in the future. The grandstanding GOP/Tea Party wants nothing to do with solutions but would rather present this "mole hill" as an endless mountainous "scandal".
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Finally, there is the issue of our government collecting phone records and emails (not content) from the vast databases of many of our Internet companies (Yahoo, Google, Verizon, Microsoft, etc.) on American citizens. This information is known as "metadata." This is supposed to be directed toward non-American citizens and require FISA court approval and Congressional/Administration oversight. Obama is not Dick Cheney, but the possibility of future abuse is obvious.
The genesis of this over-reach previously known under Bush as the "Stellar Wind" (http://youtube.com/watch?v=s9vk0OL2TZI ) again comes from the over zealous Patriot Act pushed by the paranoid Bush/Cheney administration in 2003 and reaffirmed by a bipartisan Congress in 2008. The is a mountain, not a mole hill, and the Patriot Act needs to be completely reformed and rewritten with bipartisan approval.
Expect partisan political grandstanding and endless investigations until 2016. If Hillary decides to run, the right-wing demagogic hysteria will be intense (Vince Foster or White Water anyone?). Hannity, Limbaugh, Beck and Palin will have to go on blood pressure meds. Expect many more attempts to make mountains out of mole hills and no bipartisan efforts at real solutions and reforms. This Tea Party Congress is truly the worst in history.
Michael Schwalm lives in Grass Valley.