“Mistakes Were Made”

By | May 16, 2013 | 0 Comments


Separated at Birth

After repeated complaints, the Internal Revenue Service admitted – and apologized for – targeting conservative groups. Groups with “Tea Party,” “Patriot,” or “Constitution” in their names were subjected to excessive scrutiny. Even Freedom Center was audited. If Freedom Center appears on an enemies list, do we have a problem with Freedom Center, or do we have a problem with the people who made up the enemies list?
Religious groups were included in this scrutiny. In one case, the IRS asked a conservative group for every Facebook post – not just by the organization itself, but also by all visitors to the site, over which the organization has no control. In another case, the names of donors and volunteers were demanded. In an even more extreme case, the IRS asked for the names of the students that a conservative organization had mentored.
The obvious motive was to find an excuse to deny the organizations a tax exemption, as well as to identify donors – which is totally inappropriate, possibly illegal, and even unconstitutional. How can we guarantee freedom of expression and freedom of association, if Big Brother can discover what organizations we contribute to or volunteer for?
In still another case, an organization founded to finance trips to Israel for poor people had to be dissolved because its tax exemption was denied. The IRS complained that the organization was “too pro-Israel,” which was contrary to Obama administration policy. In fact, there seems to be a pattern of anti-Israel bias in the IRS. If a Republican administration did this, the media would call it anti-Semitic. If a Democratic administration does this, the media ignore it.
In response to questions from the press about the IRS scandal, President Obama declared that if the reports are correct, “mistakes were made.” I have three problems with this statement.
● The IRS official in charge of that section admitted that the charges are correct and apologized publicly. The agency concerned already admitted wrongdoing, so where is the “if”? The matter is no longer in dispute. The only remaining questions are how extensive the problem is, and how high the blame goes. There is no “if.” There is only “how bad?” and “how high?” As was the case in Watergate, there is only “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”
Oh wait, there is an “if.” The guilty will be punished if Congress has the guts to do it, and if we citizens have the public spirit to demand it. That’s a big “if.”
● There were no “mistakes.” A mistake is mixing up “who” and “whom.” A mistake is getting an incorrect total in your checkbook. Defense attorneys and other apologists for criminals habitually call murder, robbery, and other serious crimes “mistakes” in the hope of minimizing guilt. No, a crime is a crime. Systematically targeting conservative groups, while bypassing liberal groups, is not a “mistake.” It is a deliberate effort to intimidate and harass groups that disagree with the administration.
Even worse, in cooperation with the Department of Health and Human Services – more likely, at cross purposes with it – the IRS will oversee ObamaCare. The IRS already has over 1900 agents working on the myriad regulations that ObamaCare requires. Do you want your health care to be under the control of bureaucrats who have demonstrated the ability to punish political enemies? The possibilities are frightening.
President Nixon used the IRS to harass his political opponents. This charge was included in the Articles of Impeachment that caused Nixon to resign. Using the IRS to target political opponents was deemed to be one of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” that the Constitution designates as reasons for impeachment.
Also included in the Articles of Impeachment was the charge that Nixon had misused electronic surveillance. If this was a reason to impeach Nixon, why is it not a reason to impeach Obama? The widespread seizing phone records of Associated Press reporters would fill Nixon with envy. Whether the actual messages were tapped remains to be seen.
The only “mistake” made by either Nixon or Obama was getting caught.
● The passive voice was used. Not “we made mistakes.” Not “they made mistakes.” But merely “mistakes were made.” When small children spill milk, they almost never say, “I spilled the milk.” Instead they say, “The milk spilled,” as if it spilled itself. Small children rarely take responsibility, because they do not clearly understand the concept.
As children grow, they come to understand personal responsibility. If they don’t, they become sociopaths. But not all sociopaths are street criminals. High-functioning sociopaths may do surprisingly well – at least for a while. Some become white-collar criminals like Bernard Madoff. Others may even become politicians.
Contrast these two quotations:

The buck stops here.
– Harry S. Truman

Mistakes were made.
– Barack H. Obama

If there is a clearer example of the vastly different ways people can view personal responsibility, I have yet to hear of it. But this goes beyond personal responsibility. It involves the wider responsibility of a business owner for his employees, of an officer for his enlisted personnel, and of a government official for those under his supervision.
Take Benghazi. Or take IRS-gate. Or take the millions wasted on Solyndra and other failed enterprises. Or take spying on Associated Press reporters. In all these cases, President Obama claims that he was unaware of the problem until it was called to his attention. He takes no responsibility himself, but fobs it off on low-level bureaucrats.
In each case, the president claims: (1) He had no part in the wrongdoing, if it occurred. (2) He didn’t know about it till he was informed – or, in the case of IRS-gate, learned it from the media. (3) He can’t comment further, because the investigation is ongoing – by others, of course. That is, when something good happens, Obama claims to be at the center – for example, the killing of Bin Laden. But when something bad happens, he claims to be far out of the loop.
Like a small child, he says, “The milk spilled.” But we are not small children. We need not accept this fanciful version of events. If an executive claims ignorance of repeated wrongdoing by his subordinates, is he incompetent or dishonest? Note that these two explanations are not mutually exclusive.
In the Navy, if a ship runs aground, the captain is almost always relieved of command and his career ended. This is true even if he was not on the bridge, and other officers caused the problem. The captain has the ultimate responsibility. If his subordinates are inadequately trained or insufficiently alert, he is blamed for his faulty supervision. This is the only way to be as sure as possible that ships navigate safely. What is true for Navy ships is equally true for the ship of state.
If then-Secretary Hillary Clinton was not responsible for denying the additional security that Ambassador Chris Stevens repeatedly requested for the U.S. mission in Benghazi, then who was responsible? If President Obama was not responsible for refusing to send a rescue force when our mission was under attack and our ambassador was in danger, then who was responsible? If these people were not responsible, then in effect no one was, and “the milk spilled.” Well, actually, the blood spilled.
With power comes responsibility. Hillary Clinton had the power and prestige of running the State Department. As a result, she inescapably had the ultimate responsibility for what went on in that department – and for what happened to her people. Barack Obama has the far greater power and prestige of being president. As a result, when the IRS targets his political opponents while the Justice Department spies on reporters, then he – just as much as Nixon – must bear the responsibility.
Power minus responsibility equals tyranny.
Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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