Column: What happened, Mr. President?
It hasn’t been a great week for the Obama folks, as the scandal du jour tour has firmly taken hold. Every day it seems another federal agency is exposed as having intimidated, snooped, covered up or gone to Vegas on the taxpayer dime. Zimbabwe is even making fun of us.
On Jan. 21, 2009, in remarks welcoming his new presidential staff, Barack Obama said: “Let me say it as simply as I can: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”
So what happened, Mr. President? Why so much stonewalling?
Let’s take this one by one. Obama has to know that nobody is buying the assertion that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice made a simple error when she blamed the assassination of Ambassador Christopher Stevens on a spontaneous Muslim uprising caused by a stupid anti-Islamic video. No one believes that was an honest mistake, Mr. President.
So it is on Obama himself to explain the Rice deal — and also to explain why armed U.S. assets in Tripoli were not immediately sent to help the ambassador and other Americans under siege in Benghazi.
But for eight months, the president has refused to explain.
The IRS chaos is newer, and the president was forced to respond by firing Steve Miller, who ran the agency. But again, how could the powerful IRS get so out of control? Was it loyalty to a liberal president that made agents unfairly target conservatives? We need some clarity here.
On the Associated Press front, all the president has to do is what Attorney General Eric Holder refuses to do: explain in general terms why the Justice Department thought it necessary to secure the phone records of AP reporters; explain why there was an urgency to the investigation. Obama can certainly do that without compromising national security. So why isn’t he doing it?
The answer to that question lies in accountability. When has Obama ever been held accountable for anything? The press largely covers for him when mistakes are made, and the public seems to be in a very forgiving mood, especially on economic matters, where, according to some polls, almost half of the voters believe the sluggish economy is George W. Bush’s fault.
Sensing blood in the water, the president’s ardent opponents will continue to take the scandals as far as they can. The only way this stops is for Obama to take control, admit whatever mistakes were made, explain how and why they happened, and hope the public understands.
If he doesn’t do that, his second term could well be a national nightmare.
Veteran TV news anchor Bill O’Reilly is host of the Fox News show “The O’Reilly Factor” and is an author and columnist.