While Republicans have been chasing a laser pointer in a breathless, borderline deranged attempt to make Benghazi into the scandal to end all scandals, two legitimate “Wait, is this really happening in America?”-caliber scandals have trickled out of Washington. The first being that the IRS targeted conservative political groups for additional scrutiny and/or financial harassment. The second: the Department of Justice “secretly obtained” the phone records of journalists at the Associated Press.
Now, you might be saying “Hey, don’t give short shrift to Benghazi, Matt! People died! Our embassy was attacked!” And that’s true, and that’s bad. But even if you believe the (entirely plausible) scenario that CIA and the State Department bungled security and the administration panicked and attempted to obfuscate or slow-play the fact that a serious terrorist attack occurred on 9/11…you need to realize that kind of thing has been the rule and not the exception for the entire history of the CIA (read this book), often with the State Department tangled up in tow. So it’s a terrible occurrence, but it’s not beyond the pale, as the GOP would have you believe, because it’s not even beyond the norm.
The other two are such brazen violations of our most basic expectations of government conduct that not only are they serious on their face, but they instantly give credibility to the very groups that were being targeted. People talking about the government trampling their Second Amendment rights sound a lot more reasonable when same government is willing to use the IRS to curtail their ability to exercise their First Amendment rights. Eric Holder’s sneering “Of course we wouldn’t do that on American soil” response to the Rand Paul filibuster rings hollow when he’s running Soviet-style black ops against the American press.
The next few days should be entertaining. We’ve seen liberals flee from their previously held positions on foreign policy restraint and executive power in order to maintain good standing in the “Obama Is Totally Not Like Bush at All And, Also, Has Never Been Wrong About Anything” Club which has been moonlighting as the Democratic Party since 2009. Now they have a chance to abandon some of their most cherished high ground, as the Obama White House goes full Nixon. I’m not betting against it.