From Scandals to Tyranny


It’s difficult not to have a surreal feeling watching the world go by in the shadow of the growing monolith of Obama Administration scandals.  Some of the government actions that have come to light would have been universally understood as signs of encroaching tyranny just a few years ago.  The disbelief you once had that a society could willingly stroll to a totalitarian condition?  You’re watching it happen.

And many of you either don’t care or are excusing it.

Do I need to list the examples?  Well, given that the people with whom our society tasks the dissemination of current events are leaders among those who don’t care or are excusing it I suppose I do have to offer a sampling.  There’s: the IRS’s targeting of grassroots conservative groups, the peculiar harmony of other federal agencies’ joining in, including the EPA, the Department of Justice’s sweeping up Associated Press phone records, the DoJ’s treating a journalist as if his job were espionage, the State Department and the entire Obama Administration’s actively lying to the American people about the deadly attack on our embassy in Benghazi during a campaign, the National Security Agency’s collecting millions of Americans’ phone records, the NSA’s grabbing access to wide swaths of Internet data, the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ using her office to solicit donations for an ObamaCare-aligned nonprofit, Obama Administration officials’ creating secret email accounts and even false identities (who go on to receive government service awards), the DoJ’s Fast and Furious gun-running scheme, its refusal to prosecute Black Panther members for voter intimidation, and then, of course, the misleading and false statements to Congress by both Attorney General Eric Holder and IRS officials.

The list goes on, but that’ll do for now.

There are basically four categories of scandals, on that list, and their nature helps explain how a society allows itself to slip into darkness, so to speak. In order of escalating concern:

  • Secrecy and deception: Both secret email accounts and misleading Congress (as well as, arguably, a federal judge, in Holder’s case) indicate a desire to do things of which the public might not approve if it becomes aware. In isolation, such actions have the feel of venal sins, wrong but excusable in the context of a political environment.  The lies about Benghazi are not in any sense venal; they are illustrative, however, of the way in which supporters of the administration use the politically charged environment as an excuse: the opposition gave us no choice.
  • Misdeeds in the service of policies: With Fast and Furious and the ObamaCare solicitations, we see government agents misusing their offices in order to advance specific policies that their political supporters like (gun control and socialized healthcare, respectively). The difficulty, here, is that many of those who’ve moved into the sectors of society charged with informing everybody else (in education and especially the media) agree with the promoted policies.  The ends start to justify the means and are seen as mere indiscretions born of a desire for justice.  Of course, one might reasonably have expected a body count like that of Fast and Furious to break through the gauze.
  • Surveillance: The various spying and surveillance controversies are characterized by their creepiness.  Nobody likes the idea that government officials are tracking our every move.  But in the age of Facebook and YouTube, there’s a higher tolerance, and in the era of high-tech wizardry, there’s a feeling of inevitability.  In that context, well, the line between what people present willingly to the world online and what they’d like to keep private is not so clear, and after all, what would the government gain from watching me? In the old cliché of creeping law enforcement: If you don’t do anything wrong, you’ve got nothing to worry about.  Right?
  • Targeting of enemies: Unless you happen to stick your head up in opposition to the ruling regime.  In order to further the policy objectives, an administration has to be reelected. That requires a loose hand when allies break the rules (e.g., the Black Panthers) and an outright assault to intimidate and drain the resources of the opposition (e.g., the Tea Party).  Those who truly believe in a free society that offers its citizens control over their government and a fair political process through which to work out differences ought to object strenuously to this behavior no matter their political affiliation.  But when the policy objectives ostensibly being advanced are in ideological harmony with the supposed truth-tellers and watchdogs in the schools and media, well, how much room do people really need for politics?  After all, the Tea Partiers chose to become politically active, didn’t they?  And they’re wrong and potentially destructive in their underlying beliefs, aren’t they?

That’s where we are, right now, and it’s difficult to see what additional revelations could conceivably act as cold water on those who like the general policy direction of the Obama Administration.  Once we’ve imagined new fine print on the social contract that equates political activity with consent to be targeted by the multi-trillion-dollar, spy-agencied, and heavily armed federal government, there aren’t many thresholds left to cross.

Maybe if the government starts targeting people for reasons that aren’t immediately political… but everything can be presented as political.  Maybe if the administration turns on “the good guys”… but it won’t, unless it can present them as another species of “bad guys.”  Maybe if the policy direction reverses… but it won’t, and where it goes awry, it will be excused for a variety of reasons.

What’s left after that?  Locking up political prisoners? I’m not so confident.  Killing people?  We can be sure that the government won’t do that until it can create plausible justifications, for war or security.

The paranoid conspiracy theorist has become a staple of the popular imagination, and the cultural message has clearly been don’t be like this guy.  Last month, President Obama played on that theme when he told a graduating college class:

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’s always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave, and creative, and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.

In keeping with his style, Obama’s statement is vicious to his opponents and dishonest to his audience. Those voices that he wishes to silence are not saying that humanity cannot be trusted with self-governance.  What we’re saying is that vigilance is the price of freedom.  If we are to continue the American experiment, we must be ever watchful of the boundaries that the Founders drew in the sand, and we must be sufficiently self-aware to recognize that, being human, we’re inclined to reject voices with which we disagree when they’re warning us of very real dangers presented by those with whom we agree.

  • Anthony

    There is precedent. This is the kindler, gentler digital Demo-Nazi party at work armed with their own MSM propaganda machine. Zero…not one of these stories were broke here in Amerika. It was left to the GB papers and some of the undergound (nee resistance) bloggers to get these stories out. Emperor Hussein has big plans for you and I if he can just get those damn Tea Partiers out of the way. Wake up …the time has come for good men to stand and be counted. SHHHHHHHHHHH…the Hussein- NSA is listening.

    • persnickety

      They won't be kinder and gentler much longer. These things have a pattern.

  • Mike678

    Who would have thought that "the most transparent administration in history" meant that our privacy would be the object of that transparency?

  • Russ

    "Some of the government actions that have come to light would have been universally understood as signs of encroaching tyranny just a few years ago."

    You'd have to go back further than that. Much of this was begun with nary a peep from the righties (with apologies to a few vocal libertarian types) under the Bush administration.

    "This Is What Section 215 of the Patriot Act Does"

    • El Gordo

      Some of it, yes. Much of it, no. It is part of the message to be learned that it took a selfrighteous, messianic progressive idol to do this without a peep from the establishment. When W was President the media and intellectuals were extremely critical, even hostile – but their whole dissent was only about getting an authoritarian progressive elected. It was not a committment to smaller government but to an even bigger, more powerful state.

      The state will always try to grow and grab more power. It is the job of citizens to keep it small. Yet small government advocates have been demonized, sometimes by the law and order right but always by liberals. There are no small government liberals today, only conservatives. Who makes fun of their originalist understanding of the constitution? Liberals do. They sowed, now we all reap.

    • Hogarth Kramer

      The difference being, and the crux of the posting, was that the Bush-era press screamed holy hell. For Obama, they roll over for a tummy rub.

  • Dan

    Thought we had heard the last from you here, Russ. Welcome back.

    This blog can do without trolls like Sammy, but I would never want to see it turn into an RIFuture-type echo chamber for its contributors.

  • Ken

    You have to further back than that, 1985 President Ronald Reagan appointed Navy Vice John Adm John Poindexter U.S. National Security Advisor. Poindexter designed the “Total Information Awareness” program. In 2002 he tried to get DARPA to fun it but program came under fire for privacy concerns. Congress only funded parts of it.
    DARPA broke it up into smaller parts and renamed parts. “Total Information Awareness” took on a new life.
    Obama as a Senator voted against it but Congress as a whole voted the small parts into law and once the small parts we activate and tied to database they become the sum of the whole.

  • Warrington Faust

    NOt much new here. What can be done, will be done. If the internet and emails had been commonplace 60 years ago, it would have been done then. If it were available 100 years ago, it would have been done then. Think of all the hidden FBI files on Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, MLK, etc., etc. Many of those have still not come to light.

  • Max D

    Hey Russ,
    Long time no hear. I think John Dennis from WEEI Sports Radio summed it up nicely when he said, "(Obama) has out-Bushed Bush."

    • El Gordo

      Bush made his mistakes but he did NOT weaponize the executive to go after his domestic "enemies" and he did not even call them enemies, unlike Obama

  • Ken

    @ Max D,

    John Dennis is. mistaken, it actually is President Ronald Reagan that has out bushed Bush as then Senator Obama voted against “Total Information Awareness ” created by Navy Vice Adm John Poindexter.

    • Max D

      Curious as to how Reagen played a role in TIA. (???)

  • Warrington Faust

    Just fell awake and needed something to think about. Now that the NSA "whistleblower" has outed himself, events take a very curious turn. There is discussion of crimes he may have committed and his extradition from Hong Kong. There is a crime, seldom heard of, "misprison of a felony". In short, one having knowledge of a crime commits a criminal act by concealing that knowledge. It would seem to me that in any proceeding to prosecute Mr. Snowdon, the initial phase would have to be a determination that the government's actions were lawful. What I fear is that the government might be able to sustain that burden. Relying on statutes passed in the wake of 9/11 would indicate that the government may do whatever it authorizes itself to do. Assuming that Congress "expresses the will of the people", that may be correct. I wonder how many Congressmen actually knew what they were acceding to? Or, wished to know?

    Is NSA reading this?

  • Ken

    @ Max D
    President Ronald Reagan appointed Navy Vice Adm John. Poindexter National Security Advior. Poindexter is the designer of TIA. Congress was against TIA because of invasion of privacy so Poindexter cut TIA into tiny parts and renamed them. Congress passed laws to fund the small parts and use them. When all the small parts are connected to database you have original TIA that Congress was against. There is now a Office of Total Information Awareness.

  • Ken

    President Ronald Reagan signed NSDD-145 in 1984 for John Poindexter which allowed covert monitoring of sensitive but unclassified network and databases. This opened the monitoring flood gates.

  • Max D

    You still haven't explained how Obama hasn't out-Bushed Bush. It's tongue in cheek of course but what has Obama done but continue all these programs and began programs to search journalists' phone records, require citizens to report their medical coverage to the IRS, and deny his political opponents tax exempt status. By the way, Reagan was long gone by the time Poindexter introduced TIA.

  • Mike678

    Max–to many on the left it's OK if their guy/gal does it. It's only bad when the other side does it. In the end, it's all about power.

  • Warrington Faust

    Have you noticed the new "synergy" on the web, and coupled it with headlines that the government is swapping data with corporations? I notice that even YouTube (who I don't think I have ever givern personal information) presents me with ads for Rhode Island companies. I once found a web site that told you "what the web knows about you". It printed out 9 pages. Interestingly, I am an 89 year old female, living in North Attleboro, MA, two children at home and driving a Porsche 911. Maybe we're "skeered o'nuthin".

    • Ken,
      Beating at a 30 year old strawman does nothing to solve the problem we have today and going forward. You seem bent on "blaming Reagan" with every post you make, as if you are trying to distract from the fact the man in the office today is at the very least just as bad and by any honest measurement, much worse. But I'm sure you don't want to look at things today, and the possible actions we could take to fix it because it might hurt "your man". So enjoy living in the past while the rest of us have to exist in today's world. A simple fact is time only goes forward.

  • Last Chance

    Positively pitiful how the left blamed Bush (and now some posters trying to go all the way back to Reagan), in order to justify Obama's crimes. Please, the government is no better than the people in charge. The IRS has been around for decades, but it took Obama to weaponize it. Likewise the TSA was created by Bush, but Obama is turning into a domestic military force. Wake up if you enjoy freedom, it is disappearing fast.

  • We told all you folks this was coming in 2007. We detailed it. We explained it in depth. What's up with the deer-in-the-headlight shocked look many of you have on your faces?

    You were warned. Repeatedly. Are you more dense than a black hole?

    • Doug Thompson

      I totally agree with your comments. Those of us who knew what was happening were yelling against the sea.

      • It's the "surreal feeling" comment that galls me. WTF? Surreal feeling? Really? After many of us spent the better part of 2007 pointing out detail after detail about Obama and his career trajectory of thug-ism. For someone to now have a "surreal feeling" is to demonstrate an unbelievable depth of dementia. BFF of the unrepentant terrorist Bill
        Ayers? Get out of town.

  • @jrtwee

    All that I see are people talking about Obama's fascist bullshit. It is past time to do something about it. Why are not more people agitating to divide the country. Why do we not separate the fascist (Democrat party) states from the free states? Why are we not going to the leaders in government and demanding that they to force the fascist to live among themselves?

    • cbpelto

      TO: @jrtwee
      RE: Division of the Country…..

      ….is NOT the answer. That turns US into the Balkans of the Western Hemisphere. And that just serves Obama's purpose. To destroy US.

      What we need is to get this administration OUT OF OFFICE AND INTO PRISON!


      [Abuse of words has been the great instrument of sophistry and chicanery, of party, faction, and division of society. — John Adams]

  • cbpelto

    TO: All
    RE: Heh

    About time other people caught on to what has been going on these last five years.

    Even the likes of Glenn Reynolds has been pussyfooting around this 800 pound gorilla in our living room.

    The question becomes….

    What are we going to do about it?


    [Men must live under the law. Or they will live under tyranny and call it law.]

  • gsr

    Let's see…….use the instruments of government (IRS, NSA) to "much up the works" and delay and prevent your political opponents from organizing and raising money, so you can cruise to re-election. What a genius, our juggg-eared Moooooslim Boy in Chief is!

  • Teri

    Let me explain the differences to you, Ken, between anything Reagan/Bush1/Bush2 may have done and this administration. The first is that the press does their job during Republican administrations. You would not get away with bureaucrats and secret email accounts or spying on the press.

    But the biggest difference is that the Republican presidents have never, ever tried to permanently silence the Democratic party. We are seeing a President that uses the full weight of the government to go after people whose only crime is to donate money to Republicans (witness Gibson Guitar.) The crimes of this administration are far worse than anything Richard Nixon did. So stop finger pointing and saying "They did this first."

  • textaylor

    Like you, I am amazed at the apathy anymore. Are we just that unobservant, lazy, or simply stupid?

    It's gone way beyond the federal level. I now live in the reddest of red states. And without our permissions as citizens, "someone" decided some years back:

    (1) To fingerprint everyone with a driver's license if you wish to obtain one
    (2) To mail us preprinted absentee bailouts, unrequested, with our most personal information preprint for conveniece
    (3) Changed a majority of patrol cars city and state from easily observed, easily distinguishable police cars, to unmarked patrol cars. How does one serve and protect in secrecy?
    (4) Installed cameras at what seems every sidewalk, every intersection, every hall.

    This is just a small sampling of what has been done without a vote, without permission. I'm afraid Big Brother is all around – and most too dumb to notice.

    • Whom gets voted into office has little impact on any of the Apparatchik… They continue to do what THEY decide they can do without any over sight.

      Patriots the over sight is up to us and those whom need over sight have failed us all.

  • Liberals and their never ending series lies and Projection for no reason other than gain power over everyone else disgusts me to my very core.

    Patriots its past time to awake and retake what is OURS…