Voltaire, a famous writer and satirist of the Enlightenment Era, once wrote that humankind should “love truth” and “pardon error,” and such a poignant epigram could not be more well-suited to American politics today. Since the start of Barack Obama’s second term in office, the executive branch has been rocked by scandal after scandal, ensnaring a number of agencies ranging from the Justice Department to the IRS and even the State Department. The IRS reported that it had targeted conservative groups for undue scrutiny, infringing upon the political right of expression that has, until now, been an untouchable liberty of the American people. And later in the month, it was learned that the Justice Department had performed a warrantless sweep of the phone records of Associated Press journalists in order to snoop on their anonymous news sources, and to the continued annoyance of the President’s administration, the congressional investigation into Benghazi has ground on undeterred.
I am sure that most of you know at least the basics of these scandals, and if you don’t, you can find them on TV or on the internet. However, many people – particularly those sympathetic to President Obama – feel that the scrutiny into these scandals is unfair and unwarranted, even describing it as partially or entirely politically motivated by Republicans wishing to oust their nemesis from office. In all fairness, this is a legitimate complaint; after all, since when have Republicans or Democrats been apolitical about their party’s tactical decisions? Nonetheless, it is important to note the cruciality of this truth pursuit in the context of the Obama administration’s actions in the past few months in response to these crises.
Let’s go back to the 80s, a decade glorified by conservatives and dominated by the eminent Republican hero Ronald Reagan. In November 1986, the Iran-contra scandal exploded into the news. Reagan’s administration, or at least its subordinates, had been coordinating a series of arms shipments to Iran and the funneling of the money garnered from these shipments to the contra rebels in Nicaragua, a clear violation of congressional mandate and of executive authority. In under three weeks, President Reagan appeared before the nation to apologize and explain the incident to the American people. Although deflecting personal responsibility, he cooperated with a full investigation by a specially called review board to investigate the matter fully. In other words, he came clean. He fired the people the review board regarded as responsible for the contra affair, and he promised that it would never happen again.
Fast forward to today. The Obama administration has no interest in getting to the bottom of what went on in these three scandals, as they have said numerous times. Instead, the administration has assured us that these unsettling and even disturbing occurrences will never happen again. President Obama has failed to appoint a special counsel to investigate any of these crises, and he and his administration officials have only obstructed the pursuit of the truth. Today, senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows, presumably in an attempt to clear up these three exploding scandals. But instead of clearing things up, he provided non-answer after non-answer, toeing the administration line about the partisanship of the dastardly Republicans and giving a truckload of ambiguity to the people watching. Even CBS host Bob Schieffer was less-than-impressed, asking Mr. Pfeiffer directly why he was there for the interview in the first place.
The Obama administration needs to stop evading questions and respond to the public’s calls for answers. If they don’t, they’ll just look guilty, and if they do, they will earn the respect and appreciation of a very unsettled nation.