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Monday, May 20, 2013

Memo to self, about current events in the Obama administration

I'm old enough to remember more foul-ups by US Presidents, or their underlings, than I wish I did. Here are three that I remember.

Richard Nixon's re-election campaign committee ordered a robbery of the Democratic National Headquarters. That was bad. Most likely Nixon didn't know about this, but he soon did, and conspired to have the matter covered up. That was really bad. The Watergate scandal led to Nixon's resignation, under threat of his removal from office by Congress. The lesson? Nixon should have taken responsibility, and encouraged investigation of the crime, and punishment for the criminals, including those who ordered the break-in, those who tried to cover it up, and the actual burglars. One irony about this affair is that Nixon was never in any danger of not being re-elected -- his opponent was a weak candidate without enough support.

Democratic President Bill Clinton was sexually involved with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. Clinton denied it, both to the public, and in legal proceedings, and Congress considered removing him from office, not on the grounds that he had committed an adulterous act, or acts, but because he lied about it under oath. The Congressional proceedings were largely along party lines, and Clinton finished his term in office. The lesson? Clinton should have confessed, and asked for forgiveness. I can not be certain of the consequences, if he had done so, but would guess that Congress wouldn't have gone as far as it did.

The Iran-Contra scandal occurred during the tenure of Republican President Ronald Reagan. Arms were sold, or transferred, to Iran, in an attempt to persuade some Iranians to release US hostages, and some of the money was transferred to a particular political faction in Nicaragua. It is unclear as to whether Reagan knew about this, but it is clear that, at first, he denied that the US was paying for the release of hostages, and, as a Congressional investigation put it, "If the president did not know what his national security advisers were doing, he should have." The lesson? As President Harry Truman put it "The buck stops here," meaning that the President bears responsibility for whatever his appointees do. It is possible, of course, that Reagan did know about the attempt to pay for the release of hostages, and to divert funds to backing a particular faction in another country. If that happened, the lesson would have been the same as the one in the other two paragraphs, namely that Reagan should have confessed, and asked for forgiveness. If he didn't know, he should have confessed to being disengaged, or to allowing undue freedom to underlings.

The Obama administration is currently involved in at least three affairs that are, or could develop into, major scandals, namely the attack on Benghazi, leading to the death of a US Ambassador, the seizure of massive documentation from the Associated Press, without the usual attempts to obtain cooperation from the AP before the seizure, and the apparent over-reaching of the IRS, in their treatment of right-wing interest groups.

It is unclear how much the President knew about any of these things beforehand, at least to me. It does seem clear that the White House, and possibly the President, was involved in a serious attempt to distort the facts about the attack on Benghazi. I doubt that the President knew about the other matters before they were made public. If the President was involved, he should have confessed, and asked for forgiveness. He also should have made clear that he took responsibility, and really wanted to investigate, punish, and, perhaps, have restitution made, in all three affairs. The President seems to have done about all he could do in relation to the IRS matter, unless, of course, he ordered such behavior, or knew about it before it became public. On the other issues, the record doesn't seem to be so positive.

What's the moral of all this, the lesson?

It seems to me that there are three, and that I should take them seriously.

First, things like this are going to happen, no matter who becomes the next President. Human nature is the same, whether the President is Hilary Clinton, some Tea Party favorite, or someone else. I should pray for whoever is elected, that they won't do, or allow, such things, and I should expect them to happen, no matter whether I voted for the current officeholder or not.

Second, as Moses said, in Numbers 32:23 "But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against Yahweh; and be sure your sin will find you out." (World English Bible, public domain.) I know -- that verse is way out of context. It was directed toward two and a half tribes of Israelites, and referred to a specific matter. However, the principle applies. I can't hide most sins, or mistakes, from others, and I can't hide any sins or mistakes from God.

Third, as Lord Acton put it, "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." That's true of Presidents, and their appointees. It's also true of parents, teachers, pastors, bosses, newspeople, public officials of all kinds, and anyone who has power of any kind over others. But the main person I need to watch out for is me. I tend to think, as, apparently, the Committee to Re-elect President Nixon did, that whatever I do is proper, because it's me who is doing it. Satan wants me to think that. I shouldn't.

Thanks for reading. I try not to write about politics very much, because when you mix religion and politics, you get politics. Two of my most readable posts about that subject are here and here.

4 comments:

superrustyfly said...

Great post. I do, however, disagree with Lord Acton's logic. I say that it is not power that corrupts, since God gave us power in Genesis. Sin corrupts power and humanity. Power probably should not be an inherent evil.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, superrustyfly.

I agree. Lord Acton would have been wrong before the Fall, and, I doubt, would have made such a statement in an unfallen world.

But, of course, we do live in a fallen world.

atlibertytosay said...

Newspeople always tell the truth. ;-)

Just kidding.

If I'm not mistaken, Bill Clinton did have a live oval office news conference where he said he was sorry for telling the American people a lie regarding his affair.

The dance before Congress may have been another scandal though, where he said famously:

"She deposed me. I did not depose her. Therefore I did not have sex with her, she had sex with me."

Question: "What is sex to you?"

"It depends on what the meaning of "IS" is?

I believe this President is complicit at best in all 3 scandals mentioned and at worst may have actually been an integral part of the deaths in Benghazi.

I think a 4th may need to be added to this … Working with the media to mislead the people. At least his cabinet does. This is one of the most media savvy Presidents we've had because through social media - he can be his own news reporting and influence. No President has really had the power of social media - because … it didn't exist yet.



Martin LaBar said...

President Clinton first vigorously denied wrongdoing: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." Later, he did admit it. I don't think Nixon ever admitted wrongdoing, at least not publicly.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewinsky_scandal


Whatever any President has, or hasn't done, the points of the post are that I need to be careful myself, and that I shouldn't expect any President, whatever political stripe he or she may be, to keep from messing up.

Thanks for your comment.