Three current scandals should concern every American, because they attack our traditional faith in a government of laws, a government that treats all Americans alike and fairly.
Americans have always trusted that this was a government where the freedom of speech and the freedom to disagree with the government was sacred. Federal officials could not retaliate against you because you disagree with them. We always realized that in other nations, the government would subject dissidents to added scrutiny and specially targeted prosecution, but the Constitution and a long history of open discussion and dissension protected Americans from that kind of thing.
The first blow came when we found out the Internal Revenue Service had targeted conservative groups, which disagreed with the executive branch of the federal government, for additional scrutiny. It looked harder at the tax status of these groups and even funneled information about the organizations to more liberal associations friendly to the White House.
Surely this couldn’t be right. Conspiracy theorists always said the White House would use the IRS to attack, harass and spy on political opponents, but sensible people never believed that. Now, it is true.
Then, we learned the Department of Justice had secretly obtained phone records from Associated Press reporters in several cities. The government secretly took phone records from 20 reporters and editors for two months. We always knew the Kremlin tapped the phones of journalists, but not Washington.
To add insult to injury, the White House tried to control the damage by reintroducing a shield law for reporters, enabling them to refuse to reveal their sources. But what use is refusing to reveal your sources if the government has already stolen your phone records for the past two months?
Finally, The Associated Press reported that the government has been selectively enforcing environmental laws. It routinely fines oil companies and electric utilities when oil pools and power lines result in the deaths of eagles and other protected birds, but it never fines wind energy companies when their giant wind turbines kill eagles, which happens frequently. Why? Because these are “green” energy companies, and the president favors them.
When did we become a nation in which the president’s enemies are prosecuted for breaking a law that the president’s friends are allowed to violate?
When did we become a nation in which the government secretly stole the phone records of reporters?
When did we become a nation in which the full force of the federal tax system is used to hammer those who disagree with the White House?
The cumulative effect of these scandals is that we are now no different from other nations where the power of the government is used to intimidate and bully those who oppose political leaders.
President Barack Obama has become the bully in chief. He may not have personally set these policies, but he created the environment that allowed them. He and his assistants, including Attorney General Eric Holder, have violated the Constitution and the very civic culture of this nation, undermining centuries of faith in government.
Americans do not know whether they can trust their government any more. They do not know whether they will be treated the same as someone who may have political views more to the president’s liking. It’s a different nation now.
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