President Barack Obama has flouted the law again and again — unilaterally rewriting the health law at least 18 times since passage; changing immigration law by executive fiat (after having explained that to do so would be beyond the scope of his constitutional authority); dictating that union claims should trump creditors in the General Motors and Chrysler bailouts; altering the welfare laws by regulation; making recess appointments when Congress was not, in fact, in recess; and many more. After each arrogation of power, critics have protested, “He can’t do that!” Yes, he can — because there is nothing to stop him.
What Obama has done is plainly unconstitutional, but there is no magic buzzer that sounds when a public official violates his oath to uphold the Constitution. Lightning bolts do not issue from the heavens staying the errant executive. The only guardrail that keeps our leaders from abusing their power is the vigilance of the people. Key to that vigilance is the press — so much the worse for us.
With a few exceptions, members of the media have performed more like government mouthpieces than like adversarial, news-hungry independent actors. They’ve been more lapdogs than watchdogs. Each time the Obama administration has violated the Constitution, Republicans and a few commentators have howled. The administration has responded that Republicans are only seeking partisan advantage, and the media (when they don’t ignore the outrage entirely) have “reported” that Republicans are only seeking partisan advantage.
The latest example of contempt of country is the IRS announcement, issued late Friday afternoon, that a huge trove of emails between Lois Lerner and officials outside the IRS had been lost due to a hard drive crash on Lerner’s laptop. Though this doesn’t pass the laugh test, it provoked barely a ripple in the news. The New York Times made just a glancing mention on its website a few days later. The Washington Post ran only an Associated Press story. And while some figures on CNN and elsewhere expressed skepticism about the IRS claim, the baying and bugle calls that should have greeted such a blatant dodge were not heard.
These emails have been the subject of a subpoena for a year. That the IRS would only now come forward with a story about their suspicious disappearance is Rose Mary Woods territory. (She supposedly accidentally erased 18-and-a-half minutes from the Richard Nixon tapes.)
The scandals plaguing this White House are so numerous now that it’s possible to lose sight of the magnitude of the IRS story. The IRS has unparalleled power over citizens and unmatched access to confidential information. If the IRS can be corrupted and used as a weapon by the party in power against political opponents, it is difficult to imagine how the social trust essential to self-government can persist. A recent Pew poll showing growing polarization among Americans has elicited a great deal of commentary. Consider what the politicization of the IRS means in this context: If government is permitted to become a partisan cudgel, the effects could be dangerous for social peace.
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This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom