May 12, 2013 Government abuse of power and truth never started nor ended with Nixon – Now IRS-gate and Benghazi-gate
Once the Oval Office secret taping was revealed — followed by my being convinced that Nixon knew about and kept mum about the Watergate break-in, let alone his involvement with covering up the scandal — I told myself by age eleven in 1974 that I did not like him. Not helping Nixon on my assessment of him were his looks (not ugly but not photogenic nor kind-looking, either; I had many years of challenges to overcome lookism), the political cartoonists’ wild caricatures of him, and my view that he was anything but cool when the counterculture’s strong inclusion on the airwaves was still recently strong. Pat Oliphant’s image of an isolated and lonely-seeming Nixon awkwardly commandeering the peace symbol into a victory sign (in my view) summed up my not being able to relate to the man.
I later learned that I would have been wiser to have opposed Nixon for some more extensive and overlapping reasons, removing any issues about his looks or demeanor. As I understand it, Nixon saw few boundaries on presidential power, and, thereby dangerously threatened individual liberties and the balance of power among the three branches of the federal government. He used smear tactics — including playing on anti-Communist fears — to advance. He apparently kept an enemies list. He was very bigoted. He ordered a burglary of the Brookings Institution, a pre-Watergate break-in at that. I learned that I could not dislike him so much for secret oval office tapings — with the tapes’ ultimately strangling Nixon’s presidency — because they started with Franklin Delano Roosevelt and continued with Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson.
Nothing, though, is black or white, all good or all evil, or done in a vacuum. Nixon would not have taken and consolidated power absent many people supporting his doing so. Not everything he did was bad; for instance, regardless of his motivations, he placed a diplomatic focus on reducing tensions and nuclear war with the Soviet Union, and paved the way to diplomatic relations with China.
Barack Obama does not come across as a Richard Nixon. He seems to mean well without being obsessed and paranoid over his opponents, and without seeming to wield presidential power for his own image and legacy. I have never been crazy about Obama, and believe that his "no drama Obama" approach goes too far. All shrewd politicians have learned to do their best to avoid what Nixon did to suffer the downfall of his presidency.
Now, regardless of President Obama’s involvement or knowledge (and any failure or not to disclose the following scandals), he has two huge scandals on his hands that were reported last week: The IRS’s admission that it targeted conservative political groups for audits, and revelation of emails from the State Department seeking to mislead the public about the cause of the Benghazi killings of American diplomats.
I doubt that Obama would have directed nor allowed the IRS to target anyone for political reasons. I have not explored enough how much responsibility Obama did or did not have for misleading initial explanations of the cause of the Benghazi killings. However, Obama by now clearly knows about both scandals. What will he do to explain his role — or lack therein — in the scandals, what he will do to fix the situation, and what he will do with the government personnel who caused and perpetuated these scandals?
Abuse of governmental power is not limited to any one political party. We are stuck in a Tweedledee-Tweedledum American two-party political world that is a far cry from a true democracy when considering the stranglehold that the Democratic and Republican parties have on the political landscape. Both parties have consolidated too much power. Huge power breeds greater risk of devastating abuse of that power. The federal executive branch has a hugely powerful bureaucracy that tends more to perpetuate itself than to reform from one presidential party to the next.
As to criminal justice, few politicians are willing to risk their careers by pursuing a massive overhaul of the criminal justice system to criminal defendants’ benefit. Law and order tends more often to get politicians elected than campaigns to move away from America’s incarcerating more people per capita than any other nation, even China.
So long as the United States government remains so powerful, gross abuses of power will continue.