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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Chicago Politics Comes to Washington

With the Obama administration reeling from three (count-em 3) scandals the American people are now getting an idea what it is like to live in Chicago.

Chicago is the city where the dead vote and the ballot boxes still have to be stuffed just to make sure the dead don't change their minds.

As Studs Terkel once wrote: "Chicago is not the most corrupt American city. It's the most theatrically corrupt.”

When Obama was elected in 2008 I knew it would only be a matter of time before Chicago style politics took over in Washington. Now it has--and how.

Let's take a look at what has transpired in the past few days. Monday Obama and his Chicago minions found themselves in the bizarre position of reiterating Republican umbrage over the admission that the Internal Revenue Service targeted Tea Party and other conservative groups, while condemning his political opponents for generating "a sideshow" over his administration’s non-response to last year’s attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Libya.

By the end of the day Monday, the Obama administration found itself battling yet another potential crisis as lawyers for the Associated Press charged that the Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of its reporters and editors in what the news agency called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.

Then, Tuesday the nation watched White House press spokesman Jay Carney get his knickers in a twist over persistent and hostile questioning from an obviously outraged mainstream press corps that until now had been the administration's biggest cheerleaders.

But just as in Chicago, where politicians never admit to wrongdoing--even as they are carted off to prison--Carney, Obama et al feigned ignorance of the Justice Department's raid on AP and the IRS targeting of conservative organizations.

"We must wait for the facts to come out," Carney wheezed under the bright lights of the White House press briefing room.

Actually, the facts are out. The IRS has already admitted some of its offices targeted conservative organizations for "special treatment" much to the delight (I am sure) of Obama and his Chicago acolytes. A report by the Inspector General, sure to be critical of the IRS, is due out later this week.
As for the Justice Department, there is little doubt that it subpoenaed phone records of editors and reporters. The question now is for what reason? And where did the order to do so come from?

“This is obviously disturbing,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Committee. “Americans should take notice that top Obama Administration officials increasingly see themselves as above the law and emboldened by the belief that they don’t have to answer to anyone.”
Chicago's Original 'Boss" Richard J. Daley

Welcome to Chicago! That is the way politicians in the Windy City have behaved for more than 150 years.

Mark Twain was aware of that dubious legacy back in 1897 when he penned the following in Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar: "Satan (impatiently) to Newcomer: The trouble with you Chicago people is, that you think you are the best people down here; whereas you are merely the most numerous." (From," 1897).

Those "Chicago People" may not be the most numerous in Washington, but they have managed to latch onto a lot of power--from the White House on down the line.

Finally, much to the chagrin of the Obama administration, Republicans rejuvenated scrutiny of the White House on Benghazi, including last week’s House Oversight Committee hearing that featured the No. 2 U.S. official in Libya at the time of the attack describing how his pleas for a military response to the assaults were rejected.

Last week, internal emails showed that Obama's senior aides and State Department officials edited out references to terrorism in early "talking points" put out by the administration last September.

In Chicago when politicians don't want something disclosed whistleblowers mysteriously disappear or suddenly lose their memories. It's the Chicago Way.

So what will the White House do now? As much as Jay Carney would like to, he can't make an irate press disappear. They will not go away and they will continue to ask annoying questions that will cause a president who somehow believes he should be politically inviolate to fret and fume.

Up until now, Carney has had a pretty easy job. He only had to field tough questions from a handful of reporters (most from Fox News). Now he has the entire press corps to deal with.  It's about time.

Obama, who might be the most arrogant president in history, would do well to take a lesson from the original boss of Chicago, Richard J. Daley, who said:

"Power is dangerous unless you have humility."


Thursday, May 9, 2013


This will be short. About as short as the way the American media have covered the whistleblower testimony on the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya in which four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador were murdered.

First, let me say I am fully disgusted by the lack of coverage of this hearing. Only Fox News has given the riveting testimony Wednesday by the three whistleblowers the kind of air time this hearing deserves.  

Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya and the highest ranking official in the country at the time of the attacks, confirmed that there was, in fact, a firm “stand down” order given after the U.S. compound in Benghazi came under attack. Hicks testified that he was “effectively” demoted shortly after questioning talking points that later proved to be demonstrably false. Hicks also revealed that he was told not to speak with an investigating Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) alone.
The Three Whistleblowers are Sworn in

The two other whistleblowers, Mark I. Thompson, a former U.S. Marine and currently the Deputy Coordinator for Operations in the State Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau and Eric Nordstrom, a Diplomatic Security officer who was the top security officer in the Libya  in the months leading up to the Benghazi attacks were almost completely ignored by media coverage.

While Fox News provided almost wall-to-wall live coverage of the testimony, CNN devoted about 15 minutes to the hearings--preferring to hype the Cleveland abduction story. When MSNBC decided to cover the hearings it brought Democrat Elijah Cummings on who immediately dismissed the entire affair as an attempt to "launch unfounded accusations and smear public officials."

 None of the three networks, NBC, CBS or ABC broke into regular programming to air any of the hearings. On its nightly news show, liberal maven and Hillary Clinton devotee Andrea Mitchell dismissed the hearings with this quip: "There is an obvious political undercurrent. Republicans are taking direct aim at Hillary Clinton, the country's most popular Democrat and a possible presidential contender."

ABC provided less than a minute of coverage and CBS's Sharyl Attkisson, who provided a balanced one minute report on the hearings, has been accused by CBS executives of 'wading dangerously close to advocacy on the issue.' Why, because she apparently feels the hearings and the entire Benghazi episode deserve at least as much coverage as the murder trials of Jodi Arias and Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell.

Republican Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas tweeted just before Arias was found guilty of first-degree murder: "Right now Jodi Arias is regretting not killing an ambassador or a Philadelphia infant," the implication being that not only would the media not cover her trial, but would probably do its best to help her go free.

To see journalists more concerned with protecting President Obama and Hillary Clinton than finding out the truth about an attack that killed four Americans is truly disgraceful. It makes me wonder what kind of future my chosen profession has in this country.

Journalists are already viewed with suspicion by the public. When news organizations decide to cover stories based on partisanship, rather than on their traditional responsibility as "watchdogs" of government, our democracy is in big trouble.

After the 1972 break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington D.C. we know the Nixon administration attempted to cover-up its involvement. The media were relentless in their pursuit of Nixon and his cronies and eventually the hearings and the media coverage forced Nixon's resignation.

In Benghazi, unlike Watergate, there were four deaths. Instead of outrage that Ambassador Stevens and three others were murdered, the media are towing the line of the Obama administration and keeping a lid on the entire affair. Where are the Woodward and Bernsteins of today?

And then there is the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who goes before the January Benghazi hearings and in response to a question of whether or not the State Department knew if the attack on the consulate was a spontaneous demonstration or a coordinated attack by terrorists, says heatedly: "At this point, what difference does it make?"

What difference does it make? How about who was giving the orders in the State Department regarding security in Benghazi and what the president knew and when he knew it? And how about our ambitious ex-secretary of state who is angling to be our next president?

The answers that may come from this hearing, despite the media's obvious stratagem to ignore them, will undoubtedly tell us what difference it makes.