The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Stonewalling 101

Still another scandal associated with the Obama administration—this one involving Hillary Clinton's use of a privately controlled email server —moves into a steady state mode of ambiguity. For a few days, the main stream media seemed almost interested in delving into the details of Hillary's actions. Gosh, there was even an edge to the comments made by some reports on CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC(!!), the NYT (who, to their credit, broke the story), the LAT (not so much). But now, everyone really wants to move on. No breaking investigations, no interviews with others who might have insight or information, and no "deep throat" who might break things wide open. At least not yet, and probably not ever.

Peggy Noonan summarizes:
Everyone knows what the [Hillary Clinton] scandal is. She didn’t want a paper trail of her decisions and actions as secretary of state. She didn’t want to be questioned about them, ever. So she didn’t join the government’s paper-trail system, in this case the State Department’s official email system, which retains and archives records. She built her own private system and got to keep complete control of everything she’d done or written. She no doubt assumed no one outside would ask and no one inside would insist—she’s Hillary, don’t mess with her.

She knew the story might blow but maybe it wouldn’t, worth the chance considering the payoff: secrecy. If what she did became public she’d deal with it then. When this week she was forced to, she stonewalled: “The server will remain private.”
Anyone who has paid any attention at all to the serial Obama administration scandals of the past 6-plus years, is experiencing a strange feeling of deja vu. Under this administration, stonewalling has become an acceptable (and effective) political strategy.

How does all of this begin? A scandal associated with the Obama administration breaks. Doesn't matter whether it's:
  • federally sanctioned gun running to Mexico in which US border agents are killed ("Fast and Furious"
  • improprieties at the Veteran administration (in which veterans were treated with contempt)
  • government intimidate of reporters (the AP scandal and the attacks on James Rosen)
  • federally sanctioned attacks on groups that oppose the politics of Barack Obama (the IRS scandal)
  • federally sanctioned intimidation of businesses who do not fit the politically correct left wing environmental agenda (EPA regulatory thuggery)
  • the death of a US ambassador and three other Americans and the immediate cover-up and misdirection motivated solely for political advantage (Benghazi scandal)
  • and now, a past Secretary of State, making decisions about what is public and what is private that by law, must be made by the government itself
It's worth exploring the rules of the game—Stonewalling 101, as it were— once a scandal breaks:
  1. Those accused of complicity in the scandal remain silent. The hope is that the media will quickly lose interest, that ideologically driven reporters will recognize that any reporting that will "hurt" the politicians they so admire and will shy away from the story.
  2. Supporters of the accused poo-poo any accusations, suggesting they are flimsy and that "there's no there, there." The media's trained hamsters give these supporters significant air time, ask softball questions allowing them to set the tone of the debate.
  3. As more damaging details emerge from outside the MSM, the opposition political party begins to comment and ask questions. The minute that begins, the administration's supporters and spokespeople people respond with "See, this is all politically motivated." 
  4. The trained media hamsters then create headlines like "GOP Attacks the President on<>" rather than "More Questions Emerge about <>. The intent of this wording is to diminish the substance of the accusations in the eyes of the public by implicitly suggesting that it's only politics.
  5. If the story has legs, media spokespeople or the principals themselves will emerge to  tell the public that this is nothing but a partisan attack. They misrepresent the facts, invent strawmen to denigrate legitimate questions, and outright lie. No matter, their comments are presented by the trained media hamsters with little, if any, push-back.
  6. If the hard facts begin to turn against the administration, they throw a few low-level functionaries under the bus. Recall how Barack Obama and his direct reports argued that the IRS scandal was all the work of a few GS-12s in Cincinatti, OH—until it wasn't.
  7. Once the low level people have been blamed, the administration expresses "outrage" that this could happen, argues that it's a unique circumstance, and states that it will work hard to correct the situation. This has been an administrative screw-up of no major import.
  8. To rectify these "administrative screw-ups" the administration names political appointees to conduct a "thorough investigation and produce a report." The report is delayed again and again, is edited to remove any culpability, and is a clear and obvious whitewash.
  9. When asked to turn over additional information, the administration delays and then delays some more. They use freedom of information requests to slow the process down as much as possible. They obfuscate and misdirect.
  10. When they are forced to turn over information (usually by court order many months or years later), they bury the investigators with irrelevant documents and communications. Anything that might have importance has been "lost," or "inadvertently destroyed" in some unrecoverable manner."
  11. If "lost" information is somehow found by intrepid investigators, the administration expresses surprise, but absolutely no remorse. Instead, the administration works hard to delay or impede access to the newly found information using privacy or national security excuses.
  12. At the same time, administration spokespeople express exasperation that the investigation has become "a political witch hunt" and that (this is rich coming from Democrats), further work is a "waste of taxpayer money."
  13. As time passes, the administration begins calling any investigation "old news." They claim that investigations have been exhaustive, xx,xxx pages of [meaningless] documents have been turned over, that nothing has been uncovered, that every question has been answered. Of course none of that is true, but the implication is 'there's no reason to give further questions any credence.' The trained hamsters in the media report the administration's "old news" claims without critique or comment—except to implicitly agree.
  14. Those who continue to ask legitimate questions about the original scandal are labeled conspiracy theorists or "haters" with the clear implication that they are crazies who are not worth any hearing.
Does any of this sound familiar? It should.

As we watch Hillary's "emailgate" emerge, keep the rules of Stonewalling 101 in mind. The Obama Administration has escaped culpability for some of the worst government scandals in modern times by perfecting the 14 rules I noted earlier. In a twisted way, that's kind of impressive.

But in a world where honesty and integrity still matter, it's absolutely disgusting.