In Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, he ran to the left of Hillary Clinton as a moral reformer. Obama promised to transcend the old politics and bring a new era of hope-and-change transparency to Washington. Five years later, those vows are in shambles.
True, the murder of four Americans in Benghazi has become a mess of partisan bickering. But the disturbing facts now transcend politics. The Obama administration -- the president himself, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney -- all at various times blamed an obscure video maker for the "spontaneous violence" that killed Americans last September.
The problem is not just that such scapegoating was untrue, but that our officials knew it was untrue when they said it -- given both prior CIA talking-point briefings and phone calls from those on the ground during the attacks.
One theme ties all the bizarre aspects of Benghazi scandal together -- the doctored talking points, the inexplicable failure to beef up diplomatic security before the attacks and to send in help during the fighting, the jailing of a petty con artist on the false charge that his amateur video had led to attacks on our consulate, and the shabby treatment of nonpartisan State Department whistleblowers.
There was an overarching pre-election desire last year to downplay any notion that al-Qaeda remained a serious danger after the much ballyhooed killing of Osama bin Laden. Likewise, Libya was not supposed to be a radical Islamic mess after the successful "lead from behind" removal of Muammar Gadhafi. Facts then had to change to fit a campaign narrative.
As the congressional hearings on Benghazi were taking place last week, we also learned that the IRS, administered by the Department of the Treasury, has been going after conservative groups in a politicized manner that we have not seen since Richard Nixon's White House. There was no evidence that any of these conservative associations had taken thousands of dollars in improper tax deductions -- in the manner of former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the one-time overseer of the IRS.
Instead, groups with suspiciously American names like "Patriot" or "Tea Party" prompted IRS partisans to scrutinize their tax information in a way that they would not have for the tax-exempt MoveOn.org or the Obama-affiliated Organizing for Action. On top of that, the Justice Department just announced that it had secretly seized the records of calls from at least 20 work and private phone lines belonging to editors and reporters at the Associated Press in efforts to stop suspected leaks.