Victor Davis Hanson

Washington reporters and spin doctors argue whether newly appointed National Security Advisor Susan Rice knowingly lied when she wove a yarn about a single video-maker being responsible for spontaneous violence that led to the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi. Yet no one disputes that her televised fables -- as well as those of both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- were untrue, and demonstrably so, at the time. Yet Rice was promoted, not censured, following her performance.

Last November, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked point-blank whether the administration had altered CIA-produced intelligence memos to fit the administration narrative of a spontaneous riot in Benghazi. Carney answered unequivocally that the administration had made only one stylistic change. That, too, was not accurate. In fact, there were at least 12 different drafts that reflected substantial ongoing changes by the administration of the original CIA talking points.

Former EPA Director Lisa Jackson created a fake email identity -- "Richard Windsor" -- to conduct official business off the record. But Jackson did not just stop with that ruse. She turned Richard Windsor into an entirely mythical persona, her own alter ego who supposedly took online tests and was given awards by the EPA -- a veritable Jackson doppelganger who was certified as "a scholar of ethical behavior" by no less than the agency that the unethical Jackson oversaw.

Deception is now institutionalized in the Obama administration. It infects almost every corner of the U.S. government, eroding the trust necessary for the IRS, the Department of Justice, our security agencies, and the president's official press communiqués -- sabotaging the public trust required for democracy itself.

What went wrong with the Obama administration?

There is no longer a traditional adversarial media in Washington. Spouses and siblings of executives at the major television networks are embedded within the administration. Unlike with Watergate, the media now holds back, believing that any hard-hitting reporting of ongoing scandals would only weaken Obama, whose vision of America the vast majority of reporters share. But that understood exemption only encourages more lack of candor.

There is also utopian arrogance in Washington that justifies any means necessary to achieve exalted ends of supposed fairness and egalitarianism. If one has to lie to stop the Tea Party or Fox News, then it is not quite seen by this administration as a lie.

Barack Obama swept up an entire nation in 2008 with his hope-and-change promises of a new honesty and transparency. That dream is now in shambles, destroyed by the most untruthful cast since Richard Nixon, H.R. Haldeman, Ron Ziegler and John Dean left Washington in disgrace almost 40 years ago -- after likewise subverting the very government they had pledged to serve.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.