Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the August issue of Townhall Magazine.
This year’s Supreme Court decisions didn’t turn out well for the Obama ad- ministration. And June in particular was a bad month for President Obama considering that in just one week, he was rebuked four times on issues ranging from organized labor to contraception mandates. But do these rulings really matter if the people working in our federal agencies are never held accountable for lawless behavior?
Obama’s power over the federal government doesn’t end with his “pen and phone” agenda. Most of the real policy decisions are made by bureaucrats inside federal agencies. And Obama has purposefully created an atmosphere where career bureaucrats are both rewarded for helping his administration’s political goals and punished for thwarting them.
Specifically, to ensure the bureaucracy works in the administration’s favor, those who tell the truth to outside sources are severely punished while political appointees and supervisors are promoted for criminal behavior. Instead of asking for permission, Obama takes an “ask for forgiveness later” approach to the law in hopes of getting away with his priorities.
Take for example Operation Fast and Furious, a scandal I covered closely. Like most government agencies, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is a tangled web of special agents and supervisors. When you add in the Department of Justice, which directed the operation from Washington, D.C., things only get more complicated. Obama allies wear suits and sit in offices, regularly saying the words “yes sir” to even the worst of ideas from senior leadership. Luckily, guys who wear boots out in the field are largely there to actually pursue justice, not to make political points. They’re the same guys who take the hardest hits.
During Fast and Furious, street agents regularly pushed back on orders from supervisors after they continually demanded agents allow thousands of high-powered weapons flow into the hands of cartels. Agents even warned leadership about the potential for their operation to get fellow law enforcement officers killed. Those warnings didn’t matter, but proving American guns were fueling the Mexican murder rate did.
Special Agent John Dodson was the first person to blow the whistle about the government’s gun running operation to Mexico. He came forward shortly after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was in Arizona killed by drug bandits carrying Fast and Furious weapons, just as he warned would happen.
In the end, after years of investigation and extreme examples of egregious wrongdoing and deliberate cover-up, the majority of the supervisors in the case (who had no problem publicly parroting Obama’s anti-gun agenda) were shuffled around and promoted. Not a single one of them was fired. Men like Dodson, who stood up for what was right, were dragged through the mud and destroyed by the agency.
The IRS scandal is similar. Exempt Organizations Unit director Lois Lerner, the infamous woman at the center of improper targeting of conservatives, has faced hardly any consequences for violating the First Amendment rights of thousands of Americans.
Shortly after she admitted to inappropriate targeting, she was put on paid administrative leave for the summer, aka a vacation, and then took her full retirement. She was held in contempt of Congress, which means nothing unless the speaker is willing to have her arrested by the sergeant-at-arms. John Boehner doesn’t have the nerve to do it. Obama won’t call for further punishment because after all, Lerner did at one point want to work for his re-election campaign.
Attorney General Eric Holder, who heads the department responsible for investigating the targeting of conserva- tives by the IRS and for punishing those responsible for Fast and Furious, has also been held in contempt with zero real consequences to show for it. Again, he won’t be arrested by the sergeant-at-arms because by the standards of today’s Republicans, that would be too dramatic.
If you’re wondering why no one has come forward as an IRS whistleblower to talk about what happened, look no further than the administration’s treatment of those who do so. In the end it isn’t worth it, especially if you have kids to feed and a mortgage to pay. If you’re wondering why things haven’t changed, it’s because nobody has forced them to.
These are just a few examples of a larg- er pattern. Name any government agency and you’ll see that under Obama, it has been transformed to cover-up wrongdo- ing while promoting those who do the administration’s bidding. When non-ac- countability becomes fully acceptable in an ever-expanding government, it only breeds more corruption, which becomes impossible to contain.
If there’s any hope for justice in the future, government bureaucrats who betray the public’s trust must be held accountable. When unaccountability becomes the norm, bad behavior by the worst in government proliferates, entire agencies become corrupt, and the few good guys left give up hope.
When Obama demands accountability after a new scandal surfaces and then never follows through, it’s on purpose. During his tenure, breaking the law has become standard practice and even getting caught is no longer a problem due to the lack of consequences.
A dangerous precedent has been set for the future. •