Legitimate reasons to be outraged at Obama (Benghazi and IRS not among them)

If you’ve been following mainstream media (or just Fox News) lately, you’re probably aware of the recent increase in Republican ire. While it’d be legitimate to ask “When are the Republicans not full of ire, especially with respect to Obama?” Fair enough. But since President Obama’s successful re-election, there’s been a concerted effort to find some major scandal with with to justify impeaching the President. Here’s why the big ones right now, Benghazi and the IRS are pseudo-scandals – and why there are much more serious and appropriate things to hold Obama accountable for.

The way Republicans talk about him you'd think he was made of straw. (Image by Daniel Borman)

The way Republicans talk about him you’d think he was made of straw. (Image by Daniel Borman)

A few months ago there was Rand Paul’s filibuster over Obama’s nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA. Paul’s act was played up as some righteous statement about domestic drone use but, as I wrote here, it was actually just an act of grandstanding from Paul, little more. Though the uproar inspired by that event has cooled, the attack on US diplomats in Benghazi from last year has been exhumed, for a while becoming, again, the leading nominee in the search for reasons by Republicans to impeach Obama (and more likely than not, to get a head start on smearing Clinton for her very likely presidential nomination in 2016).

Unfortunately for Republicans, the “scandal” aspect of the affair has been repeatedly shot down. In a desperate (pathetic might be more accurate) attempt to keep the pseudo-scandal going, last week Republicans released (supposedly) damning White House emails which were later found to have been conveniently altered to inaccurately portray Obama and his administration poorly.

Then there’s the new story which is being presented, disingenuously, as a major scandal centered around the IRS supposedly giving undue attention and harassment to Tea Party and other conservative non-profit political groups. The inference many in the media and on the right are making is that this was an act of intimidation and thuggery from Obama and his people. This too has been debunked – those conservative groups made up less than half of the groups that garnered this type of special attention from the IRS (and none of them being denied status, by the way). In reality, much of what happened around this “scandal” has had more to do with bureaucratic inefficiencies and Citizens United than malice.

That's a lot of "Other." (Image from IRS Inspector General report)

That’s a lot of “Other.” (Image from IRS Inspector General report, linked above.)

What I find so curious is the way the conservative right in this nation has pursued certain scandals related to this administration, typically choosing non-issues to get up-in-arms about – when there are plenty of things the Obama administration has done worthy of genuine, legitimate ire. But since our media and our ridiculously partisan political system are more interested in chasing the laser pointer on the carpet, many people do not seem aware of this. Let me help out, but first with a preface:

The executive branch and the president of the United States have limited powers and abilities. Probably because it’s easier to do, people seem to love to heap whatever the problem of the moment is at the President’s feet. In reality, the President generally does this: Heads the nation’s foreign affairs and military, signs into law (or vetoes) bills passed through Congress, and sometimes has a chance to appoint people to important jobs (but sometimes not without Congress clearing it). In a less quantitative but still important way, the President also leads his or her political party, participates in promoting legislation on The Hill, and influences national conversation. Now that we’ve got that straight, let’s look at a few of the things that could and probably should be made into a big deal but haven’t been.

You'd think China and Russia would like us pointing these at them. (Image courtesy of the US Missile Defense Agency.)

You’d think China and Russia would like us pointing these at them. (Image courtesy of the US Missile Defense Agency.)

New missile shields in Asia and East Europe

First the plan was to construct new missile defense systems (the land-based cousin of Reagan’s infamous “Star Wars” program) in Poland and Romania. But since that’s been met with a lack of enthusiasm, to say the least, from Russia, some of the funding of that project has been scaled back – and transferred to the missile program being situated against Asia. This is, of course, seen as antagonizing to China; a diplomatically problematic act of military aggression. Even that aside, militarily, it is a questionable move – the interception systems fail 50% of the time.

Guantanamo, Bradley Manning and the NDAA

Last week President Obama signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA, renewed annually, was typically nothing really out of the ordinary, until last year when the Act was given a concerning new provision. This addition not only permits the potentially indefinite detention of an “enemy combatant” but expands the definition of what a combatant could be, to also include Americans on US soil. The fact that Obama signed off on this, yet again, makes clear his position on the issue – something we should be genuinely concerned about, especially in light of the treatment of Bradley Manning and the widespread hunger strikes being undertaken by Gitmo detainees for the last few months.

Pakistan and unmanned drones

Now a permanent fixture of our foreign policy.

Now a permanent fixture of our foreign policy.

Interesting accounts have come out of the first non-governmental viewing of US intelligence reports last month. Though it was somewhat of an open secret, the reports confirmed that the CIA have been conducting drone missions in Pakistan and elsewhere and have targeted unconfirmed individuals or people not affiliated with Al Qaeda (the original reason for being there, remember?). Despite Obama’s insistence that only combatants and terrorists have been killed by drones there are a wide number of accounts in the past years of innocents – including children and families – falling victim to US drone strikes. While it’s undeniable that Bush began many of these programs, it is Obama who has, arguably, done a great deal to cement the institutionalization of drone-based warfare and its associated costs in American foreign policy.

Obama appoints a Monsanto vice president to head the FDA

While there has been much made of the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act” earlier this year (the outrage over which I saw as rather unfounded) with Obama signing it into law, that action was truly minor compared to an appointment from a few year prior. In 2010, Obama created a new position at the Food and Drug Administration (“deputy commissioner”) and to fill the spot appointed Michael R. Taylor, once a vice president at the notorious Monsanto biotech company. As food safety becomes increasingly problematic in this nation and overriding business interests foster this, Obama appointing Taylor could not be more telling of his complicity in the extremely worrisome revolving door of persons going from private to public to private sectors to reap the benefits of the changes they’ve made to the system, to their benefit.

A push for switching social security to chained-CPI

During the never-ending discussion around the national deficit Obama has come out in favor of changing social security to chained-CPI. In brief, this means changing the way SS payout is calculated – in practice, this new measure would result in less money being paid out (but not what’s paid in). It’s a sneaky way to raise revenue without direct taxation (because the same money is coming in, just less of it would now go out) and it hurts those who are vulnerable – retired and disabled persons.

Though Benghazi and the IRS are demonstrably non-issues, a recent Gallop poll shows that a majority of Americans find the pseudo-scandals to be “serious matters.” I’ve given you five things (and there are more, no doubt) that can be attributed to Obama’s actions and truly deserve your outrage. Perhaps it’s the lack-luster mainstream media or a conservative political wing in this nation that have fostered this misdirection (or a lovely combination in the form of a Murdoch publication), but don’t allow yourself to be misled.

It’s looking increasingly possible that Republicans will find a reason to commence an impeachment trial of Obama; however, they seem to be deliberately seeking issues which carry little weight. I’ve got to wonder – if they took issue with the real “scandals,” would we find that something that isn’t manufactured would reveal the dirt on their hands too?

Liberals and Obama supporters are guilty too, of looking the other way on these issues or only expressing concern or outrage when it is of little consequence. It doesn’t matter where you place yourself on the political spectrum; partisanship, especially when it manifests itself in tolerance of unscrupulous acts or the fevered pursuit of a non-scandal, is destructive to national discourse and political progress.

Written by Llowell Williams, founder and principal contributor to the subjectiv. Comments are always welcome and if you wish to contact the author he can be emailed via llowellw@thesubjectiv.com.