Checks and Balances

Claudia Rosett has an interesting piece on why Obama has not fired Ben Rhodes. I would like to expand on one of her comments

Yes, America’s system comes with checks and balances. But these depend on more than the written codes. They also depend on a basic measure of good faith from the chief executive,

The Obama administration has done a marvelous job of exposing the weaknesses in the American system. The chief flaw is that Congress has limited control of the executive in the absence of good faith actors. The president is not the only one required to act in good faith. The attorney general and members of Congress take an oath to uphold the constitution. When they fail to live up to that oath we have very limited checks on the chief executive.

The other key component in our system of checks and balances is a free and vibrant press, a right so important it is enshrined in the first amendment to the constitution. Although not under oath to uphold the constitution the press must act in good faith as well as government officials in order for our system of checks and balances to work.

Unfortunately very few of this administration, the Democrats in Congress or the press have acted in good faith during Obama’s two terms in office. Its instructive to compare recent Obama scandals with Watergate to see the lack of good faith.

Following the arrest of the Watergate burglars in June, 1972 until Nixon’s resignation in August of 1974 there was almost continuous coverage of the scandal. This coverage included live coverage of the Senate hearings as well as the now legendary investigative work of Woodward and Bernstein, among others. It was impossible for the public to not be aware of the scandal and issues. This coverage created a sensitivity in the public that when Archibald Cox was fired in the “Saturday Night Massacre” a plurality of Americans supported impeachment of Nixon.

Contrast that continuous coverage with the paucity of coverage for recent Obama scandals, particularly the IRS and Benghazi. There are a number of factors that create the differential treatment.

The 1970’s press had tremendous animus toward Nixon. The press was only too happy to keep the spotlight on Nixon and committed significant investigative resources to the scandal. The current media by contrast are heavily invested in Obama and generally support his broad policies. Not a single member of the current White House Press Corps is a registered Republican.

The incestuous relationship between the major media organizations and the Obama administration is unprecedented. The major ties are:

CBS: Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor is the the brother of David Rhodes, head of CBS News.

ABC: Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, currently Deputy Secretary Dept. of Energy and formerly Special Assistant to BHO is the sister of Ben Sherwood, formerly head of ABC News and currently President of Disney-ABC Television group. Jay Carney, former Press Secretary to President Obama is married to ABC News correspondent Clare Shipman. George Stephanopolous, chief anchor at ABC NEws, co-host of Good Morning American and host of the This Week is former Communications Director for President Clinton and a contributor to the Clinton Foundation. Katie Hogan, who has had several roles in the Obama campaigns and White House is currently Head of Organizing for American and married to ABC correspondent Matthew Jaffe.

CNNTom Nides, former Deputy Secretary of State for Hillary Clinton is married to Virginia Moseley, VP and Washington Bureau Chief for CNN.

Is it any wonder that the major media outlets have no interest in providing the same level of scrutiny for the Obama scandals they used with Nixon? Clearly one of the key checks on abusive government, a free press informing the public, is absent.

Other hallmarks of the Watergate scandal that are absent today are an Attorney General acting in good faith and congressional members of the president’s party acting in the best interest of the country.

The Attorney General under Nixon, Eliot Richardson, appointed a truly independent special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, to investigate Watergate. Richardson later refused to fire Cox at Nixon’s command and resigned his post in protest. This series of events is referred to as the “Saturday Night Massacre”. Contrast that behavior with Holder and Lynch’s conduct as AG. An Obama donor and DOJ attorney, Barbara Bosserman, to lead the investigation of the IRS targeting scandal. Unsurprisingly, no charges were ever filed. Lynch as continued this conflict of interest with the Clinton email scandal, again failing to provide independent investigation.

The third significant difference between Watergate and the current scandals is the behavior of the Democrat congressional delegations. The GOP, in the minority in Congress during Watergate provided the bipartisan support needed for the public to embrace the investigation. In fact, the GOP counsel to the Senate Watergate Investigation Committee, Donald Sanders first learned of the white house taping system and informed the committee; counsel Fred Thompson was the first to publicly raise the issue of the taping system. Contrast that behavior with the behavior of democrats, such as Eljiah Cummings who has protested, interfered with and denigrated the work of the House Benghazi committee. We have seen no evidence that current Democrats have the integrity of individuals such as Howard Baker during Watergate.

In the end, our system of checks and balances relies on good faith participation by a number of actors. Congress is relatively powerless against a determined executive with effective media cover.