I’ve been as captivated as anyone by the sudden burgeoning of scandal in Washington.
Until this month, the Obama administration seemed to skate almost effortlessly above the morass that eventually sucks up most White Houses, from Richard Nixon’s Watergate to Ronald Reagan’s Iran Contra to Bill Clinton’s Whitewater-Lewinski mess.
Those accusations that did get lobbed at Mr. Obama — from Solyndra to death panels to the Fast and Furious probe — were often more politics than substance. They just didn’t seem to resonate outside the AM talk radio culture on the right.
But now we have a little bit of blood in the water for everyone to target.
Liberals are furious about the Justice Department’s probe of Associated Press reporters — a probe that included tapping phone records and monitoring contacts with sources.
Conservatives are furious about Benghazi, which involved a deadly security lapse in Libya that left four US officials dead. The White House’s handling of the attack was, at the very least, muddled and unfocused.
When a fuming Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein is demanding answers from a Democratic president, you know it’s not pretty.
Finally, there’s the scandal that everybody wants a piece of — the IRS’s probe of conservative (and apparently, also, liberal) groups to determine whether their political activity violated their tax status.
Mr. Obama has acknowledged that the behavior was outrageous and has forced out a top official, but this one is likely to percolate through the summer.
So as we wade into the pool of muck that Washington DC loves to create for itself, I thought it would be good to highlight five other scandals that probably should be getting talked about — around the watercooler, if not in congressional hearings.
1. The epidemic of rape and sexual abuse in the US armed forces. This is making headlines and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is making noises about re-educating service members. But some lawmakers, including New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, think we need a more major overhaul of the military’s justice system. In the House, the response has been more ho-hum. “The House Armed Services Committee hearing into the scandal was sparsely attended and top military officials left before victims’ testimony,” reported NPR’s Here & Now.
2. US drone attacks on civilians around the world. Yes, unmanned drones have killed top Al Quaeda leaders and are a potent weapon. But they’re also killing a lot of civilians (roughly a thousand by conservative estimates, including as many as 200 children) and four US citizens have been killed by drone strike without a trial or any kind of legal process. “Farmers are on their way to tend their crops when a missile slams into their midst, thrusting shrapnel in all directions,” reported CNN. “A CIA drone, flying so high that the farmers can’t see it, has killed most of them.” If a foreign military or spy plane were operating over our air space, blowing up our farmers, I think we would at the very least want a big public discussion about it.
3. The Great African American Depression. The overall unemployment rate in the US is on the mend, dropping to 7.5%. But the truth is that for whites joblessness is a comfortable 6.1%, while for blacks it’s a community-ravaging 13.2%. That’s just about exactly the same unemployment rate as in 1937, during the Great Depression. Blacks are most likely to be stuck in long-term unemployment. One liberal group found that the unemployment rate for young black men who don’t finish high school tops 50%. “This is an emergency, this is a catastrophe [but Washington is] not rating it as a catastrophe,” said the report’s editor, Craig Gurian, in an interview with conservative news site The Daily Caller. Seems like someone should be grilling the White House about this.
4. Guantanamo Bay. The US is holding roughly 166 people in our detention center in Cuba. No one is suggesting that high profile terror suspects be released. But by some estimates as many as half of the detainees have been cleared for release by US intelligence and military agencies. To be clear, none of these inmates have received any kind of independent judicial process. Yet even the national security personnel in charge of their fates have determined that they should be let go. Yet the Obama administration, which promised to fix this mess, continues to hold them, without trial or due process or much explanation. Imagine how we would feel if a foreign country decided to hold more than a hundred of our citizens indefinitely, even after their own officials had determined that there was no valid reason to do so?
So there’s my back-of-the-napkin list of other things I’d like to see the White House press corps shouting about next time they gather with administration spokesman Jay Carney.
Yes, let’s get some answers on Benghazi, the IRS and the AP phone taps.
But let’s also talk about some of these other issues that raise equally troubling questions about foreign policy judgment, civil liberties and economic fairness.
How about you? When you think “scandal in Washington” what are the issues that you think should be at the top of the list? Climate change? Gun control? Abortion? Chime in below.