“The Freedom of Information Act is perhaps the most powerful instrument we have for making our government honest and transparent, and of holding it accountable. And I expect members of my administration not simply to live up to the letter but also the spirit of this law. I will also hold myself as President to a new standard of openness….
Let me say it as simply as I can: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”
President Barack Obama, January 21, 2009
I find it surprising that a transcript of the above remarks is still posted at WhiteHouse.gov, but it is. If you prefer to consume your politics visually, here is President Obama delivering that “Transparency Pledge” on his first full day in office over four years ago:
Against that backdrop, I will now list just ten of the most egregious abuses of power by Obama’s Executive Branch, which have all occurred since he made that pledge:
- Obama’s unconstitutional “recess appointments” on January 4th, 2012 of three new NLRB members and Richard Cordray to run the new CFPB.
- IRS systematic targeting of conservative groups to prolong or deny their applications for 501(c)(3) and (4) tax exempt status, and subsequent cover-up.
- EPA systematic targeting of conservative groups for harsher treatment and payment of larger fees than liberal groups.
- State Dept. & White House deliberate misdirection of blame for Benghazi terrorist attack, and subsequent cover-up.
- DOJ secretly subpoenas phone records of Associated Press reporters without proper notification to the news agency.
- EPA declaration on April 17th, 2009 that CO2 (a.k.a. human breath) is a dangerous pollutant, subject to broad regulation.
- Obama Administration implementing the Dream Act by fiat, bypassing Congress’ previous defeat of the bill.
- DOJ dismissal of an open-and-shut case of voter intimidation by the New Black Panthers in Philadelphia in Nov 2008.
- HHS Kathleen Sebelius illegally campaigning for Obama, then retroactively re-categorizing the nature of the trip to cover up the violation.
- EPA Chief Lisa Jackson emailing under a fictitious name, “Richard Windsor,” to avoid FOIA-accessible documentation of official government communications.
(Note: Yes I know that previous administrations, led by presidents of both parties, have abused government power. But we exist today in the here and now. So I have compiled this list about our current crisis with this administration, run by this president who made that “Transparency Pledge” and then obviously ignored it as soon as the words left his mouth.)
Why, despite the big promises, does this $#!+ happen?
Should we really be surprised?
To understand why, ignore the trees…let’s consider the forest.
Here is a fable whose origins date back to the 13th century in Persia, and possibly even further back to the 3rd century in India.
There are many versions, some longer, some shorter. I think it explains perfectly why Big Government statists abuse power.
One day, a scorpion looked around at the mountain where he lived and decided that he wanted a change. So he set out on a hopeful journey through the forests and hills until he reached a river.
The river was wide and swift, and the scorpion couldn’t see any way across. So he checked upriver and then checked downriver, beginning to think that he might have to turn back.
Suddenly, he saw a frog sitting in the bushes. He decided to ask the frog for help.
“Hello Mr. Frog!” said the scorpion. “Would you be so kind as to give me a ride on your back across the river?”
“Well now, Mr. Scorpion! How do I know if I try to help you, you won’t try to kill me?” asked the frog hesitantly.
“Because,” the scorpion replied, “If I kill you, then I would die too, for you know I cannot swim!”
This seemed to make sense. But the frog asked, “What about when I start to swim? You could still try to kill me and get back to the shore!”
“True,” agreed the scorpion, “But then I wouldn’t get to the other side of the river!”
“Alright then…how do I know you won’t just wait until we get to the other side and THEN kill me?” asked the frog.
“Ahh…,” crooned the scorpion, “Because you see, once you’ve taken me to the other side, I will be so grateful for your help, it would hardly be fair to reward you with death, now would it?!”
So the frog agreed to take the scorpion across the river. As the frog swam, the rushing water swirled around them, but the frog stayed near the surface so the scorpion would not drown.
Halfway across the river, the frog suddenly felt a sharp sting in his back and, out of the corner of his eye, saw the scorpion remove its terrible stinger from his green skin. A deadening numbness crept into the frog’s limbs.
Why on earth did you do that?” croaked the frog weakly, “Now we shall both die!”
The scorpion shrugged. “I could not help myself. It is my nature. It’s what I do.”
The real-life moral to the story
Big Government statists, of any political party, would have us believe that we simply need to anoint the right elite leaders to run the country, and then just let them do whatever they think is best for us. Statists focus on the never-ending search for these magical leaders.
Here’s the problem with the statists’ worldview:
If left unchecked by well-informed, attentive voters and a vigorous, objective press, Big Government will always overstep its Constitutional bounds and abuse its power. It happens because Big Government is made up of scads of people, and people are corruptible – especially when they assimilate into powerful bureaucratic institutions that essentially exist underground, hidden from the antiseptic effects of the light of day.
They cannot help themselves. It is their nature. It’s what they do.