The biggest issue in each of the past two national elections, 2010’s congressional midterms and 2012’s presidential contest, was the size and scope of the federal government.
In 2010, it took the shape of Obamacare resentment. Last year, it was the question of how much Washington should tax and spend. The results have been mixed, because Americans are divided about the federal government’s proper size and role.
What’s different about the trio of problems dogging the Obama administration now — Benghazi, the IRS and the AP — is they speak less to the size of government than to its fundamental relationship with us.
Oh, the size and scope of government also matters here, particularly in the case of the IRS’s singling out conservative groups for extra scrutiny: A large, far-reaching government has more opportunities to abuse its power. But discomfort with these situations doesn’t lie only with limited-government advocates.
Consider the Benghazi case. The White House claims it has been forthright about the actions taken the night our ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed by Islamic terrorists, as well as the way President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other officials described who carried out the attack, how, and why. Obama has called protests to the contrary “a sideshow” put on by Republicans seeking partisan gain.
Yet, in a recent opinion poll, Gallup found 69 percent of American adults believe Benghazi represents “a serious matter that needs to be investigated” — including half of Democrats. A Washington Post/ABC News poll this month found 55 percent of Americans, including three in 10 Democrats, believe the administration “is trying to cover up the facts” regarding Benghazi.
To see half of self-identified Democrats calling for further investigation into a matter Obama dismisses as a GOP sideshow, and nearly a third of them saying he is not telling the truth about it, is stunning. But that’s what happens when facts gradually undermine the White House’s story.
While the killing of Americans anywhere is terrible, we recognize it can’t always be prevented in hostile lands. But learning that, toward the end of an election campaign in which the president was touting his terrorist-killing prowess, his administration chose to play down CIA warnings of an attack and play up an obscure anti-Muslim video which people on the ground knew at the time was not a factor — well, that’s not so understandable.
Americans don’t like to be misled.
Nor do we suffer gladly the politicization of our tax-collection process, by an agency representing one of the blunter instruments of federal police power.
Nor do we believe a proper balance between press freedom and national security gives government investigators the right to troll months of journalists’ phone records (office, home and cell), track their comings and goings from public buildings where they work, subpoena their personal email accounts, and overall seek to chill investigative journalism.
The size of government is an issue people view differently for reasons philosophical or practical. This administration’s disrespect for our right to hear the truth about its actions, to speak our minds about its actions, and to have facts reported about its actions, is something we should all reject.