The Magazine

The Real Scandal

May 27, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 35 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Everyone in Washington, except those in the crosshairs, likes a good scandal, and THE WEEKLY STANDARD is no exception. What’s more, in the case of the Obama administration, comeuppance is well deserved and overdue. So while it may be a dubious pleasure to enjoy watching the high brought low and the proud en route to their fall, we’re willing to indulge in it.

The Real Scandal

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THE WEEKLY STANDARD also appreciates the comic and relishes the absurd. So we’re enjoying the excuses being offered for President Obama by his courtiers. Surveying the IRS’s abuses, David Axelrod has taken a break from years of justifying ever-bigger government to complain that “the government is so vast” that the president can’t be expected effectively to supervise it. White House aides plaintively explain (on background) that when the State Department and the CIA tangled bureaucratically over talking points about Benghazi, neither the White House—nor the president himself!—could do anything but stand helplessly by. The Justice Department subpoenaed vast swaths of phone records from the Associated Press, but it’s unreasonable to expect any explanation from the attorney general. He decided, you see, to recuse himself—but not in writing, no need to stand on formalities. And why not? He’s working for a president who seems to have informally recused himself from running the executive branch.

So THE WEEKLY STANDARD will do its part, with pleasure, to unravel the tangled web the Obama administration’s woven as they’ve practiced to deceive. But as we unravel, and as the administration does too, we should recall this: The true indictment of the Obama administration isn’t found in what they’re embarrassed about. It’s found in what they boast about.

The health care legislation of which President Obama is so proud is more dangerous to our freedoms than the (admittedly serious) abuses of the IRS about which President Obama professes to be apologetic. The defense cuts and the foreign policy doctrines—such as “leading from behind”—that President Obama embraces are more dangerous to our national security than the (certainly deplorable) cover-up over Benghazi. The views openly advocated by his Justice Department with respect to religious freedom, racial preferences, and constitutional interpretation are more dangerous to our constitutional system than the (undoubtedly shocking) management failures
at the department.

Obama’s scandals are damaging to the country. Congress should do its duty in getting to the bottom of them, and if the scandals weaken Obama’s ability to push through bad legislation, conservatives have no obligation to look that gift horse in the mouth. But Obama’s liberal policies are more dangerous than his managerial scandals.

That’s why making the substantive case against the Obama administration’s policies remains job one for an opposition that hopes to persuade the American people that it deserves to govern. So the key task is to demonstrate how Obama’s policies are failing, to explain why they’re destructive to the country, and to elucidate why conservative policies have worked in the past and how they can be updated to shape a better future.

This isn’t that hard. But it’s easy to be distracted by the scandal of the day. The real scandal, though, is the Obama administration, whose purposes and policies exemplify a liberalism that degrades popular self-government and embraces American decline.

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