By Congressman Kerry Bentivolio
Rather than President Barack Obama working to jumpstart the economy by meeting with his jobs council or laying out a plan for tax reform that will lower unemployment, the White House is busy dealing with a wide array of scandals. The Benghazi cover-up, the government secretly obtaining phone records belonging to the Associated Press and the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS (including the leaking of private information to supporters of the president), are all of the same variety.
As I studied for the Benghazi hearings this month, I could not help but notice that the entire affair revolved around the administration's ineptitude in responding to an attack on our consulate in Libya. From the stand-down order that doomed four Americans under attack to the blaming of a YouTube video instead of admitting that we had been targeted by terrorists, incompetence and dishonesty surround the entire scandal.
The AP scandal falls under the same umbrella. The reason for the U.S. Department of Justice's intrusion on how the Associate Press conducts its business stems from a story they published that embarrassed the White House. On May 7, 2012, the Associated Press disclosed details of the CIA operation in Yemen to stop an airliner bomb plot based on the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. The significance of the story revolved around another presidential talking point problem. The White House had told the public it had "no credible information that terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, are plotting attacks in the U.S. to coincide with the (May 2) anniversary of bin Laden's death."
But the growing IRS scandal may be the most devious. As early as 2010, leaders in the IRS -- who will soon be in charge of making sure that we all have health insurance -- found out that employees were targeting conservative groups and organizations that support Israel. Partisan agents acted against Tea Party groups because they could see that the president's failing policies hindered the economy, massively inflated our national debt and weakened our exceptional nation. Rather than examine the ideas they support, these ideological workers inside the IRS used their authority to attack the Tea Party for pointing out the president's failures. The person in charge of the corrupt IRS division that attacked ordinary citizens was rewarded with a promotion: She's now in charge of enforcing Obamacare.
While there may be diabolical underpinnings to each of these scandals, there is a more implicit thread that connects them together. All were perpetrated to mask the incompetence of the White House and its agenda, which has expanded the role of the federal government into our lives. The government is protecting itself from critics.
The framers of the Constitution created a limited federal government of checks and balances because they wanted to protect the people from the incompetence of the all-powerful. They understood that a domineering government would use its authority to conceal mistakes, eroding our democracy. They worried about the tendency of those in power to use their jurisdiction to punish those who opposed them.
Obama recently told students in Ohio to reject voices that claim "tyranny always lurks around the corner." It is apparent that the president gave that advice because concerns about tyranny undermine the administration's efforts to whitewash his failures. A healthy skepticism of those in power is what keeps our nation free and our politicians honest. But it erodes the ideology of progressivism, which relies on the people trusting an ever-expanding role of government in our lives.
The number one rule in my office is to tell the truth. When I joined the House of Representatives in January, Speaker John Boehner asked me what committees I wanted to join. The answer was easy: Oversight and Government Reform. That committee, led by Darrell Issa of California, is devoted to keeping the federal government transparent and correcting mistakes that are made in government. The job of a member of Congress is to protect our rights, not take them away. As we continue to investigate these growing scandals, I can assure you I'll be reminding my fellow committee members why we're here.