Monday, May 13, 2013

Of Course, It's Political

It seems oddly appropriate that the House hearings into Benghazi began last week — less than two weeks before the 40th anniversary of the start of the Senate Watergate Committee hearings.

I've heard Benghazi compared to Watergate. I've heard some defenders of the Obama administration protest that "other administrations" did worse, which was, perhaps, the most egregious non–denial denial that was used during the Watergate investigation. And my answer to those Obama supporters who have used it is the same one I heard my parents give to Nixon's defenders 40 years ago — "This isn't about what other administrations did. This is about what this administration did."

Perhaps the most persistent question I've heard has been, "Is it political?" And the obvious answer is: Well, of course, it's political.

I believe Tip O'Neill was right when he said, "All politics is local." But the flip side is that there is, at the very least, a political aspect to everything. Thus, everything is politics. It may not be politics as many people understand the term. It can loosely be described as some kind of policy or protocol — maybe it is sexual politics or racial politics, not necessarily governmental politics — whatever one person or group uses for leverage over another.

Ever since Benghazi, I have heard defenders of the Obama administration use feeble excuses to deflect attention — and they were successful enough to win a narrow re–election in November — but the more we learn about what really happened, the more unavoidable becomes the conclusion that the handling of the attack on the U.S. embassy was motivated entirely by politics.

That was what motivated Richard Nixon and his subordinates as well — politics. It is what motivates every officeholder who ends up being caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Barack Obama is not an exception.

I don't know if Obama is paranoid — or, if he is, if he is as paranoid as Nixon was. Most presidents wind up being psychoanalyzed after their presidencies are over; accordingly, I prefer to leave such evaluations to future historians/psychologists.

It does seem to me, though, that anyone who seeks the presidency must have an enormous ego simply to think he (or she) can handle what must be unrelenting pressure. In a democracy, most such pressure is bound to come from the president's loyal opposition — and each president has plenty of that.

Consequently, any president who seeks a second term must have an ego that is so big we mere mortals can't comprehend it. Because that person has already faced the unique challenges of the presidency — and has concluded that he (and perhaps he alone) is qualified to face them.

I'm no psychiatrist, but it seems to me that an ego can be a powerful — as well as a fragile — thing. Protecting it becomes essential in an election year. I understand that. It was necessary for Nixon 41 years ago, when the burglary at the Democratic National Headquarters threatened to derail his re–election campaign.

Basically the same thing happened with Benghazi.

Nixon's actions were harder for me to fathom. He enjoyed a much higher approval rating than Obama, but, beneath it all, he was not well liked — and he knew it. He really was paranoid — and I suppose he knew that, too. Self–loathing seemed to stream from his pores.

And Nixon never enjoyed the fawning adulation of the media that Obama has. As much as the modern media (mostly the broadcast media) adores Obama, it hated Nixon that much.

But he must have had a huge ego to think he could handle all the problems that existed in the United States and the world when he was elected to the presidency. I have come to believe that it was all politics to him.

Politics is a dirty word in many circles. Some folks voted for Obama when he first ran for president because they didn't perceive him as being — wait for it — political. Isn't that a quaint notion?

I suppose it is a truism, however, that nearly everything in life is driven by politics — even if it isn't overtly so.

Accordingly, even the most modestly realistic person must acknowledge that Washington, D.C., is a political place. It is occupied by politicians. They may not have started adult life as politicians. They may have started as lawyers or doctors or community organizers, but if they have been elected to a federal post, they're politicians.

And that, I think, makes them more sensitive to political concerns than most — no matter how clumsily they may try to appease those considerations.

The Benghazi coverup worked for awhile, but it has been unraveling.

Perhaps the foremost political analyst in America today, Michael Barone of the Washington Examiner, has been critical of the Obama presidency in the past, but this weekend he was asking what Obama and Hillary Clinton were thinking when they were blaming an allegedly offensive video for a protest that spiraled out of control.

That isn't a bad question to be asking, even though we know — don't we? — the answer: Politics.

As it was with the Nixon administration, though, I suppose we'll have to be subjected to months of non–denial denials before we figure out for ourselves what the truth is.

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