From the Publisher: This and that in the nation and the world

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Arnold G. York

There are approximately 2.7 million federal civilian employees working for the United States government. During any given week the statistical odds are that several of those employees will do something really stupid.

The last couple of weeks have been a bonanza for stupidity.

First the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) led off by deciding to figure out which of those many applicants for charitable “social welfare organization” designation were legitimate organizations with a real charitable purpose and which were just shills to allow people to give money to politicians, allow donors to deduct that contribution from their taxes as a charitable donation and also keep their identities hidden. Their task was not easy and there were many ways they could have approached it. They, of course, tried to identify larger groups of people gaming the system so they targeted some organizations with “Tea Party” in their names, a definite no-no. The credibility of the IRS depends on people believing they have no partisan bias and all they want is our money. Greed and bureaucratic overreach we can forgive. Partisan application of the law we can’t forgive. I understand they even sent out questionnaires asking people about their beliefs. Personally, I think they should be fired. Not because what they did was wrong, which it was, but principally because they were so stupid, or so oblivious to the possible consequences that they are just too dangerous to have around.

The Republicans, of course, immediately jumped on it, because it’s a wonderful political issue, and fits into their most recent narrative that Obama, as the head of the executive, is personally responsible for everything that every one of those 2.7 million people do everyday. Judging from recent polls, the average American is somewhat more skeptical of that hypothesis than is the average Obama-hating Republican. Still, there are things the Obama administration does that feed into the narrative “that this administration is more then a little constitutionally insensitive.” For example, secretly gathering the phone records of Associated Press reporters and editors. The Justice Department did it because they wanted to find out who leaked some national security classified information. I could have saved them a lot of time and trouble. Let me give you the list of suspects. You begin with the prime leaker of all, the White House—when they believe it serves their interest to leak. They are followed in close succession by Congress, both the Senate and House, and then the intelligence agencies who hate each other with a passion.

The CIA leaks to hurt the FBI and the FBI returns the favor in kind. The Department of Defense and the military services have their own intelligence services. They don’t care much for the CIA or the FBI, and given the opportunity to leak something to make their competitors look bad, they wouldn’t hesitate for a nanosecond.

Then you throw in the Congressional Intelligence Committees, all of the private contract armies and intelligence/security companies that seem to be growing like weeds as we outsource more of our military and intelligence to corporate America. You can only conclude that the U.S. government is a porous sieve of information, some of which might actually be strategic, but most of which is strictly CYA.

Now, if the IRS and AP debacles weren’t enough, there is always Benghazi. Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya. At the time, there was rioting all over the Arab world. The State Department tried to protect Americans and American facilities all over the Arab world, a world that is both volatile and changeable. That task wasn’t made any easier by congressionally imposed budget cuts to embassy and consulate security, but Benghazi has become a war cry on the right. It’s almost as if all you have to do is say the word and the rest is self-explanatory. I think most Americans look at Benghazi and shrug their shoulders, understanding that the world is a dangerous place and there are many who don’t like us very much, only too happy to cause us pain. I think most Americans understand it comes with the territory. We are still the world’s preeminent power, the largest military, the largest economy and wield the greatest influence over other nations. That kind of power generates great hostility, some of it quite justified. There are many who would like to knock us off our perch, and the job of the president, any president, is to lead us and protect us as best as he can. But stuff will happen and, sadly, today, everything is so politicized that both parties are willing to do and say just about anything to hurt the other party. And that willingness, not leaks of classified information, truly does endanger American lives.