It’s hard to know which is worse: the arrogance of the Obama administration in assuming that its White House staffers can get away with anything, or the apathy of the media in not holding those staffers accountable.
Actually, let’s scratch
the word “apathy” and call it what it really is: abjectness. The media have been abject in their willingness, even eagerness, to serve the political interests of this administration and its re-election effort.
Let’s consider the cases of three staffers, all at the top rung of the White House ladder:
* Valerie Jarrett has been a mentor and ally of Barack Obama for two decades; by all accounts, she has an unshakable bond not only with him, but also with Michelle Obama. And now her clout is apparent to all: a profile of Jarrett, written by Jo Becker and appearing in Sunday’s New York Times, was headlined, “The Other Power in the West Wing.” As in, there’s the President, and there’s Valerie Jarrett.
The Times story, all 3300 words of it, was one of those stories that everyone in DC thought they had to read; as another Times reporter, Jodi Kantor, tweeted on Sunday, “The political world pauses as one to dissect Jo Becker’s profile of Valerie Jarrett.”
One anonymous presidential adviser (who sounds a lot like re-election campaign guru David Axelrod) pronounced that “Valerie is effectively the chief of staff… She’s almost like Nancy Reagan was with President Reagan, but more powerful.” And a “former senior White House official” (who sounds a lot like ex-White House chief of staff Bill Daley) added, “She is the single most influential person in the Obama White House.” Whoa. Wait a second. Did the former official really mean to say that Jarrett was “the single most influential person in the Obama White House”? If so, where does that leave the President? Is it possible that Jarrett, working with Michelle Obama, is more powerful than Mr. Obama? No, that doesn’t seem possible–unless, of course, it is possible.
* Look, Jarrett’s defenders might say, there’s nothing wrong with being powerful. Somebody has to be powerful. And that’s true, but there is something wrong with abusing power. Consider this passage from Becker’s Times piece, describing Jarrett’s ways: “She can also be imperious — at one event ordering a drink from a four-star general she mistook for a waiter—and attached to the trappings of power in a way some in the White House consider unseemly for a member of the staff.” Attached to the trappings of power how, exactly? Here comes the answer:
A case in point is her full-time Secret Service detail. The White House refuses to disclose the number of agents or their cost, citing security concerns. But the appearance so worried some aides that two were dispatched to urge her to give the detail up.
She listened politely, one said, but the agents stayed.
So let’s get this straight: Jarrett gets a security detail from the US Secret Service (USSS). That means 24/7 protection, at a cost of millions of dollars a year. Of course, it also means an air of importance for Jarrett–her own taxpayer-funded entourage. The idea that someone such as Jarrett–who officially plays no role in national security or counter-terrorism–would receive USSS protection would be laughable if it weren’t, in fact, real.
* Next we come to David Plouffe, the top politico in the White House, the man charged with working with Axelrod and the Chicago team to harmonize the re-election effort across the public and private sector. But Plouffe is more than just a politico, of course; thanks to his international connections, he is much more. On August 22, I noted that The Washington Post had reported that Plouffe had received a $100,000 speaking fee from a South Africa-based company, MTN, that does extensive business in Iran. As I wrote then:
What if, during the gathering-storm decade of the 1930s, a senior White House aide in the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration had been found to have taken big money from a company dealing closely with the Nazis? Would it would have been a huge scandal? Of course it would.
Taking money from business partners of the Iranian regime would seem to be a big deal, indeed, and the Post’s Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten deserve credit for breaking the story. However, the Post as a whole, as well as the rest of the media, deserves only discredit for letting the story drop there. If Plouffe had worked for, say, the Bush 43 administration, the furor never would have never stopped–including calls to return the money, calls for resignation, calls for a special prosecutor.
But since it was the Obama administration, nothing of the kind has happened. The press has been, well, abject.
Most flagrantly, just on Sunday, Plouffe was on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” and in the course of a ten-minute interview, Stephanopoulos didn’t once bring up the matter of the $100,000.
Nor did Stephanopoulos confront Plouffe with a question about the huge Iranian triumph of the previous week, as leaders from 120 nations, gathered in Tehran, unanimously endorsed the Iranian nuclear program. In other words, those 120 countries had completely refuted Obama administration efforts to de-nuclearize Iran through diplomacy. The American Jewish Committee called the endorsement a “dark day for humankind,” but the ABC man had no questions on the topic.
Of course Stephanopoulos was easy on Plouffe.
* Finally, there’s Tom Donilon, the President’s National Security Adviser. As I first declared in June, Donilon is surely responsible for many of the leaks coming out of the White House, all of which seemed to advance the cause of making Obama look like a tough Commander-in-Chief.
These were leaks that Sen. , Democrat of California and chair of the Intelligence Committee described as “very, very disturbing.” She added, “It’s dismayed our allies. It puts American lives in jeopardy. It puts our nation’s security in jeopardy.
And what has been the White House response? How have the Obamans reacted to accusations that they have put our national security in jeopardy for partisan gain? Attorney General Eric Holder did the following: he appointed two underlings as in-house investigators. This non-dynamic duo can can be relied upon to:
a) wait on releasing their findings after the November election, and then
b) not find anything anyway. Meanwhile, stupefyingly, the White House has deployed none other than David Axelrod to be part of the rapid-response team; even though he is not part of the national security council, or even part of the government, he has been making the rounds on TV, doling out the White House spin.
Understandably, Donilon himself has kept a low profile since the leaks and their blowback. Yes, he is a longtime Democratic political operative with no real national security credentials. Yes, former Defense Secretary Bob Gates warned that Donilon would be a “disaster” if were ever to become national security adviser. But Donilon had reason to think that he would be okay if he just hunkered down.
Yet now, from out of his own sordid past, new revelations arise to haunt him. Thanks to Andrew Stiles at The Washington Free Beacon, we now know that Donilon has been receiving a $148,000-a-year pension from Fannie Mae.
And now Donilon, 57, having earned millions as a Fannie Mae lobbyist, is currently collecting his pension, even as he works full time at the White House, for a salary of $172,000 a year. Is that how things are supposed to work? Can such rapacious double-dipping possibly be squared with the ideal of public service? As one senator put it:
“Most taxpayers are struggling to make ends meet. Yet, Mr. Donilon is still profiting from his work during the Fannie Mae buildup of the housing bubble that led to a recession and massive taxpayer bailouts.”
So there we have it: Jarrett as Our Lady of the Secret Service, Plouffe as the Man Who Owes the Ayatollahs a Favor, and Donilon as The Double-Dipper Who Traded Away Our Secrets for a Re-Election. If the media wished it, each one of them could have a scandalous “gate” attached to their name,
as in “Jarrett-gate,” “Plouffe-gate,” and “Donilon-gate.”
But instead, nothing. The dominant media see nothing, hear nothing, and say nothing. And the same holds true, we might note for the so-called “reform” outfits. Why aren’t Common Cause, the Center for Public Integrity, CREW, and Pro Publica all over these stories, applying their own considerable resources to the unearthing of the truth?
But Obama is different. Reverence, plus political correctness–plus, perhaps, fear of giving Tea Party-ized Republicans any sort of victory–means that a protective pall has encased the Obama Administration. That protectiveness means, as we have seen, not only the non-curiosity about Jarrett, Plouffe, and Donilon, but also non-curiosity about other stories.
So how to sum up these scandals that don’t scandalize? We could call label them all as the Audacity of Corruption, but the word “audacity” implies a certain measure of risk-taking. And as we have seen, Jarrett, Plouffe, and Donilon seem to be taking no risk at all.