“Contempt, a feeling that a person or thing is beneath consideration were worthless or deserving scorn or extreme reproach.” These days, our political atmosphere is poisoned by all manner of contemptuous, scornful expression. These expressions have become so toxic and common that they are fouling the orderly operation of our government. There is no mystery concerning the source of this plague. Just follow your nose and it will lead directly to the hazard George Washington described in his farewell address as “… the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party….”
President Washington believed that the tendency of representative governments to divide into competing factions was the worst enemy of those governments. He uttered this prophetic warning: “… sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.”
Today we are watching President Washington’s prophecy come true. The latest example of President Obama’s campaign to advance his own elevation at the expense of America’s governmental institutions is the last-minute assertion of executive privilege over documents he claims he’s never seen. This campaign is characterized by unprecedented party discord punctuated by acts of bewildering contempt.
The most recent scene in the drama is fairly straightforward. Someone in the Department of Justice approved an operation that knowingly put weapons in the hands of known killers. This operation appears to have contributed to the deaths of unknown numbers of Mexican citizens and at least one American law enforcement officer. In the course of congressional investigation into this operation, the Department of Justice has, undeniably, misstated material facts on at least two occasions. After a year and a half of inquiry, the American people still don’t know who is responsible for this clearly reckless and ultimately fatal operation.
The attorney general is admittedly withholding key documents. On the eve of a House vote on whether the attorney general is in contempt of Congress, the president, after denying any knowledge about the operation, stonewalls the investigation by asserting executive privilege.
So here’s the question: are the president and the attorney general in contempt of Congress? The answer is, of course, yes. But this administration, more than any other, has demonstrated overt contempt for American institutions of government. Consider the following:
In July 2009, President Obama contemptuously accused the Cambridge, Mass., Police Department of “acting stupidly” in connection with the arrest of a black professor even though the president didn’t know the underlying facts.
In January 2010, President Obama presumed to use his State of the Union Address to contemptuously lecture the U.S. Supreme Court for daring to hand down a decision on campaign finance that he disagreed with.
In late 2009, and early 2010, President Obama used the power of his office to ram a 2,000-page health care bill through Congress in contemptuous disregard for the opinions of millions of Americans who disapproved of the tricky late-night razzle-dazzle employed by party operatives to hurry the bill through.
In January 2012, President Obama, in contemptuous disregard of the law, made appointments to federal agencies without bothering to secure the approval of the Senate.
In April 2012, President Obama attempted to bully his way into U.S. Supreme Court deliberations by falsely pronouncing in public that any decision striking down his health care bill would be “unprecedented.”
In June 2012, President Obama, on his own, crafted an amendment to America’s immigration legislation by carving out an exception to the deportation regimen and instituting an autocratically created program of renewable work permits.
Within the past few days, it has become apparent that someone in the administration has utter contempt for the laws set up to protect against the unauthorized release of America’s sensitive intelligence information. It’s too soon to say whether the president by omission or commission is guilty of contempt in this regard.
Now, the president has an 11th hour epiphany that documents requested in connection with the “Fast and Furious” investigation have somehow become protected by claim of executive privilege.
It seems clear that during the course of his presidency, Obama has engaged in behavior evidencing contempt for American law enforcement, the sensibilities of the American voters, the U.S. Supreme Court, the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Congress as a whole. Each of these instances of contempt has been met by expressions of outrage. Unfortunately, Americans have been conditioned to question whether this outrage is an expression of conscientious concern for the welfare of America, or for the promotion and protection of party advantage. I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
MIKE HINKLE is an Edmond resident and retired attorney.