OPINION: by Hal G.P. ColebatchNews Weekly
Obama drags US politics down to Third World's level
, August 3, 2013
US President Barak Obama has made several thing clear in the last few days: he and a small group around him would be happy to see the US tear itself apart on racial lines; they despise the traditions of the Constitution and the rule of law.
American institutions are acquiring a Third World aspect. The Obama presidency, in both its virtually unbroken record of foreign-policy failures and deliberate destructiveness, is outdoing the most pessimistic predictions.
Obama’s public comments on the affair of the Florida man George Zimmerman, who has recently been acquitted by a jury for fatally shooting black teenager Trayvon Martin, illustrates the extent to which Obama has abused the implied mandate and opportunity he was given when elected, to heal American racial divisions. He and his cronies and ideological fellow-travellers seem determined to exacerbate them.
Further, Obama, by expressing his ill-informed personal views on the case in public, has shown his indifference to proper judicial process.
America has never before had, and never in all its history dreamed of having, a President apparently determined to weaken not only the US’s international power but also its domestic institutions, not through inadvertence but as a matter of deliberate policy. Obama is a man who appears to hate, and wishes to undermine, a great deal of American politics and society.
As usual, a large part of the problem was summed up brilliantly by Mark Steyn. He wrote recently: “Like Detroit, America’s governing institutions are increasingly the corrupting forces of the one-party State — the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and [Attorney-General] Eric Holder’s amusingly-named Department of Justice being the most obvious examples.
“Like Detroit, America is bifurcating into the class of ‘community organisers’ and the unfortunate denizens of the communities so organised” (National Review, July 19, 2013).
The Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman affair has had the intended result of at least temporarily distracting media attention from various other scandals, although these are not going to go away.
Questions remain about the White House and State Department’s failure to respond adequately to last year’s terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya:
• Why did Obama, as commander-in-chief, allow no action to be taken to help the besieged US consulate in Benghazi, until after the ambassador and other Americans had been killed, even though there were American troops within calling distance?
• Why was no proper security in place there on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks on America?
• Why did the administration childishly seek to blame the attack on the US consulate on supposed Arab outrage over a short, amateur video, when the Benghazi assault was plainly a carefully-planned terrorist attack?
Meanwhile, in common with other Western countries, the US is slashing its defence budget. Now, India and China are drawing ahead in space, where the US is abdicating its former lead.
The use of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), to harass and intimidate Republicans, Tea Partiers, True the Vote and other right-of-centre political groups (a tactic pioneered by the former Clinton Administration), is a deadly threat to the whole fabric of American civil life and surely grounds for impeachment under the heading of High Crimes and Misdemeanours. Even more revealing than the original scandal is the administration’s subsequent stone-walling.
Another symptom of American political culture being dragged down to a Third World level may be seen in the wholesale selling of ambassadorial appointments. This is not new in America, but the present administration has taken it to a new level.
Obama’s nomination of two major campaign “bundlers” (collection agents) for highly prized ambassadorships brings to 18 the number of bundlers he has nominated for plum diplomatic posts. The White House declared that Matthew Barzun, who served as the Obama campaign finance chairman in 2008 and 2012, will be American ambassador to Britain, subject to confirmation. A former zoo director, Morrell John Berry, has become US ambassador to Australia.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Barzun raised at least $500,000 for Obama’s 2008 campaign and a similar amount in 2012. But official campaign finance records provide only minimum figures for how much each donor raised among friends and families, and precise bundling data are not available for all nominees.
The UK Guardian reports that Barzun actually raised more than $2.3 million in 2012 alone. The recently-appointed ambassador to Italy donated at least $500,000 for Obama in 2012 and up to $500,000 in 2008.
Obama nominees who are already serving in their new posts include the ambassadors to France, Japan and Finland, each of whom bundled at least $500,000 for Obama in 2008, and the ambassadors to Canada, the Czech Republic, Norway and Belize, who also bundled for Obama, according to CNS News.
Also serving are the US ambassadors to the European Union and to ASEAN, who each bundled at least $500,000 in 2008. Awaiting confirmation are bundlers who have been nominated to serve as ambassadors to Germany, Spain, Belgium, Singapore, Austria, the Dominican Republic and the US Human Rights Council in Switzerland.
According to the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), 32.2 per cent of Obama’s ambassadorial nominations have been political appointees, but these most often get coveted posts in Western Europe and the Caribbean.
Former ambassador Thomas Pickering, who recently led the investigation into the lethal attacks on American diplomatic personnel in Benghazi, claimed that the practice of giving plum ambassadorships to political supporters amounts to “simony” — the selling of public office. “It has the effect of diminishing perhaps the sense that the US is treating these countries with the respect they deserve,” he said.
AFSA president Susan Johnson said: “Diplomacy and managing the inter-relationships between countries (are) actually important, and we ought to be taking it more seriously, preparing people for it and seeing it as a long-term career — not as just something you do for a few years while you are preparing to do something else.”
The Foreign Service Act of 1980, designed to preserve the professionalism of the service, states that “contributions to political campaigns should not be a factor in the appointment of an individual as a chief of mission”, and that those positions “should normally be accorded to career members of the Service”. The act also stipulates that nominees should possess a “useful knowledge” of the language of the nation where they will serve. An online biography of the ambassador to Finland, Oreck vacuum-cleaner heir Bruce Oreck, makes no mention of his knowledge of Finnish.
What this White House behaviour demonstrates is contempt for the idea that the US diplomatic service should be headed by the best-trained and most patriotic professionals available, but rather used as a tool of a burgeoning one-party state.
One is reminded of the ambassador who was appointed after making, and discreetly bestowing portions of, a fortune made in the dairy industry. An aid said of him: “All he is, he owes to udders.”
Hal G.P. Colebatch, PhD, is a Perth author and lawyer.