A week ago Friday, former President Barack Obama spoke to approximately 3,000 members of the Obama Alumni Association. While the headline reads, “In leaked call, Obama describes Trump handling of virus as chaotic,” it was the former president's comments on the U.S. Department of Justice decision to withdraw its prosecution of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn that were most disturbing.
In his usual professorial tone, Obama lectured his students that: “There is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free.” He continued, “That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic — not just institutional norms — but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk.”
Except Flynn was not charged with perjury. He pleaded guilty to a single count of lying to the FBI. And then, according to published reports, he did so only after prosecutors threatened to drag down his son if didn't cooperate. What father, under those circumstances, would not sacrifice for his son?
Obama's memory failed him on the precedent as well. In January 2017, Gen. James Cartwright did get off scot-free. His crime? Lying to the FBI. Recommended sentence? Two years. Result? An Obama presidential pardon before the judge could even contemplate sentencing.
Remarking on the upcoming November election, Obama warned that it “is so important because what we're going to be battling is not just a particular individual or a political party. What we're fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided and seeing others as an enemy — that has become a stronger impulse in American life."
There he is, the Obama we know all too well, the Obama who if you dare to question his wisdom, you're selfish and tribal — just another one of those “bitter” Americans clinging to their guns and religion he so easily disparaged in his 2008 campaign.
Not to be left out, former attorney general and self-described Obama “wingman” Eric Holder jumped in on Tuesday, telling MSNBC: “What we have is a president (Donald Trump) who is bound and determined to delegitimize those parts of the government that he thinks pose the greatest threat to him. It's all part of a plan to somehow make those institutions weaker so that he can do the kinds of illicit things that he's been doing, and he's facilitated by this attorney general. This attorney general is actually complicit in this. ... By weakening these institutions, he is doing all he can to weaken the very institutions that he leads.”
I'll be honest: I've never quite understood the whole “we must revere our institutions no matter what” philosophy. Unless I've missed something in the timeline of American history, we are a constitutional republic based upon the founding principles of limited government operating within specific lanes granted it by the people.
While the Department of Justice and the FBI, which it oversees, are staffed with thousands of dedicated professionals dutifully carrying out their oaths of office, the mere existence of these “institutions” does not guarantee there will never be abuses.
Do Ruby Ridge and Waco ring a bell? How about Robert Hanssen? The treatment of Richard Jewell? The forced removal of Elian Gonzalez from U.S. soil, dooming him to grow up in communist Cuba instead? And those are just in the past three decades.
And while Watergate is a household word, who remembers or knows of the Church Committee and the abuses of rights and civil liberties that it uncovered?
Why is it so hard for so many Americans now to refuse to believe that such abuses (or even worse) couldn't happen today?
The American public still doesn't know the truth behind the Fast and Furious gun-running operation that got Border Patrol agent Brian Terry killed. The national press and adoring Democrats have all but erased Obama's “if you like your doctor/plan you can keep your doctor/plan” lies that threw millions off their plans and have deductibles and premiums worse today than before for those not qualifying for government subsidies.
Toss in “shovel-ready jobs," “the video caused Benghazi," the IRS tea party fiasco and Hillary Clinton being allowed to destroy evidence without consequence, and team Obama/Holder are the last two who should be criticizing anyone else for damaging our “institutions."
One does not have to be a Trump supporter to see the unfolding evidence of corrupt behavior at the highest levels of Obama's and Holder's revered “institutions," perhaps even reaching into the Oval Office itself.
So why are these two so adamantly spouting off now?
Could it be as U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., noted Wednesday: “The more we learn, the worse it looks."
It most certainly could. Yes, it most certainly could.
Geoff Caldwell lives in Joplin. He can be reached at email@example.com.