A very bad week for the Obama administration could make Peter Sagal’s day. Sagal, the NPR host of Wait Wait…. Don’t Tell Me! on weekend radio, begins a month long series about the constitution tonight on PBS (check your local listings).
In case you just woke up from a coma, there have been three Obama administration scandals erupting this past week, all raising questions about the power and veracity of federal government, the sort of things which make some reach for their copies of the constitution, and others to spout things as if they actually knew what it says. First there was Benghazi which had become old hat but found new fuel when a few State Department whistle blowers testified before Congress, casting fresh doubts on the Obama administration’s handling of the events and its early accounts.
Then later in the week it became clear the the I. R. S. had singled out the applications of conservative groups for non-profit status for greater scrutiny than most. And then it turns out the Justice Department was secretly gathering information about the AP and its contacts, seemingly fishing for those who leak information the Obama team doesn’t want leaked. AP being the main conduit of general information upon which other media depends makes spying on them particularly significant.
It all made NRA zealots seem to have a point in a paranoid sort of way. Despite Republican hyperbole and feigned outrage, a lot of what has happened here is what often happens with government. Power is abused, revealed and then cut back until abused again. That is how our system has worked and continues to do so.
At any rate this is great advertising for PBS. The tendency of governments to abuse power is the bedrock upon which the constitution was created, you know, the idea of the necessity of a balance of powers so no-one gets too powerful and abuses it. That the powers have become so balanced these days that little gets accomplished is another matter for another time.
In addition to its topical nature, the Sagal series looks like it has some of the fun of his radio show. There he will be riding a red, white and blue Harley across the country talking to all sorts of people about the constitution and what it means to them. It looks fun and informative, too.
It also gave me something to write about today. Other than an immigration bill toddling along, not much was happening in Congress prior to this week and even less will happen now. Except for an abundance of new hearings and increased name calling. It is what prompts cable chatterers to dwell on the 2014 and 2016 elections, as watching this Congress is like watching paint dry. These recent revelations will only make compromises even tougher to make by distracting attention and politicizing whatever attention can be mustered to deal with our national problems.
A mess has just gotten messier. Don’t hope for much change any time soon.