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Tim Blagg

Tim Blagg: Let’s talk ‘scandals’

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sick of hearing and reading about President Obama’s “scandals.”

First of all, they’re not scandals.

A scandal is when a sitting governor mysteriously disappears, reappears to lie about hiking on the Appalachian Trail, then turns out to have a South American mistress.

Or when a sitting congressman sends photos of his private parts to all and sundry.

Or when a president lies about having sex in the Oval Office.

Or when a close presidential advisor takes money from a campaign fund and uses it to pay off private debts.

Those are scandals.

Now it’s true that Republicans in Congress are doing their best to make recent problems into scandals, but all they’re doing is holding kangaroo court hearings, spouting nonsense for the TV cameras and issuing press releases.

Phooey.

At the heart of this baloney are a few serious matters, but they’re hard to discern.

Take Benghazi, Libya, for example. What happened there was that the local al-Qaida cell launched a murderous attack on our embassy. Obviously, our intelligence assets in the country failed to discern the attack and the embassy itself was not equipped to fend off such a violent assault. Americans were killed.

It happens ... and in fact has happened at other embassies around the world in recent years. Security needs to be strengthened, intelligence sources recruited.

Will it happen again? Unfortunately, yes.

Is it important what exactly was said in the hours after the attack? No.

Is it a surprise that functionaries in the State Department wrote and rewrote the “talking points” to be used, and worried about the political implications? Of course not ... that happens every day.

What about the IRS mess? Sure, some local officials went overboard in scrutinizing the tax exempt status of some tea party groups. But don’t forget that the tax code is a bit murky when it spells out what exactly should be considered in those cases, and there was a surge in tea party-related organizations at that time.

Now that the mistake has been recognized, it will be corrected.

Does it mean that Obama is somehow responsible?

Of course not.

And now we come to the real problem, as far as I’m concerned — those AP phone records.

It’s still not a scandal, per se, but it’s a troubling case.

Now, I’m not surprised or dismayed that the Justice Department wanted reporters’ records — that battle has been going on since I started in the business.

Nor am I upset that the government got access to them ... it may be that the move was justified by the seriousness of the case.

But I’m really unhappy about the process. See, there is a way to get those kind of records. You go to court, and you get a judge to issue a subpoena. It’s served, and the news organization gets a chance to argue against the release. If it’s top secret, the hearing can be in closed court.

If the case is a good one, the judge rules in the government’s favor. If not, he or she turns them down.

But in this case, Justice went right to the phone companies, which rolled over like good little dogs and handed them anything they wanted.

That’s not right. Our government should not be circumventing its own laws.

And I’m particularly troubled that it was the Obama administration that took this legal shortcut. After all, the man came into office promising transparency.

Either he’s not really in charge of what’s going on over at Justice, or he’s a secret “ends justify the means” guy.

Whatever the answer, it’s not a pleasant thought.

Blagg has been Editor of The Recorder since 1986. He lives in Greenfield and is a military historian with an interest in local history. He can be reached at: tblagg@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 250.

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