Commentary Magazine


What the White House Really Thinks

Much has been written and said about the astoundingly tone deaf performance of White House spokesman Jay Carney during this past month of scandals. The former journalist has lost the confidence of the people who were once his colleagues due to his unwillingness to tell the truth about his own deceptive statements (never mind those he represents in front of the press) about the Benghazi talking points or even to acknowledge that he has changed his story. The same applies to the shifting story he has told about the Internal Revenue Service scandal and when the White House learned about it.

The latest iteration of Carney’s story contradicts earlier ones that claimed they knew nothing about the investigation. Now it appears that the White House chief of staff and other officials learned of the situation over a month ago and actually consulted with the Treasury Department about how to soften the blow when it finally went public. Like everyone else following this story, I look forward to finding out who was the genius who decided that IRS official Lois Lerner should be the one to let drop the news with an apology and also saying she didn’t know math.

But anyone looking for an explanation for his unashamed stonewalling and obfuscation got an answer yesterday during an exchange with CBS News’s Major Garrett in which he compared questions about the White House’s conduct about Benghazi and the IRS to those who pursue the birther myth. In other words, anyone who has had the temerity to notice the lies and the trimming is cordially invited to shut up.

What can you say about an administration that considers leaking stories to the New York Times that make the president look like a national security hero kosher but seeks to criminalize journalism that points out his mistakes?

What can you say about a White House that doesn’t think it is obligated to acknowledge that it has changed its story about these scandals so often that even its chief flack can’t keep them straight?

Jay Carney’s crack about birthers told us all we need to know about any of this.

To talk about birthers when the whole country knows Carney has been slipping and sliding through the lies that have been told about Benghazi and other topics show us the crew that currently works at 1600 Pennsylvania think they are above criticism. They believe their political opponents are not only wrong; they are illegitimate and not worthy of a hearing.

While journalists are disgusted with Carney and even his masters in the West Wing may be scratching their heads about his recent performances, he really isn’t the problem. His contempt for the truth and for those who question his “Emperor’s new clothes” approach to transparency is symptomatic of the kind of second term arrogance that many of us suspected would undo the “hope and change” crowd once the president was re-elected.

Obama’s win last November has convinced Carney and other White House loyalists that they can afford to thumb their noses at decency and even honesty since their still-popular boss can no longer be held accountable by the voters. But what they forget is that even re-elected presidents can’t behave like monarchs.

It is never a good sign for a president to behave as if it is beneath him to acknowledge problems. It’s even worse when those paid to spin him start to act in the same manner.

Jay Carney’s arrogant contempt for the truth stems from the president’s attitude that was on display last week when he had a public temper tantrum about Benghazi questions. An administration that doesn’t believe it should be held accountable is one that is capable of just about anything. But that’s something our colleagues at the AP and Fox News have already discovered.