Peggy Noonan gets one right.
We’re all used to a certain amount of doublespeak and bureaucratese in government hearings. That’s as old as forever. But in the past year of listening to testimony from government officials, there is something different about the boredom and indifference with which government testifiers skirt, dodge and withhold the truth. They don’t seem furtive or defensive; they are not in the least afraid. They speak always with a certain carefulness—they are lawyered up—but they have no evident fear of looking evasive. They really don’t care what you think of them. They’re running the show and if you don’t like it, too bad.
We are locked in some loop where the public figure knows what he must pronounce to achieve his agenda, and the public knows what he must pronounce to achieve his agenda, and we all accept what is being said while at the same time everyone sees right through it. The public figure literally says, “Prepare my talking points,” and the public says, “He’s just reading talking points.” It leaves everyone feeling compromised. Public officials gripe they can’t break through the cynicism. They cause the cynicism.
The only people who seem to tell the truth now are the people inside the agencies who become whistleblowers. They call a news organization, get on the phone with a congressman’s staff. That’s basically how the Veterans Affairs and Secret Service scandals broke: Desperate people who couldn’t take the corruption dropped a dime. What does it say about a great nation when its most reliable truth tellers are desperate people?
Well, for one thing, that it’s no longer a great nation. More evidence:
History will ill-serve Eric Holder if it does no more than echo the view common in the wake of his resignation that his tenure as Attorney General was “controversial.” Mr. Holder’s more than five years as the nation’s chief legal officer were consequential.
In tandem with Barack Obama ‘s White House, Mr. Holder pushed the authority of the federal government and its administrative agencies beyond the edge of the Constitution and law. They did so not in one or several controversial instances, as with past presidencies, but repeatedly and across the breadth of the federal government.
Messrs. Obama and Holder have attempted to make federal legal authority limitless. The Obama-Holder theory of law—that the needs of justice, as they define it, supersede the law’s boundaries—deserves to be repudiated. It has no precedent outside progressive law journals or various periods in South American history.
Mr. Obama made his intentions clear. In July 2011, the president said in public he’d like to “bypass Congress and change the laws on my own.” The phrase, “change the laws on his own,” is not in the U.S. Constitution. The next year, Mr. Obama made his now-famous and unconstitutional recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. The recess appointments were the tip of the iceberg.
For the firm of Obama & Holder, shocking the conscience of sitting federal judges with legal overstepping is just another day in court. The Obama lawyers’ legal justification for their actions has often been, in effect, what difference does it make? That isn’t a legal argument. Yet.
It’s legal if His Royal Majesty says it is. His minions, lackeys, and satraps in the bureaucracy that really rules us are just following his lead and, as Noonan says, doing so with no fear of repercussion. Hey, they won, after all.
Update! Progressing beyond Progressivism and its boundless regulatory state.
You must read this excellent piece by Megan McArdle, It’s Normal for Regulators to Get Captured. “regulatory capture is not some horrid aberration; it is closer to the natural state of a regulatory body.”
This is true. That is why the entire modern administrative state has to be re-thought, re-configured and replaced. It does not work, it never worked, it cannot work.
The regulatory state is the defining feature of the Industrial Era, America 2.0 state. It needs to be shut down, wrapped up and replaced.
This does not mean return to the law of the jungle. It means making laws that actually align incentives with desired ends, as imperfect as that always is.
It also means sunsetting and doing away with those laws–and the vast, unaccountable bureaucracies they inevitably establish–once those “desired ends” are achieved…and most especially when they aren’t.