Robert Stacy McCain has a fine piece at The American Spectator this morning about the Inspector General mess - and make no mistake, it's a MESS. You need to read the whole thing.
One of the many things that concerns me about this story is that were it not for people like Stacy, Malkin, York and other diligent bloggers, it would likely be swept under the rug. There's just so much else to talk about! Mark Sanford! Everyone loves a good sex scandal! An Argentina love affair with titillating emails! Sex sells, and that's what will be all over the news today.
The health care boondoggle. After last night's infomercial the analysts and pundits are all over it. Everyone has an opinion or an experience to share on the health care issue. It affects everyone in the country. Everyone wants to talk about it.
Cap and Trade? Not EVERYone is talking about it, but they should be. The vote is tomorrow so there will be lots of conversation about it today, as there should be, and people need to be calling their representatives. This one is a back breaker for the country. It's important.
And Iran - oh god - Iran. Those courageous people dying in the streets for their freedom. There's plenty to talk about there.
And everyone is talking about Jon and Kate.
So you can see where some fired inspector generals will be pushed to the back burner were it not for Robert Stacy McCain, Byron York, Michelle Malkin, and a few others who are all doing their best to keep it out there. To make my case, the top threads at Memeorandum this morning - the Sanford story, the Iran story, and health care. At the time of this writing, there is NOTHING on the inspectors general story. (UPDATE: There is a Memeorandum thread now!)
So why is it important? As McCain said, it's not just about Gerald Walpin. He's the most well known of those fired so far, but probably only because he's the one that Team Obama said was demented and senile. Also, Glenn Beck had Walpin on his program (and he didn't seem senile at all!) which increases the name recognition.
What makes this story important is first of all the serious nature of the inspector general position - they are supposed to be INDEPENDENT, non-partisan watchdogs. Now we have the Obama administration playing hardball with them in a way that indicates a pattern of behavior and this is certainly troubling.
McCain points out that "Those familiar with the investigations (and yes, that noun is plural) caution against personalizing or politicizing the situation. These sources are especially concerned that inquiries by Republican members of Congress should not be portrayed as a partisan "gotcha" game against the popular new president." Indeed, an important point to make. And maybe it's why the media isn't making a bigger deal of it.
Walpin, as you know by now, was fired because he questioned a program affilitaed with San Francisco Mayor Kevin Johnson regarding the AmeriCorps money. Kevin Johnson is a longtime ally of Obama and a friend of Michelle's. Johnson had been accused of inappropriately using funds which he later agreed to pay back in part. But now the FBI is in the investigation over some e-mails that Johnson supposedly deleted. Now, that's incriminating, no? Possibly? Suspicious, to say the least.
Other players include Judith Gwynn, inspector general for the ITC, who was fired. She was attempting to conduct an audit and documents she needed were forcibly taken from her, thereby prohibiting her from doing her job.
Fred Wiederhold, Jr., inspector general for Amtrack; he unexpectedly resigned. He was asked to provide examples of agency interference; there are some odd connections there in that you should look at (it's outlined in the McCain piece), not the least of which is that Joe Biden's son is on the Amtrak board of directors. Not to say that he's done anything wrong, but it's a tangled web.
Neil Barofsky is another investigator general, and the one that most fascinates McCain; he's over the TARP money that went through Congress in October. Documents have been withheld from Barofsky thus strangling his ability to do his job. He has reported a "staggering" level of fraud, but how can he make the case without the necessary documents? And what is Geithner afraid of?
The Wall Street Journal has a piece today in which they point out that had these incidents occured under the Bush White House, it would be front page news:
"However unserious these nanoscandals were, given their animating impulse Mr. Walpin's sacking and now the challenge to Mr. Barofsky's autonomy would be front-page news had Mr. Bush pulled them off. But the administration has gotten away with waving off the Barofsky affair as trivial and smearing Mr. Walpin as an old coot."
They go on to point out that Obama co-sponsored the legislation that gave the IGs their power in the first place and established the rules of their office: "Mr. Obama professed to love the Inspectors General as a Senator, and he cosponsored legislation that bolstered their autonomy and required the president to give Congress a month's notice and a reason before firing an IG. Either the administration ought to abide by its own rules or get rid of the office."
It is difficult to separate the story from Team Obama completely, as the previously noted cautionary statment wished. It's true that this should not be a witchhunt, or a "gotcha" game against Obama; it's not that different than the many scandals that come out of Washington all the time - Travel Gate, Whitewater, etc. etc. This one seems important because it directly involves taxpayer dollars and it has nasty overtones such as the smearing of Walpin while covering up the bad behavior of long-time cronies (Johnson). Michelle Malkin has pointed to the puzzling involvement of Michelle Obama in this particular case.
Is it all politics as usual or is there more? McCain is quick to point out that this is definitely a "story" and not necesarily a "scandal" or a "crime" at this point, but it's true that there are multiple investigations going on and as a "story" it should be more widely reported.