The Unaccountable Government: in which @JimGeraghty depresses me

**Posted by Phineas

The depressing part, of course, is that he’s right.

Departing Secretary of State Clinton yesterday appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to finally give an accounting for her department’s performance during and after the Benghazi fiasco. The standout moment came when Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) asked her to explain how the administration could claim for several days that the assault arose from a demonstration in front of the embassy, when anyone could see from the video feed that there was no demonstration.

Her exasperated answer (1) is already infamous:

“What difference does it make?”

It matters for a lot of reasons, not least simple questions of the honesty and competence Americans should be able to expect of their government — their employees. Jonathan Tobin at Commentary provides a good rebuttal about why it makes a difference, and I’ll refer you to that.

But this goes beyond the events at and after Benghazi, maddening as those are. It speaks to the responsibility of government officials in general to the voters and taxpayers — the “owners,” as Clint Eastwood once said. We so often hear pious words about “accepting responsibility” and being “accountable,” but it’s an act, especially for progressives. Crocodile tears and feigned outrage and declarations of pride are all shields thrown up to deflect a real accounting, aided and abetted by hacks who put defending “one of their own” ahead of the nation’s interest. (For a nauseating example, see ST’s post on California Senator Boxer’s staged outrage when Senator Paul dared to take Hillary to task.)

In a thoughtful post at NRO’s Campaign Spot, Jim Geraghty identifies the overall problem — there are no standards, anymore:

If the decision making before, during, and after the Benghazi attack is insufficient to get anyone fired, what decision in government will ever warrant that consequence? If Democrats on Capitol Hill can’t take off their partisan blinders for one day to attempt to hold people accountable for decision-making that resulted in American deaths at the hands of extremists, and then lying to the public about it, then when will they ever? If Hillary Clinton can exclaim that it doesn’t matter that the administration spent five days talking about a video when the video had nothing to do with it, and everyone on her side applauds, why should she or anyone else ever respond to an accusation with anything but audacious defiance?

This is it, folks. This is the government we have, and the lack of a public outcry about Benghazi ensures this is the government we will have for the foreseeable future.

The lack of public outrage is part of the problem, I’ll agree. It’s a result of too much trust in government officials, too little adult supervision of them, and a mainstream media that covers for those it favors  — Democrats.

But it’s not just Benghazi. After 9/11, no one from the Clinton administration was genuinely held responsible for what happened, though many of the problems that left us open to attack developed under their watch. When the housing market collapsed in 2008, Democrats again escaped accountability, even though the policies that lead to the bubble and its bursting were largely of their origin.

I’m not excusing Republicans completely; the evasion of responsibility is a bipartisan problem common to the Beltway elite in general, though the Republicans rarely have the MSM covering for them.  But contrast Hillary’s empty declarations and Potemkin outrage with the actions of the Bush administration after the 2006 election, which cost the Republicans the House and Senate, largely because the public was upset over how the war in Iraq was being conducted: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was fired, generals were sacked, and Bush went before the nation to take responsibility and pledge to fix the problem — and then actually followed through.

Bush was accountable.

And that’s what makes Jim’s analysis so depressing. Not just that we have to deal with four more years of the Obama administration’s arrogance, but that the entire leadership of one of our major political parties feels that it simply shouldn’t have to answer for itself, that democratic audit of its actions is almost an insult. This, I maintain, is partly a function of progressivism, itself: society is too complex to be governed by citizens and their representatives, and so much of it should be left to bureaucratic experts to run. And if one is an expert, one of the elite, then to be questioned seriously by one of the hoi polloi (in this case, a senator from flyover country — and a Tea Party favorite, at that) is exasperating. They just don’t understand, after all. (2)

It’s not democratic, it’s not representative, but it is a problem. A serious one.

And, at the moment, I’m not sure how it gets solved.

(1) Like most members of the limousine liberal ruling class, she was probably exasperated that someone would dare question her at all.
(2) Many Republicans have a similar arrogance, but that comes from being Beltway dinosaurs, not philosophy.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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