American Elephants

A Secretive Government Trying to Avoid Blame. by The Elephant's Child

I wrote just recently about the backlog of disability claims, the backlog of requests for medical exams that was rolling over and over, month after month, and how they dealt with this by just destroying veterans medical records or requests—in a program called “System Redesign.” They didn’t have the resources to do all those exams. They were getting around 3,000 requests a month and only had the resources to do about 800, so they just cancelled the backlog. They figured that a lot of those patients either had their studies somewhere else, had their surgery or—died.

Now it appears that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) blocked the release of the names of hospitals where 19 veterans died because of delays in medical screenings. CNN reported in January that 19 veterans died as a result of delayed gastrointestinal cancer screenings, while another 63 were seriously injured. CNN obtained internal documents from the VA listing the number of “institutional disclosures of adverse events,” bureaucracy-speak for a mistake that gravely harms or kills a patient.

The documents did not list the hospitals or clinics where the “adverse events” took place. A Tampa Tribune reporter asked the VA for the names of the hospitals and was told that he would have to file a FOIA request. His FOIA request was denied.

The House Committee on Veterans Affairs launched a website this week highlighting the VA’s habit of failing to respond to press requests. Yes, press exposure of your failings can be embarrassing or worse, but that’s why the FOIA law requires agencies to respond within 20 days. I wrote about that recently too. No federal agency wants to expose their misdoings or shortcomings to public scrutiny, or press scrutiny— though the press, is for the most part, such a slobbering lapdog for the administration—because people could get fired, the agency could lose funding.

And now there’s another shooting at Fort Hood, with at least 4 dead and many wounded. Will this be another case of “workplace violence” where those injured do not get the benefits to which they are entitled? I just wrote about that too. I take no pleasure in writing about these things, I write because I worry. Our government is increasingly attempting to avoid any possible blame. That may be a natural failing, but it is unacceptable. Americans rely on an open and transparent government in which officials appreciate the honor of being entrusted with high office—and strive mightily to live up to the office. It’s a matter of character.

It Is An Ugly Scandal, And It Just Keeps Getting Uglier. by The Elephant's Child

The Benghazi Scandal just keeps getting uglier and uglier. The security situation in Libya was clearly deteriorating, the naive dreams of an “Arab Spring” and a new burst of democracy and freedom were proving just to be the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood, and a more radicalized Middle East, but President Barack Obama and his campaign had adopted a theme on which they pinned the president’s re-election hopes. Obama’s great accomplishment was the “gutsy call” that ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and now the terrorist group al Qaeda was “on the run.”

Al Qaeda had chosen a new leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood alum, and moved to play a larger role in the Middle East. It was moving to gain power in Tunisia. In Egypt, the most populous of the Arab nations, the Muslim Brotherhood had won elections and begun to dominate that country’s political life. The Muslim Brotherhood established the Islamic supremacist ideology that gave rise to al Qaeda.

Then came the riots and attack on the embassy in Cairo, and the attack on the consulate in Benghazi. That spoiled the narrative. But the riots in Cairo presented an out. The Benghazi attack could be blamed on the clumsy YouTube video that had been out for months and which nobody had seen.

Four Americans died in the attack. It was the first time an American ambassador had been killed in over 30 years. It took American investigators three weeks even to reach the burned consulate compound. The American government paid a reported $70,000 to air TV ads in Pakistan blaming the movie and apologizing for it, as if we should apologize for our Constitutional rights of free speech. Secretary Clinton spoke of the “despicable video”. Five days after the attack the administration dispatched UN ambassador Susan Rice to five Sunday talk shows to blame the video. The man who made the video was identified by the government, picked up and imprisoned on a “parole violation” and sentenced to solitary confinement until after the election.

But the administration story kept falling apart. It was not a riot or spontaneous attack, but an organized military assault. We had a drone overhead that recorded much of the attack. Although there were military bases in Sicily that could have reached Benghazi, nothing was dispatched.

Now we learn that there were two AC-130 gunships overhead,that had been stationed in Libya since March, ready to fire on the attackers, but they were not allowed to fire. A spokesman at the CIA, presumably at the direction of General Petraeus, said “No one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need, claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate.” The Secretary of Defense could not have made such a decision on his own. It would have been a presidential decision. Although Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta called criticism of the administration’s handling of the terror attack “Monday Morning Quarterbacking.” Secretary Clinton’s legal counsel said that Clinton has asked for more security, but President Obama denied the request. Circling the wagons.

In an interview with 9News in Denver today, reporter Kyle Clark committed some actual journalism and asked the President some simple direct questions— Were the Americans under attack in Benghazi denied requests for help?

Well, we are finding out exactly what happened. I can tell you, as I’ve said over the last couple of months since this happened, the minute I found out what was happening, I gave three very clear directives. Number one, make sure that we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to. Number two, we’re going to investigate exactly what happened so that it doesn’t happen again. Number three, find out who did this so we can bring them to justice. And I guarantee you that everyone in the state department, our military, the CIA, you name it, had number one priority making sure that people were safe. These were our folks and we’re going to find out exactly what happened, but what we’re also going to do it make sure that we are identifying those who carried out these terrible attacks.

Apparently we will just keep investigating exactly what happened until well after the election, and a month and a half after the attack, it’s still all just a mystery. But we will identify those who carried out those terrible attacks one of these days, and send a drone after them.

The President of the United States has some clear Constitutional duties, none of which involve deciding which kind of fuel is the energy of the future, nor health care overhauls, nor reforming the schools, nor picking winners and losers from America’s businesses. The Constitution stipulates that the president will defend and uphold the Constitution and its guarantees of American freedoms. So this is not just about refusing to defend our ambassador, but goes to the oath of office, and a simple matter of ethics and character.

Fox News is continuing to follow-up on this story, and they are adding to and expanding on their earlier and excellent video timeline tomorrow at 1 pm Eastern, and again on Sunday. Look for it.

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