I don’t contend that President Obama was involved in the decision to target conservative groups for harassment by the IRS. So far, there is no evidence that would support that contention.
I do contend, however, that Obama has little appreciation for the democratic process, including the right to dissent from his agenda without suffering for it. In my view, he regards democracy and dissent as hindrances to the march of history he fancies himself leading. And I suspect that his assertion of outrage over the IRS scandal is feigned.
Am I being too cynical? Perhaps. But there is a certain irony in the fact that, as the IRS scandal gained momentum yesterday, Obama feted Turkey’s anti-democratic President Erdoğan. And, as Michael Rubin points out, Obama chose to write a glowing op-ed about Erdoğan for the Turkish newspaper Sabah — a state dominated organ that Erdoğan confiscated due to its opposition views and gave to his son-in-law.
Erdoğan’s treatment of Sabah is emblematic of his treatment of the Turkish press generally. According to Rubin:
[In] Turkey. . .most journalists assume they are being tapped. It is near impossible to talk politics with Turkish journalists before everyone at the table first takes batteries out of their cell phones. The judiciary has been tapped, as have newspapers.
Erdoğan has stacked previously apolitical bodies with his own party hacks, and transformed technocratic institutions to wield against the press. He has had them, for example, levy fines of billions of dollars to silence some outfits, and seized and sold at auction another
Now, against the backdrop of Obama’s glowing endorsement comes word that a financial body solely consisting of Erdoğan’s appointees has seized one of the last conglomerates which owns independent newspapers and television. . . .
Erdoğan cares little about democracy; he wishes domination, personal enrichment, and a complete transformation of Turkish society that is impossible to achieve if anyone can ask questions or expose his actions. That he uses a state visit to the United States as cover for his actions is truly shameful.
That Obama plays along is shameful, as well.
It has widely been reported that Erdoğan is one of the very few world leaders with whom Obama has bonded. What is the source of Obama’s admiration? I suspect it is the Turkish president’s relentless desire to transform society and the anti-democratic ruthlessness with which he is prepared to proceed.