A dog whis­tle for the left

Amer­i­cans are start­ing to hear the lies in Obama’s sig­nals to his base

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Andrew P. Napoli­tano

Iam not a fan of for­mer U.S. Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Ti­mothy F. Gei­th­ner. He presided over the po­lit­i­cally con­ceived, patently un­con­sti­tu­tional and anti-free-mar­ket tax­payer bailouts of banks, au­tomak­ers and in­sur­ance com­pa­nies in the lat­ter part of the ad­min­is­tra­tion of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, when he was the head of the Federal Re­serve Bank of New York, and dur­ing the first term of Pres­i­dent Obama, when he was Trea­sury chief. In those years and still to­day he has ar­gued that ag­gres­sive govern­ment in­ter­ven­tion leads to a stronger fi­nan­cial sys­tem be­cause the govern­ment will take risks with tax­payer money that the tax­pay­ers them­selves will not take with it. He be­lieves in the use of govern­ment co­er­cion, rather than the vol­un­tary choices of con­sumers and in­vestors.

Those of us who em­brace the free mar­ket do so not only be­cause it has pro­duced more broad-based pros­per­ity than any govern­ment has, but also be­cause it of­fers the only moral sys­tem of fi­nan­cial ex­changes for goods and ser­vices be­cause in a truly free mar­ket, ev­ery ex­change is vol­un­tary. Co­erc­ing money from tax­pay­ers to pay for the fail­ures of businesses is theft.

We also ar­gue that the re­ces­sion of 2008 was largely caused by the burst­ing of the hous­ing bub­ble, and that bub­ble was in­duced by the govern­ment. The Federal Re­serve, on whose board Mr. Gei­th­ner sat, com­manded ar­ti­fi­cially low in­ter­est rates that en­cour­aged wild spec­u­la­tive bor­row­ing, and Fan­nie Mae and Fred­die Mac, those federal govern­ment garbage cans, used tax­payer dol­lars to buy all the bad loans the im­pru­dent lenders could sell them. This, too, en­cour­aged wild and spec­u­la­tive loans to people who could not af­ford to re­pay them.

I write to­day not to re­hash old ar­gu­ments. Re­gret­tably, the govern­ment to­day — the wel­fare and war­fare states in which we Amer­i­cans now live — is com­fort­ably in the hands of pro­gres­sives. With the ex­cep­tion of the Gold­wa­ter and early Rea­gan years, the lead­er­ship of both ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties has been dom­i­nated by pro­gres­sives — heavy pro­gres­sives in the Demo­cratic Party and light pro­gres­sives in the Repub­li­can Party — since World War II. These politi­cians are dis­ci­ples of Woodrow Wil­son and Theodore Roo­sevelt, two pres­i­dents who turned the Con­sti­tu­tion on its head.

James Madi­son stated that he wrote the Con­sti­tu­tion con­scious of the need to res­train the federal govern­ment — to limit it to the spe­cific ar­eas of gov­ern­men­tal author­ity set forth in the Con­sti­tu­tion and to guar­an­tee ar­eas free from all govern­ment reg­u­la­tion. Wil­son and Roo­sevelt viewed the Con­sti­tu­tion as lib­er­at­ing the federal govern­ment to do what­ever its lead­er­ship wished, ex­cept when the Con­sti­tu­tion ex­pressly pro­hibits the wished-for be­hav­ior.

When it comes to un­der­stand­ing the pow­ers of the federal govern­ment, Mr. Gei­th­ner is in the Wil­son and Roo­sevelt camp. Those of us who be­lieve in max­i­mum in­di­vid­ual lib­erty are in the Madi­son camp. Yet, Mr. Gei­th­ner tipped his hand a bit ear­lier this week in a new mem­oir, and that tip caught the pub­lic’s at­ten­tion.

The tip re­vealed that in 2009, shortly be­fore his first round of in­ter­views as Trea­sury sec­re­tary on the Sun­day morn­ing tele­vi­sion net­work talk shows, Mr. Gei­th­ner en­dured a prep ses­sion ad­min­is­tered to him by Dan Pfeiffer, then the se­nior ad­viser to Mr. Obama. Mr. Pfeiffer in­structed Mr. Gei­th­ner to sug­gest to the Amer­i­can pub­lic that So­cial Se­cu­rity is op­er­at­ing in the black and thus is not a con­tribut­ing cause of the bal­loon­ing federal deficit. He stated that the pres­i­dent needed that mes­sage to go out to his base as a “dog whis­tle to the left” — mean­ing a sig­nal to the pres­i­dent’s po­lit­i­cal base, the truth be damned.

Did Mr. Pfeiffer ask Mr. Gei­th­ner to lie? The sec­re­tary ap­par­ently thought so, even though the govern­ment’s fuzzy math can make red ink look black. What­ever the truth, Mr. Gei­th­ner’s ver­sion is that both he and Mr. Pfeiffer be­lieved the ink was red, and when Mr. Pfeiffer asked him to de­ceive the pub­lic by claim­ing it was black, he de­clined.

This re­quested de­cep­tion is telling. This is not spin. Spin is the art­ful use of words so that the speaker needn’t lie. Mr. Gei­th­ner be­lieves he was be­ing asked to tell a lie. Can the govern­ment morally re­main silent to pre­serve hu­man free­dom? Of course it can. Can it de­ceive by ly­ing to the pub­lic on a ma­te­rial mat­ter? If it does, it will shat­ter the so­cial con­tract it has with the people, and the of­fi­cials who lie risk be­com­ing a law unto them­selves, be­cause af­ter they are caught, no one will be­lieve them.

The Gei­th­ner al­le­ga­tions bring to sharper fo­cus the litany of Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion lies. The pres­i­dent and his folks lied about Oba­macare (You can keep your doc­tor and your in­sur­ance, the pres­i­dent pro­claimed in­ces­santly). They lied about the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency spy­ing (“No, sir,” Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence James R. Clap­per replied when asked be­fore Congress whether the feds were en­gaged in mas­sive govern­ment spy­ing on in­no­cent Amer­i­cans). They lied about Beng­hazi (“It was a spon­ta­neous erup­tion over an Amer­i­can film,” said for­mer U.N. Am­bas­sador Su­san Rice). The pres­i­dent even lied about ly­ing. (“Trans­parency and the rule of law will be the touch­stones of this pres­i­dency.”)

Can govern­ment of­fi­cials legally lie? Re­gret­tably, yes. The courts have ruled that the rem­edy for govern­ment ly­ing is to vote it out of of­fice, even when it pros­e­cutes people for harm­lessly do­ing what it has done to shat­ter its bonds with us. So, why were Roger Cle­mens and Martha Ste­wart pros­e­cuted for petty lies about pri­vate mat­ters that af­fected no one, and Mr. Clap­per and Mrs. Rice, who at­tempted to lull the coun­try into a false sense of com­fort, not pros­e­cuted?

Per­haps be­cause the pres­i­dent needed some dog whis­tles to the left, and Mr. Clap­per and Mrs. Rice pro­vided them. Andrew P. Napoli­tano, a for­mer judge of the Su­pe­rior Court of New Jersey, is an an­a­lyst for the Fox News Chan­nel. He has writ­ten seven books on the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.


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