Wow, what a difference a few days make.
Obama is now embroiled in three scandals:
- Benghazi – covered here previously, and thanks to extensive WH cover-ups a scandal that still has a lot of legs.
- It’s just been discovered that the IRS was deliberately targeting conservative/Tea Party groups for heavy auditing, demanding all sorts of information – and then (and this bit is not quite in the MSM yet) leaking it to the press
- The grabbing of AP’s phone records. This one has even made the news here. And it’s the one that has turned the above from “this gives the Republicans something to complain about” into “Obama is in trouble”.
And Obama really is in trouble, big trouble.
Let’s start with the Benghazi attack and the issue of what the White House knew and when. This scandal has bubbled below the surface for the past few months, but the embarrassing shift more than a week after the attack from the fiction that the attack started as a demonstration over a YouTube video to a belated acknowledgment that it had been a planned terrorist attack — and that there had been no demonstration at all — had not been forgotten on Capitol Hill.
Three State Department career employees finally came forward to tell Congress last week that no one had even suggested to the State Department that a demonstration had taken place. Gregory Hicks, who was the deputy chief of mission in Libya, told the House Oversight panel that he personally briefed Hillary Clinton during the attack, and that no demonstration had taken place, and that the supposedly catalytic YouTube film about Mohammed was a “non-factor” on the ground. Hicks also said that his “jaw dropped” when he heard Susan Rice tell five different Sunday talk shows that the attack started with a spontaneous demonstration at the consulate, directly contradicting what Libya’s president was telling U.S. news outlets at the same time.
It’s a big problem when you go around telling people you’ll “get the guys who did this” and you then go out and “get” some guy who had nothing to do with it.
And this was the least of the scandals that erupted over the last week. The IRS scandal was entirely new, and at first blush bad enough to drive the Benghazi story out of the headlines. Lois Lerner admitted that her IRS unit overseeing tax-exempt groups had expressly targeted groups with words like “Tea Party,” “Patriot,” and “9/12” in their names for extra scrutiny. Lerner claimed that this took place only last year among “low-level workers” in the Cincinnati office that handles those applications. Over the weekend, though, it became clear that Lerner left a lot of other information out.
As leaks from an upcoming Inspector General report began on Saturday and rolled through today, a much different picture emerged. The enhanced scrutiny wasn’t applied only on the basis of word searches, but also to any groups critical of the way government was being run. The extra scrutiny didn’t start in June 2012, as Lerner claimed, but in March 2010 — before the midterms, when Tea Party groups campaigned in opposition to the ObamaCare bill that passed (coincidentally?) in that same month.
Using the tax department to persecute the president’s opponents is a massive no-no.
As bad as that was, the IRS scandal wasn’t even the worst news for Obama. Just when he needed a sympathetic media to help downplay the politicization of the IRS and the rinsing of the Benghazi talking points (which Obama dismissed as “no there there” in a Monday press conference), the Associated Press announced that the Department of Justice had seized two months of phone records of as many as 100 of its reporters and three of its offices. The presumed trigger for this was a leak investigation into a May 2012 story about the CIA operation in Yemen that kept an airliner bomb plot from reaching fruition. Rather than alert the AP that it would subpoena the phone records, the DOJ seized them secretly, claiming that notifying the AP would “pose a substantial threat to the investigation” — even though the APcan’t bury the records of the phone companies involved, even if it were inclined to try.
Suddenly, conservative claims of active intimidation and pressure from the White House looked a lot less conspiratorial to the media. Erik Wemple at the Washington Post called the action “a dagger to the heart of AP‘s news-gathering activity.” What source will trust that their identity will remain anonymous if the government can seize the phone records without warning? TheACLU called it “an unacceptable abuse of power,” which is what conservative groups had called the IRS’s attack on them for most of the past three years.
An incredibly stupid thing to do.
And these are just the ones making the news.
Time will tell if the last few days have been a major turning point, or a pretty hefty bump in the road. I’m picking turning point for the public, but the media might just recover themselves in a month or two in time to attach the very notion that we impeach the guy.