1. “The Scandal Trifecta” may be gaining traction in D.C. and in the news media as the hot term to handily describe the Obama Administration’s three instances of serious and significant misconduct: the Benghazi deceptions, the I.R.S. harassment of conservatives and conservative groups, and the Justice Department’s surveillance of Associate Press reporters. It should be rejected. I know conservatives and Republicans are especially smug and gleeful right now to have their suspicions and warnings confirmed, but this is a national crisis, at a time of dire challenges to the nation, and tragic in many ways. It is not a game, and should not be likened to one. Nor should the three situations be lumped together, though they have, to some extent, common seeds. They are each important in and of themselves, and packaging them like stop-light peppers risks allowing all or some of them receive less than the individual attention they must have. This is the first and last time I’m using the term, and I urge everyone, in the media or out of it, to similarly drop it. Labels matter, in this is a bad one.
2. Here’s someone Democrats and the rest of us can blame, in part: the left-biased news media. You see, knowing that the news media is looking to expose them when they make mistakes, blunder, show corruption and otherwise do a bad job when entrusted with the welfare of the greatest nation on earth makes our leaders better, more responsible, more objective, and more competent, out of fear, if nothing else. The media does nobody any favors when it lets its biases take over and lies down on the job—not the public, not Republicans, certainly; not the nation, not their profession, but also not even those they are desperately trying to help succeed. Instead, this abdication of the news media’s duty makes those in power arrogant, careless, sloppy, reckless, stupid, less demanding, less responsive, inefficient, unwilling to see their own flaws, tolerant of mediocrity and failure, and ultimately self-destructive. Ironically, it also causes them not to respect the press…and we have seen the results of that in many instances recently, from the insulting lies of Jay Carney, to the Justice Department’s surveillance of the Associated Press. Yes, Obama Democrats can blame the press, just like the children of over-indulged, weak and endlessly adoring parents can blame their upbringing, in part, when they become entitled, unethical. self-centered and failed adults. Poor President Obama and his sycophants really thought the hands-off, worshipful media was doing them a favor. In truth, they were being undermined by a lack of oversight.
3. Pundits who suddenly express indignation at what was obvious years ago are admitting that they have no integrity, and have forfeited all legitimacy and credibility. How dare the Post’s Dana Milbank, a shameless Obama booster since the 2007-2008 Democratic primaries, write this…
“…Nixon was a control freak. Obama seems to be the opposite: He wants no control over the actions of his administration. As the president distances himself from the actions of “independent” figures within his administration, he’s creating a power vacuum in which lower officials behave as though anything goes. Certainly, a president can’t know what everybody in his administration is up to — but he can take responsibility, he can fire people and he can call a stop to foolish actions such as wholesale snooping into reporters’ phone calls…”
or MSNBC’s Chris Matthews say that President Obama…
“…obviously likes giving speeches more than he does running the executive branch….What part of the presidency does Obama like? He doesn’t like dealing with other politicians — that means his own cabinet, that means members of the congress, either party. He doesn’t particularly like the press…. He likes to write the speeches, likes to rewrite what Favreau and the others wrote for the first draft. So what part does he like? He likes going on the road, campaigning, visiting businesses like he does every couple days somewhere in Ohio or somewhere. But what part does he like? He doesn’t like lobbying for the bills he cares about. He doesn’t like selling to the press. He doesn’t like giving orders or giving somebody the power to give orders. He doesn’t seem to like being an executive.”
…after four years of consistently refusing to acknowledge or tell the public that this was the man who was at the controls of power during incredibly challenging and perilous times? How dare they? Nothing that they contemptuously note now wasn’t on full display daily, weekly and monthly to anyone who paid attention—as they were duty-bound to do—and who knew anything about how government works—as both of them are assumed to be. Not only didn’t they honestly tell the public about the amateurish, imperial, detached and dangerous manner in which this President handles his office, they were quick to attack any analyst who did, and in Matthews’ case, reflexively accuse them of being racist for doing so. Matthews is especially disgraceful. He has been an objective journalist in the past; he was, for example, one of the few Democratic partisans in the media who refused to tolerate the Clinton spin machine during the Lewinsky scandal. He obviously traded his integrity for a paycheck from his cynical MSNBC masters, who required him to toe its one-note, progressive line.
Milbank and Matthews are just two examples; there are scores of others. They are all professional failures. Nobody should care what they, think, say, or write. They sold their right to be trusted as journalists for a juvenile partisan dream.
4. The current partisan spin and Obama-defender talking point to shift blame for Benghazi to Republicans is dishonest garbage, and is beneath contempt. It is, however, a useful tool for spotting the most shameless of Democrats unwilling to accept reality. The charge: that GOP budget cuts were responsible for the Benghazi attack. The key sentence in Washington Post (progressive) Fact-Checker Glenn Kessler’s review of this lie:
“During hearings into the attack last fall and this month, State Department officials were specifically asked if a lack of financial resources played a role in the attack. The answer was no.”
5. Eric Holder’s continued presence in the Justice Department is itself a breach of Presidential diligence and competence. His testimony before Congress this week was mind-numbingly inexplicable. He knows nothing. he takes no responsibility for anything. He can’t recall when anything happened. He recused himself as a fact witness from the AP leaks investigation, but can’t say when, a matter of some significant legal importance. He says he may not have put it in writing. Former attorney general Michael Mukasey: “It is inconceivable to me that you would not do it formally. Of course, you’d have to inform all the people who might otherwise have to contact you. Indeed, if you didn’t you might conceivably come into possession of information you should not have.” He added that “in the one case I can recall in which I recused myself I did it in writing. Hard to imagine how else you’d do it — shout ‘I recuse myself’ in your office? In the hall?” It’s not just Mukasey. Every single lawyer I have asked about Holder’s performance just shakes his or her head in wonderment. He is either incredibly incompetent, stonewalling, or an idiot, and I have it on good authority (my sister worked under him at Justice) that he is not an idiot. Holder should have been fired for the Fast and Furious fiasco, and other examples of his blatant politicization and weak management. After this stunning performance, there are no excuses for him remaining. [ Aside: I heard Rush Limbaugh say that there was absolutely no way this President would ever remove an African-American Attorney General, no matter what the provocation. I think that’s a terrible indictment, and I hope it is not true. I fear that he is correct.]
6. The I.R.S. culture together with the administration’s culture is the problem, not “a few rogue agents in Cincinnati.” First, it is far too partisan for an organization that claims to be “independent.” Second, it, like all organizations in a chain of command, it reflects the attitudes of those above it. The Obama Administration was openly and contemptuously dismissive of the Tea Party, and its attitudes toward differing policy positions and dissent are redolent of the days of Nixon’s enemies list. It should surprise no one—especially the President— that horror stories are emerging about systematic harassment and biased treatment of GOP donors, conservative organizations, and advocacy groups.
When news of Abu Ghraib broke, the mainstream media would have none of the Republican defenders’ arguments that it was the result of some rogue military personnel. The devastating revelations were laid at the doorstep of the highest command in the Defense Department as well as the White House, and properly so. Donald Rumsfeld, who understands accountability, offered his resignation, and Bush was a fool not to accept it. By not doing so, he symbolically signaled that he did not believe the abuse scandal was all that serious…but it was. And this I.R.S. scandal is worse. It is unethical and an abdication of leadership for President Obama not to accept full responsibility for this occurring under him. His press conference on the topic was nauseating: like Sergeant Schultz in Hogan’s Heroes, he knew nothing, and nothing is his fault. I’m not sure he knows nothing….and it is his fault, just as Abu Ghraib, which was in Iraq, not Washington, D.C., was Bush’s fault.
7. President Obama’s “strong” response to the I.R.S. scandal was beyond irresponsible, disrespectful of his office and the American public. Incredibly, it was to fire in mid-May an acting director who was scheduled to leave in June, and he is going to hang around for transition purposes, perhaps until his original departure date! How insulting, impotent, and cynical. Could the message be sent any more clearly that to President Obama, this is just a PR mishap that he can address with smoke and mirrors? Could there be a more disturbing or, frankly, stupid message to author at this time?
8. Here is a trivial but telling example of what is wrong with the culture at the I.R.S. and the administration generally: the I.R.S. cancelled its scheduled softball game with Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn’s office, apparently because of tensions over the scandal. You see, now they are at war, and Republicans are the bad guys…no collegiality for them. This is what develops from the toxic adversarial culture that Obama pledged to fix but in fact made worse. Republicans aren’t enemies for properly calling the agency to account for devastating misconduct and breach of trust. The I.R.S. professionals should be eager to join in the effort to repair the damage: that is their duty and their job. Symbolic snubs and “F-you” gestures are trivial, unprofessional and counter-productive…but this is a government of spiteful amateurs.
9. With depressingly few exceptions, both Congressional Democrats and Republicans presented a revolting image to the American public while questioning Holder, who presented a revolting image of his own. Most Republicans were rude, unnecessarily antagonistic, disorganized and dedicated to making cheap rhetorical points and ideological grandstanding rather than getting to the truth, which with Holder doing his “What me worry?” act, would have been hard enough. One notable professional: Alabama’s Spencer Bachus, who squeezed from Holder the fact that he never memorialized his recusal in the AP leak matter. Bachus was polite, probing, concise, prepared and effective.
His Democratic counterpart for honors was Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who bluntly said that the Justice Department secretly obtaining the Associated Press’s phone records impaired the First Amendment. Others of her party seemed to think their job was to treat Holder as their client, and to waste time by listing all the wonderful things he has done that have nothing to do with the very serious reason for the hearing. Others, like Tennessee’s Steve Cohen, apparently couldn’t care less about the national tax collector using its power to stifle political dissent or the Justice Department impinging on freedom of the press., and thought it was appropriate to hijack the hearing for his own pet issues, such as pot legalization (and a worse and more illogical argument for that it than he gave would be hard to conceive.)
10. The absolute imperative of Jay Carney being fired was driven home by the 100 new e-mails the White House parceled out this Wednesday to distract from the other scandals (or vice-versa…you know, if you don’t want the press to use Watergate comparisons, it’s really dumb to use the drip-drip-drip evidence trick that Nixon’s minions used.) Carney lied, and everyone knows it. He may have been told to lie, but his whopper about the White House having no substantive involvement in altering the talking points, and his refusal to retract it, both makes him inherently incredible but also makes one wonder what the White House is hiding.
11. Special Prosecutor time! Law professor Ann Althouse writes,
“Obama rejected the idea [of a Special Prosecutor] at his news conference today, saying “Between those investigations [by Congress and the Justice Department] I think we’re going to be able to figure out exactly what happened, who was involved, what went wrong, and we’re going to be able to implement steps to fix it.” He also said: “I promise you this, that the minute I found out about it, then my main focus was making sure that we get the thing fixed… I’m outraged by this in part because look, I’m a public figure, if a future administration is starting to use the tax laws to favor one party over another or one political view over another, obviously, we’re all vulnerable. I still want a special prosecutor because I just don’t trust them not to cover up. “The minute I found out about it, then my main focus was making sure that we get the thing fixed.” I don’t think people believe that. I don’t believe it. And when was “the minute [he] found out about it”? He keeps making statements about finding out things around about whenever we do… which is absurdly self-serving, as if the only problems are public relations problems. Apparently, nothing exists for him until we learn about it!”
And Peggy Noonan:
“What happened at the IRS is the government’s essential business. The IRS case deserves and calls out for an independent counsel, fully armed with all that position’s powers. Only then will stables that badly need to be cleaned, be cleaned. Everyone involved in this abuse of power should pay a price, because if they don’t, the politicization of the IRS will continue—forever. If it is not stopped now, it will never stop. And if it isn’t stopped, no one will ever respect or have even minimal faith in the revenue-gathering arm of the U.S. government again.”
Yup. If there ever was an Administration that has forfeited the right to be trusted to investigate itself, it is this one.
12. Four years of hyperpartisan, arrogant, irresponsible, rudder-less and badly managed government have had its predictable result, and I will be stunned if we have yet seen the worst of it.
Graphic: Political News Now