Posted by: danielfee | May 16, 2013

The Real Washington Scandal

The Washington press corp, talk radio and cable TV news are in a frenzy over all the breaking “scandals” coming from the Obama White House. Each new report is more breathless and hyperbolic than the last. But the real scandal coming out of Washington is how inept and out of touch the inside the beltway crowd is from the rest of America. The day that Obama won reelection, the press was already talking about how presidential second terms are always bogged down with scandals. They had already established their story narrative, now they only had to find stories to jam into this narrative. Over the past couple of weeks they think they have hit the trifecta. Benghazi! IRS! AP! The Obama White House is embroiled in three scandals at once. What a field day for the Washington press corp and cable news blowhards. Now they don’t have to talk about boring stuff like the endless budget battles, immigration reform or jobs programs. Yawn. Sure they are much more important to Main Street and everyday Americans but what snoozers, and besides, they don’t fit our “presidential second term scandals” narrative.

The Republicans in Congress have been attempting to turn Benghazi into a scandal since September 2011. They tried to make it a campaign issue and that failed. They tried to resurrect it a few more times with the latest being a Congressional hearing with so-called “whistle blowers” who would provide new explosive information. The hearing was a dud and no new information emerged from the hearing. The entire “scandal” boils down to an argument over talking points that were used for the Sunday morning shows five days after the attack that killed the ambassador and three others in Libya. So we are supposed to believe that it is a scandal because the intelligence agencies and State department went through multiple drafts of the talking points before issuing a public statement? Seriously; this is a scandal? Don’t they always go through this type of process to make sure that they are not disclosing classified information, to protect sources and procedure, and not get too far ahead of the story while they are still gathering information? Is anybody shocked by the fact that the various departments would want to deflect blame from themselves in the initial public talking points? Ultimately an independent Accountability Review Board (ARB) headed by Ambassador Thomas Pickering as Chairman and Admiral Michael Mullen as Vice Chairman issued a detailed report in December 2012 that outlined the security failures and made 29 recommendations to improve protection of our foreign diplomats. Secretary of State Clinton took full responsibility and said the State Department would begin implementing all 29 recommendations immediately. Wow, what a cover up! Wait; what is it that is being covered up? Oh yea, the talking points. So we are supposed to believe that because the talking points were modified twelve times before they were used on the Sunday morning shows, this proves that President Obama lied about Benghazi because he knew the Benghazi attack was a terrorist attack before Ambassador Susan Rice went on the Sunday shows and didn’t mention the words terrorist attacks? Never mind that Obama addressed the country on September 12th from the rose garden and called it an “act of terror”. On September 13th at a campaign event in Nevada he repeated his statement about it being an “act of terror,” and then did it again the next day in Colorado. So three times Obama referred to the attack as an “act of terror” before Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday shows. But she didn’t say it was terrorism. What a scandal! The argument has gotten so stupid that Congressman Darrell Issa was actually attempting to argue during a TV interview that the President’s phrase “act of terror” was somehow different from calling it “terrorism”. So there you have the entire Benghazi scandal in a nutshell: Obama lied because he didn’t add “ism” to his statements in the days immediately following the attack and Susan Rice left it out of her statement on the Sunday morning shows.

But what about scandal number two, the IRS? Exactly how is this a White House scandal, since the IRS is an independent agency? It would be a scandal if the White House was meddling with the IRS and directing them to investigate specific people or organizations, a la Richard Nixon. But there is zero evidence that the Obama White House has anything to do with the so-called IRS scandal. The IRS wasn’t even investigating or auditing Tea Party or other conservative groups. They were reviewing new applications for a tax exempt status under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. First we should note that all laws regarding the granting of tax exempt status are adopted by Congress and implemented by the IRS. Section 501(c)(4) organizations are required to be “social welfare” not political operations. Is there anyone out there who really thinks that Karl Rove’s Super PAC, called Crossroads GPS, is a “social welfare” organization? After all, isn’t PAC an acronym for Political Action Committee? The real scandal is that overtly political groups are qualifying under the Internal Revenue Code as “social welfare” organizations so they can circumvent federal election laws governing political organizations. Even though the IRS requested additional information from conservative groups with political red flags in their name, not one of these applications was denied. Why not? That is outrageous! It is obviously a subterfuge that overtly political groups are trying to hide their donors and circumvent election law by using the “social welfare” organization exemption in the tax code. The mistake that the IRS staff made was not targeting all of these new applications for 501(c)(4) that were submitted after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The recently released Inspector General’s report which started the Washington press corp’s breathless reporting of Obama’s so-called second breaking scandal specifically states that the White House had no involvement or knowledge of what the IRS staff was doing. But hey, that doesn’t fit the predetermined “presidential second term scandals” narrative the Washington press wants to promote. It would be far too much work for the press to explain to the American public that the IRS has a duty to scrutinize all new applications for tax exempt status and that Congress has failed to address the giant loopholes that have been created with campaign financing as a result of the Citizens United case. But if you are a lazy reporter or commentator it is much easier to beat up on the IRS; everybody already dislikes them. Plus it really juices the story by linking it to the Obama White House, even if they have no evidence. Why let the facts get in the way of a good story? You know the one about how presidential second terms are always mired in scandal.

But for the Washington press corp it is so-called scandal number three, the AP (Associated Press) scandal, that really has their panties in a bunch. How dare the special federal prosecutor that is investigating a criminal leak of national security secrets use his subpoena power to obtain phone logs of specific phones that were used by AP reporters? The AP’s own story indicates that a subpoena was issued to the phone companies for records of calls on specific phone lines. It was not a wire tap of the AP’s phone lines as many very lazy journalists and commentators claimed. So I get it; whenever an investigation gets remotely close to the press, they very aggressively protect their turf. Too bad they don’t do the same for the rest of us, but that is beside the point and expects way too much from these self-centered reporters.

First, a little background on the real scandal behind this AP story. In May of 2012, someone with very high security clearance leaked the details of a bomb plot by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula before the plot was foiled and disrupted by the intelligence services. At that time, the AP agreed to hold the story for a few days so that the undercover operation could be completed, but that doesn’t negate the fact that someone is disclosing national security secrets. Whoever this person is, they are not a “whistle-blower” under any definition; they are breaking the law and need to be prosecuted. Then on June 1, 2012, the New York Times ran a story about President Obama ordering cyber-attacks against Iran with the Stuxnet computer worm, which was also based on leaked national security information. Following these two disclosures of national security information, Republicans in Congress began accusing the Obama White House of leaking the information for political purposes and demanded the appointment of a special prosecutor. Always being one of the first to criticize the Obama administration on national security issues, John McCain said on the Senate floor, “A really disturbing aspect of this is that one could draw the conclusion from reading these articles that it is an attempt to further the President’s political ambitions for the sake of his re-election at the expense of our national security.” Of course McCain had no basis for this accusation. President Obama agreed with both the Republicans and Democrats that were calling for an aggressive investigation of these national security leaks and one was initiated. Attorney General Eric Holder was also accused by Republicans of being involved in the leaks, so he appointed two special federal prosecutors and stepped aside from both criminal investigations. So Congress got exactly what they were asking for, special prosecutors aggressively investigating a criminal leak of national intelligence secrets. But now that the prosecutor was doing the job he was appointed to do and he issued a subpoena for phone records, they are outraged and accuse the Obama White House of a third so-called scandal.

So what exactly is Obama’s role in the scandal with respect to the AP phone record subpoena? Did Obama order or even know that the special federal prosecutor was issuing a subpoena? If the President was interfering with a federal criminal investigation, then that would be a scandal. But no one, including the AP, has even remotely indicate that there was any involvement coming from the White House. This so-called AP scandal has gotten so ridiculous that there are some TV commentators demanding to know why Obama didn’t know about the details of the prosecutors investigation and claiming this shows he is a hands-off President that doesn’t even know what is happening within his administration. Of course you know these same lazy commentators would be howling that the President is interfering with a criminal investigation if he did know all the details.

There is a real scandal going on in Washington, and it is that we have a lazy inept Washington press corp masquerading as a “free press” that purports to inform the American public. Then there are the bloviating radio and TV talking heads who are even lazier than the journalists and will spout some of the stupidest things you will ever hear, such as: why didn’t the President know what the low-level IRS employees reviewing new requests for tax exempt status were doing; or that a President, who they accused last year of leaking national security secrets for political purposes, should now be involved and have full knowledge of the details of a criminal investigation; or they pretend that a political argument over whether the President’s use of the term “act of terror” instead of the term “terrorism” is somehow different, which elevates this argument over political semantics into a scandal. But they have collectively decided on their narrative of “presidential second term scandals” and they will damn well turn every opportunity, no matter how remote, into a Obama White House scandal.

Granted there are a few voices and reports out there who get it right and have not bought into the “second term scandal” meme. But the big picture narrative still remains and the lazy Washington press corp has taken three swings in the last few weeks and struck out. But they will not be deterred from their story so it is going to be a long three and half years.

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Responses

  1. Gee Daniel likes to sugar coat and lie for Obama. He must drink the Obama Kool-Aid every day.

    • Carole,
      There is nothing to sugar coat when there is nothing to these so-called scandals. After I wrote this post, it comes out a few days later that Republican staffers had edited the emails and then duped ABC into running with the story. Jonathan Karl claimed he had seen the actual emails but what he got was the altered documents and egg on his face. When the email chain was released it exposed the fraud of the Republican’s witch hunt. Benghazi is a tragedy not a scandal.
      The IRS makes for a great boogeyman for the right-wing but there is no connection to the Obama White house. That was even addressed in the IG’s report. I guess you think he sugar coated his report, or did you even tread it? Just because you want it to be true doesn’t make so. The real scandal is, that obviously political groups are trying to pass themselves off as “social welfare” organizations. Ask yourself this question, if the I.R.C. doesn’t require a 501(c)(4) organization to submit an application to operate as a 501(c)(4), then why did all of these Tea Party groups submit applications. Sounds to me like they were ripped off by some attorneys who gave them bad advise and charged them for filing applications that were not required.
      The AP so-called scandal would only be an Obama White House scandal if the W.H. was meddling in a criminal investigation. Nobody, including AP has any even remotely indication that this occurred. Sure the AP is pissed that the prosecutor subpoenaed some of their phone records, but this is an old argument over how much authority the government has to investigate ever since the Patriot Act was approved. Personally I think it should be much more limited. But the funny thing is all you conservatives didn’t want to discuss that when Bush was President. But now you all are hyperventilating because the “Obama apologist liberal media” got their phone records subpoenaed. I am not sugar coating or lying, I am laughing my ass off at the conservatives who are trying to decide who they hate more Obama or the “lame-stream media.” But I know the answer is Obama.
      By the way, I will bet you didn’t even notice that last week while the media was having a bout of scandal fever, the CBO updated their budget projections and the deficit was reduced by another $200 billion. At the end of last year the deficit was the biggest issue for the conservatives. But now that Obama has cut the amount of the deficit he inherited from Bush by 55%, we don’t hear a peep. Or is the CBO just lying too?
      Dan


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