This week in Obama political scandal

President Obama is currently embroiled in three situations labelled as political scandal. The IRS scandal is the most problematic in that it involves a highly disliked arm of government that affects almost everyone’s lives. But I agree that the REAL scandal in the IRS issue is that there are lots of political groups on both ends of the political spectrum getting tax-exempt status, when that designation should be limited to more cultural/civic issues. Since the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court in 2010, there have been far more organization of every political stripe trying to influence elections, sometimes illegally. Also, the richer applicants fell under lesser scrutiny, a real class distinction. The President has shown public indignation over this particular issue, but he may be missing the bigger picture.

The notion that the Benghazi story is bigger than Watergate and Iran contra combined suggests that the “silly season” has already begun, Bob Woodward’s assertion notwithstanding. If there are altered documents, it may be Republicans feeding them to the mainstream media. At the end of the day, the real story on the government side will be that the US was ill-prepared for an attack in a hot spot, on a significant day (9/11 in 2012) despite warnings within the Administration, that no help was available to those who died there; that’s the scandal. The “talking points” of who said what, and when? An issue will be made of this, but it seems like usual interagency jockeying, rather than malicious intent to me.

I’m much more concerned by the unethical seizure of phone records of Associated Press journalists in connection to media leaks; it’s not just that First Amendment “freedom of speech” thing; it’s a Fourth Amendment “unreasonable search and seizure” thing , which has the effect of stifling whistleblowers. It’s the attempt to make legal acts, or marginally illegal acts, literally a federal case. One saw this in the Aaron Schwartz case, huge governmental overreach. The story of the octogenarian nun in federal prison for protesting may tick you off as it did me.

The President, as noted, seems to be worked up over one of these issues, but is more defensive about the other two. I would wish he’d get more excited about trampling people’s constitutional rights, but that does not appear to be in the cards. I find his behavior disappointing , to say the least.

Still, when the I word gets thrown around, I agree with this assessment: “it would take about fifty of each of the three to collectively equal Watergate, let alone the impeachment and incarceration we should have had over Iraq.”

10 thoughts on “This week in Obama political scandal”

  1. The guy who uses drones and keeps Guantanamo Bay open after saying he’d close it is unlikely to be concerned about people’s rights.

    I’m not onboard with conservative attacks on Obama, which flow from politics and hate — but at this point I’ve given up hope that Obama reflects any of the values I thought he possessed that caused me to vote for him twice.


  2. Huh. I was going to add COINTELPRO and Johnson, but apparently COINTELPRO came to light after the Johnson administration.

    Hm. I just realized that I know very little about Johnson.


    1. Well, I was thinking that Johnson only had a year or so in the completion of JFK’s term. If you want to count him, lies about Vietnam would do. COINTELPRO started back in the Eisenhower years, but no one heard about it until years later. In any case, it was less a smear on any particular President and more J Edgar Hoover gone rogue, as usual


  3. I sometimes wonder if we shouldn’t change things so a President serves for a single seven-year term. Four years isn’t really enough for any President’s policies to really take effect, but two terms results in an eventual series of scandals, whether real or imaginary (the current ones seem really weak tea to me). And frankly, God bless the right for also freaking out over a Marine holding the President’s umbrella for him! These idiots don’t know when to stop.


  4. Eh. Hoover did what he did with approval, either explicit or tacit, I’m pretty sure.

    Were the lies about Vietnam a scandal?

    Just read the “terrorist nun” thing. It’s an act of terrorism to point out that the government is a bunch of idiots who don’t secure their nuke stockpiles. Apparently.


    1. Not sure about Hoover. Presidents over the years – don’t know about LBJ, specifically – were pretty intimidated by him, as he had his own fiefdom.


  5. Hoover was a power-hungry, closeted, frustrated old man. He should have been ousted back in the McCarthy years…

    I agree, the drones, etc., have disappointed me. But the article about the nun and her two co-defendants offended me SO much. It says “The US Government,” which means the Atty General, and Eric Holder MUST GO. He has bungled the message, refused to try to “too big to fail” bankers… but he has time to put the screws to three pacifists.

    Great post, Roger. See you on the flip side, Amy


  6. The challenge for the news media in covering an issue like this, which they have mostly failed so far, is to present the allegations of what the IRS did wrong while providing full context of the problem of political organizations seeking tax exemption. Jonathan Weissman of the NY Times did a couple of fairly weak and non-contextual political pieces over the past week touting this as a big and growing scandal. He rightly points out that a year ago he did a good piece about how the IRS faced a dilemma because it was under proper political pressure to scrutinize these organizations and weed out the partisan political groups. But that was more than a year ago. Reporters and editors have to remember that readers may not have seen or remember the story a year ago or even a day ago. I really question the media jumping all over this as a big “scandal.” I think they’re terrified of being accused of leftist bias if they don’t.


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