Is Benghazigate/IRSgate/APCIAgate equal to, worse than, or not as damaging to Obama's presidency than previous presidential scandals? A nice little history lesson here.
And a very good summation on why these investigations are so all-consuming, but not to most Americans.
Comment if you feel so moved!
P.S. I have moved the author's credentials to beginning of post to show he's no Michael Moore.
(Nicholas Wapshott is a Reuters columnist but his opinions are his own.)
(Nicholas Wapshott is the former New York bureau chief of The Times of London. Previously, he was editor of the Saturday Times of London, and founding editor of The Times Magazine. He is a regular broadcaster on MSNBC, PBS, and FOX News. He is the author of "Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher: A Political Marriage" (2007). His "Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics" was published by W.W.Norton in October. )
By Nicholas Wapshott
(Reuters) - The trifecta of scandals — Benghazi, the IRS and snooping on journalists — that has broken upon the heads of the Obama administration is as bad as Watergate.
No it isn't, says Bob Woodward, whose reputation was made by doggedly pursuing the source of a burglary of the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate Hotel.
No it isn't, says Carl Bernstein, who shares the bragging rights for toppling President Richard Nixon.
Oh yes it is, says Peggy Noonan, the Republicans' mother superior, writing, "We are in the midst of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate."
Really? How about the Iran-Contra scandal in 1986 that besmirched the honesty of President Ronald Reagan, for whom Noonan used to write speeches? Perhaps she penned Reagan's first denial, "We did not — repeat — did not trade weapons or anything else for hostages, nor will we," or maybe his amnesiac mea culpa four months later, "I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not." Strange the tricks age plays on the memory. And I am not talking about Reagan.
If you were a precocious five-year-old at the time, you would have to be 32 to recall the Iran-Contra scandal, in which, with or without Reagan's say-so, administration officials, in defiance of Congress's clearly stated wishes, secretly sold weapons to America's perennial enemy, the terrorist state of Iran, then passed the proceeds to Nicaraguan insurgents. Even if you were the smartest kid you would have to be over 41 to remember Watergate and, in President Gerald Ford's words, the "long national nightmare" that led to Nixon's resignation ahead of certain impeachment.
Unless investigations prove that President Barack Obama's actions or inactions led to the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, or that he directed the Justice Department to subpoena the phone records of 20 AP reporters or that he directed the IRS to investigate Tea Party groups, the current scandals are not Watergate, or even Iran-Contra.
That is not to say that the three events currently under scrutiny are not troubling.
Four Americans were killed in the fog of war surrounding Benghazi, and if such pointless deaths are to be prevented in the future we need to know exactly what happened. Determining who won the talking-points battle between the CIA and State is not that investigation.
If the White House or any party of the Administration directed tax inspectors to target Tea Party groups for special examination because of their conservative/libertarian beliefs, that, too, would be a scandal. It doesn't seem that way. When it comes to conspiracy or incompetence, I'll bet on incompetence every time.
The IRS inspector general's report said 298 political groups received special scrutiny. Of those, only 96 - about a third — were Tea Party groups. And the only group so far to have their eligibility for tax-free status rejected is the Maine chapter of Emerge America that trains Democratic women to run for office. The White House has asked the newly appointed IRS chief to investigate and bring to account those culpable. The sooner that investigation is completed, the sooner we can move on.
If the White House had anything to do with the irregular way in which phone records of 20 AP reporters were seized, we need to know. All administrations dislike leaks, and all say they will find out how they happened. In this case, however, citing that catch-all pretext "national security," the Justice Department went in all guns blazing. Why the overkill? Why abandon the traditional legal means of gathering evidence? We need answers.
If the Republicans on the Hill were more concerned about finding the truth than sensational speculation and unfounded innuendo we would find out answers much quicker. But the GOP is involved in displacement activity. Since the mid-terms of 2010 they have mostly given up legislating, saying government is already too big and that their idleness will contribute to its demise. Now they think they have found the perfect excuse to switch from not passing laws to what they do best, grandstanding. The problem is, it is so evidently partisan, self-serving busywork that few middle-ground voters are paying attention.
The latest Pew poll shows that all except the most avid Fox News gawpers are largely unmoved by Benghazi and that since the recent congressional hearings the numbers taking notice have actually decreased. Those who think the administration has been dishonest are Republicans; those who think it honest are Democrats. I'm shocked. Benghazi continues to be a bore to most people and the further into the weeds congressmen wade, the less likely they are to change voters' minds.
A CNN/ORC poll discovered a similar response to the IRS scandal. While 85 percent thought the subject important and 71 percent found the IRS agents' behavior unacceptable, 61 percent thought Obama had been honest in his account of the matter and 55 percent said the IRS was acting on its own.
Although 54 percent said they did not think Republicans were overreacting, 42 percent thought they were. Even the 37 percent who believe, without evidence, that the White House ordered the IRS to target conservative/libertarian groups is 8 points less than the 45 percent who disapprove in general of the way the president is handling his job. Even the choir doesn't seem to believe the preacher.
An overwhelming 87 percent of voters said the raid on the AP reporters' phone records was an important issue and 52 percent said they thought the Justice Department's action was unacceptable. That is not the whole story. The pollsters reminded respondents Justice was investigating who leaked anti-terrorism efforts, which is why, perhaps, a full 43 percent thought Justice's blundering approach was acceptable.
One Republican who thinks his party is overreaching is the Washington Post's tame conservative Charles Krauthammer, whose recent column opened with: "Note to GOP re Benghazi: Stop calling it Watergate, Iran-Contra, bigger than both, etc." because "overhyping will only diminish the importance of the scandal if it doesn't meet presidency-breaking standards," and "focusing on the political effects simply plays into the hands of Democrats desperately claiming that this is nothing but partisan politics." He then spoiled his argument by spending the next 700-odd words going round in Benghazi circles, but no matter.
I have suggested before that if Republicans are to be a governing party ready to take back the White House, rather than a protest movement destined for permanent opposition, they should concentrate on kitchen-table issues that mean something to the average American. Instead they hope against hope they have tapped a scandal that will topple the president. This is not Watergate, it is Whitewater, the festering accusation by opponents of Bill and Hillary Clinton that they had been up to mischief when investing in a housing development in Arkansas, back before he won the presidency twice. And well before Hillary looked a good bet to be the next president.
President Clinton considers one of his biggest mistakes was not whatever he got up to with Monica Lewinsky in the closet off the Oval Office but his appointment of a special prosecutor to clear his name in the Whitewater business who ended up snooping in the bedroom. That is why, whether it is the best course or not, Obama will not be appointing a special prosecutor to look into Benghazi, the IRS, or the Justice Department. Having seen his Democratic predecessor and the nation's government frozen in inaction through a long-running and vindictive partisan investigation, the president is not going to sacrifice his second term in the same way.
So, is all the Republican bluff, faux indignation and dramatic calling of hearings merely to taint Hillary Clinton's presidential chances in 2016? Maybe. Though it would be the first time many of them have stopped to think beyond the end of next week.
Yep, we should listen to liberal journalists, they are only looking out for the best interests of conservatives.
Boring, predictable read.
Predictable kneejerk reaction.
Even when the journalist's credentials are listed to include
the Times of London (a conservative leaning newspaper own by none other than Rupert Murdoch), you jump to the immediate conclusion he is a flaming liberal.
Note that he quotes Charles Krauthammer, who is about as right-leaning as political columnists come.
You may prefer Krauthammer's May 5th opinion piece to his more recent admonishment to the GOP not to overreach.
Here ya go:
http://www.dailynews.com/opinions/ci_23 … rack-obama
Charles Krauthammer is not a conservative, He is a Neo-con.
"Neoconservatism is also described as a faction of American conservatism that includes endorsement of political individualism, is critical of the so-called welfare state, applauds free markets and advocates "assertive" promotion of democracy, and American national interest in international affairs including by military means"
He is exactly what the American conservative is.
Then you are confused about what a conservative is.
I know, I know, conservatives with whom you disagree or who embarrass you are not "real conservatives." Krauthammer would probably be shocked to know he is not a conservative. Fox News would undoubtedly disagree with you, too.
I'm not concerned with fox news and Krouthammer is not a conservative, what I find most interesting is liberals who think they know what a conservative is or should be.
*Sigh* Neo-con was a term created by a socialist to describe the radicalization of conservatism, every Republican president since Reagan has been a Neo-con.
If that is what you believe then believe it., I'm no more interested in your definition than fox news definition.
IRS, AP, Fox New and now cell phone data scandals all show an erosion of Constitutionally protected speech. What scandal ever involved such a profound threat to free speech, free press and security in ones person? The final threads are coming unwound and we are finished as a free people.
Remember when Bush threw a guy in jail for not revealing his sources?
Bush, Bush - you mean that guy in Texas that does the mountain bike ride for wounded veterans every year? I thought the current occupant campaigned against such activity. Perhaps that no longer matters since he has only been in charge for 4 years. Bush must have been the most effective president in the history of America since leaving office he has had more impact than the whole time he was in office while Obama has had so little.
You mean the point that Bush was the most effective President in history? OR Do you mean the point that Obama is completely incompetent OR Do you mean that there is a concerted effort by Democrats in power to use the mechanisms of the State to suppress legitimate activities that oppose the Presidents policies?
Reminds me of Thomas Beckett - "Who shall rid me of this meddlesome priest"
Does that justify all of the Obama scandals?
I don't even think these are even scandals to be honest.
But the biggest one of all is that he has been photographed with his feet on his desk!
That's fair. There isn't a lot of evidence. We don't know if the president is or isn't hiding something with executive privilege. That leaves ineptitude. Our president doesn't know what is going on in his own administration.
That's right. Can't nail him on hiding sh@t.
So it must be ineptitude. Yeah, that is the only possible explanation.
In fact, the case for that obvious conclusion is being built (or I should say, rebuilt)
but the likes of superkev over in another forum.
Must have missed "the memo" EA.
Haven't you heard the "truth" du jour is actually a reversion back to August 2012.
Back to Obama is a stupid, D student who only got into Harvard Law because of affirmative action? Oh, and per rocket scientist college dropout himself Rush Limbaugh, got the worst grades in Harvard history...
See, this ineptitude thing is nothing new. He's been building up to it all during
his non-collegiate and non-working career. This is just the latest example.
Not even the biggest. Clearly, his high school and Columbia University grades are
what we should all be most concerned with.
You know honestly, if Fox News hadn't come up with a "scandal" every 10 minutes for the whole of Obama's presidency, maybe I would give a crap.
I don't. Most people I know don't either. Only the rabid right cares any more. The rest of us are so numb that Obama could set a Buddhist monk on fire and roast hot dogs over him and we'd yawn.
It's the law of diminishing returns... the more you paint someone as a demon, the less anyone cares what you are saying. We're tired of the noise... and the extremists have made us tired. Like the little boy who cried wolf, even if the concerns are real now... we still ain't running. We simply don't give a crap anymore.
The only people howling now are the ones who have not shut their mouths literally for the last 5 years.
That's not true.
There are a ton of people, among those who pay attention to politics I would say the majority of conservatives, who don't get worked up over every little thing that the conspiracy nuts come up with... but they got upset starting with Benghazi. I'm one of them.
I was upset over the events of Benghazi. However I could give a crap less about the scandal surrounding it. 90 percent of people will not remember the name of any of those who died, but will remember Gregory Hicks' name. It's pathetic.
I REALLY don't care about the IRS thing... not one iota. I also don't care about the media thing. I know absolutely no one in my real life that gives a crap. The biggest comment I've heard about it today is that the media should shut up about it and get to the news that matters. This doesn't.
The guy who Stevens had to phone three times before he bothered to pick it up..
Hmm, Chris Matthews seems to be howling?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_XCZqDO … n&NR=1
The only problem with Chris Matthews howling is he is completely insane and nobody cares what he has to say!
And yes, the tingles will return to his leg.
Have you seen Lawrence O'Donnell's perspective? Very interesting, he points out how the IRS changed a Congressional law in 1959 with no authority to do so!
http://www.youtube.com/results?search_q … rs+scandal
It seems to be getting more interesting concerning IRSgate!
Top IRS official will invoke 5th Amendment
WASHINGTON — A top IRS official in the division that reviews nonprofit groups will invoke the 5th Amendment and refuse to answer questions before a House committee investigating the agency’s improper screening of conservative nonprofit groups.
Lois Lerner, the head of the exempt organizations division of the IRS, won’t answer questions about what she knew about the improper screening — or why she didn’t disclose it to Congress, according to a letter from her defense lawyer, William W. Taylor III. Lerner was scheduled to appear before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday.
“She has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation but under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course,” said a letter by Taylor to committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Vista). The letter, sent Monday, was obtained Tuesday by the Los Angeles Times.
http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la … 5565.story
And these are the people that will be trusted with the nations healthcare?
I think the Bush Administration starting the Iraq war on false pretenses, literally misplacing billions of dollars in cash in Iraq, paying (bribing) journalists directly to issue administration talking points, and instituting torture as a standard feature of interrogation are each scandals that make the worst of the so-called Obama scandals look like jaywalking. But since the Republicans controlled congress and none of the "liberal" media channels stoops to the level of Fox, they were never investigated.
I might agree with you if congress had not voted on and approved the Iraq invasion. You almost had me until you said this
"none of the "liberal" media channels stoops to the level of Fox"
However bad fox may be they are far better than ABC,NBC,CBS,MSNBC and the New York Times.
A little proof (just a little) would be nice. Like proof that Bush knew there were no WMD's in Iraq at the time of the invasion. Or a paperwork and bank deposit trail of bribes to journalists. Maybe proof (as opposed to opinion) that waterboarding was generally considered torture at the time it took place.
Anyone can make any claims they wish - proof of those claims is generally a little harder to come by.
That's related to what I was saying...
I was so tired of the liberal crap and mud slinging during the Bush administration that I actually grew defensive and protective of him. And I thought he was the utmost example of the village idiot.
It became a matter of I don't like him, but all in all he's less annoying than the people who never shut up about him.
It's how I feel about Obama now. I don't like him, but if I had to choose between him and the idiots who won't shut up about him... He's got my support.
I'm pretty sure that everyone knew that waterboarding was torture.
Every member of the American military required to go through SERE training is waterboarded - wow how torturous. It may be scary but it isn't torture. Ask some survivors of Ude and Kuse's treatment of women for ideas about what really constitutes torture. Liberals are funny.
OK fine, everyone but Retief2000 knew it was torture.
Is the Geneva convention funny? Are violations of it funny? Did you know we prosecuted the Japanese after WW II for torture? http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co … 01170.html
I can only conclude you have no respect for the dignity of human beings, or you are completely ignorant of what torture is.
By transporting terrorists we are already in violation of the Geneva conventions. According to the Geneva Conventions on War they would have been subject to summary execution on the battlefield. Japanese soldiers would not have been - can you guess why?
Have you ever been waterboarded? I recommend you get a friend to do it to you.
People in training do it, for less than 15 seconds and only a few times, to the toughest guys in our whole country, we do only that because anymore than fifteen seconds can kill and any more than a few times can break a persons mind for good, the trauma they are subjected to but unable to stop just drives them insane, they end up gibbering idiots. Even perfectly executed repeated inducements will cause brain damage from oxygen starvation.
The Japanese in WWII pow camps used the most horrific torture methods you can imagine, they impaled people on bamboo shoots, had ants eat them slowly, skinned people alive, even ate captured soldiers but their go to method was waterboarding because it's the most effective of them. We executed dozens of Japanese torturers after WWII for water-boarding.
Hell even the Spanish inquisition the most brutal torturers in history. They were the ones who invented it.
The UN and the international courts have not only categorized it as torture they have condemned it as one of the worst forms of it because of it's deceptive nature and massive potential for psychological harm and death.
Cool, so we tortured Khalid Sheikh Mohamed and secured sufficient information to prevent the deaths of Americans? Would it have been more effective to blow him up with a drone? I am not too concerned about waterboarding men who would gladly saw off my sons head because he isn't Muslim. Too bad we are still using ineffective methods for ending the blight of fundamentalist, racist, fascist Islam on the world. Waterboarding is much less effective than neutron bombs.
I suppose it's true that there hasn't been an Iran-Contra or Watergate, yet. But did Reagan or Nixon have a kill list that allowed them to assassinate American citizens without judicial oversite? http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world … wanted=all
http://openchannel.nbcnews.com/_news/20 … icans?lite
We can say neither of them cared about civilian casualties either, so Obama is no worse than usual corrupt presidents on civilian deaths, which is a pretty low standard to begin with.
But I don't recall Reagan or Nixon invoking these sorts of powers for themselves. They probably did have these powers though, but without any sort of formal legal codification.
So Obama is just as corrupt as Nixon and Reagan.
I don't think the IRS scandal is a "scandal." http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/27/us/po … wanted=all
Staying true to form, shouldn't Obama be appointing a "Scandal Czar"?
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