Republicans Attack Obama For Capturing Terrorist Involved In Benghazi Attack

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One of the major attacks on Obama from the right was that they never captured those responsible for Benghazi–never mind how many people responsible for embassy attacks under Reagan and Bush were never apprehended, or that it was Obama that got bin Laden years after Bush let him escape at Tora Bora. Now one of those responsible for Benghazi has been captured

You might think that even Republicans would find this to be reason to celebrate, but instead many did what the usually do and twist anything into a way to attack Obama.

Fox claims this was done to boost Hillary Clinton’s book tour and presidential prospects.

Allen West calls this “Orwellian message control” to distract the populace from other problems.

On talk radio Rush Limbaugh and Joe Walsh are among those who join Fox in questioning the timing.

Steve Benen, Bob Cesca, and Caitlin MacNeal have more conservative reaction.

I imagine next they will threaten impeachment because Obama didn’t inform Congress before he acted.

This should really come as no surprise. The conservative movement is packed with people who will do anything for political gain, regardless of how much it harms the country. Attacking Obama is now their number one goal, but it didn’t start with Obama. They played politics with the 9/11 attack, and used it to justify both the war in Iraq and infringements on civil liberties. More recently they have played politics with the deaths of Americans in Benghazi. These are also the people who have fought to hinder economic recovery after their policies crashed the economy, and caused a lowering of our credit rating while playing politics over the debt ceiling.

Harry Reid has responded to the Republican attacks:

It doesn’t matter what your ideology is, you should feel good about this. There’s no conspiracy here, this is actual news. But the reaction of some of the Republicans, I’ve been told, is to downplay and insult the brave men and women of our special forces and the FBI. They’re trying to say, oh, it’s no big deal. I wonder if the men and women who captured the terrorist agree. But the Republicans said it’s no big deal.

Even in these days of polarization, created by the obstruction, the delay, and diversion of the Republicans, even in these days of polarization, their reaction is shocking and disgusting. They’re so obsessed with criticism, criticizing anything President Obama does. They’ll go so far as to sit here and insult the men and women in uniform and in law enforcement. They should stop and think, just for a little bit, about what it’s like to put your life on the line and to do something for our country — that’s what they did. They’re insulting these good men and women who did some courageous things, heroic things, in order to criticize President Obama. I think they’ve lost touch with reality; it’s really pathetic, there’s no other word for it.

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Not Ready To Settle For Hillary

Not Ready Hillary

Tim Kaine is getting some publicity for saying he is ready for Hillary. I wonder if it is an early application for the vice presidential spot.

I’m not ready for Hillary, first because we have a major election coming up this November. Democrats need to concentrate on that, not 2016.

I’m also not ready to settle for Hillary. Sure, her nomination looks inevitable, but 2016 is still a long time away. She is unlikely to make the same mistakes which allowed Obama to beat her in 2008, but there is the possibility that she will make new mistakes. At the moment there doesn’t seem anyone credible to challenge her, but new Democratic leaders just might emerge while campaigning this fall. While the attacks are pure partisan nonsense, it is also possible that the Republican witch hunt on Benghazi might make her decide it just isn’t worth it to run.

I’m still hoping that the Democrats could do better and find a candidate who stands for something beyond inevitability and being the first woman president. If we want a woman candidate, I’d certainly consider Elizabeth Warren before Hillary Clinton. I’d have to take a closer look before endorsing her (and that would be premature to consider when she denies plans to run). She has received favorable publicity for a variety of reasons. Perhaps what interests me the most about her is that she once said “I was a Republican because I thought that those were the people who best supported markets.” She now is a Democrat because of realizing that is not true. It is impossible to truly be a supporter of a free market economy and vote for Republicans, whose agenda is to destroy the market economy, along with the middle class, in order to transfer the nation’s wealth to a tiny plutocracy.

At very least, can’t the Democrats come up with a candidate who wasn’t a cheerleader for the Iraq war, one of the biggest mistakes in our history?

There is no doubt, considering how extreme the Republican Party is, and how disastrous their policies are for individual liberty, economic prosperity, and our national security, that if Hillary is the candidate I will hold my nose and vote for her as the clear lesser evil. On the other hand, amusing that Republican defeat is otherwise assured, should our two party system only give us a choice between a Clinton and a Bush, I just might take a look at the Green Party.

Update: Rand Paul Could Shake Up An Election Against Hillary Clinton

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Republican Benghazi Truthers Go Wild In Preparation For Midterm Elections

What do the Republicans do when the Affordable Care Act is exceeding expectations, their latest  lies have been exposed, and there are no real scandals for them to attack with? Benghazi. Sure it has been investigated over and over again with nothing coming up, but that doesn’t matter. Politics, especially in a year with a midterm election, is all about firing up the base to get out to vote, and we know the Republican base doesn’t care about facts. They have a new email which adds nothing new to the story, but that is apparently enough for John Boehner to call for yet another investigation. Or as Paul Waldman put it, The GOP hunt for a Watergate-scale scandal continues (even though there is nothing there).

David Weigel reported on the “shocking” news that the email showed that the White House agreed with the CIA talking points.

But it’s just lazy journalism or lazy politicking to blame Rhodes for a talking point that was fed from the CIA. The White House’s shifty-sounding excuse, that the “demonstration” story line came not from its spin factory but from the CIA, remains surprisingly accurate. (And I mean really lazy. It does not take very much time to compare the new Rhodes email to the previously known timeline of emails.)

From there Weigel presented a time line which you might want to go through to help put all this nonsense into perspective.

Peter Weber at The Week tried to find an actual crime which the Republicans might be accusing Obama of:

If the crime is that the Obama administration, two months before a presidential election, was concerned with putting the best face on the attack, Team Obama is probably guilty. But the emails do not suggest that the administration lied to the American public, let alone orchestrated a vast cover-up of some massive intelligence or policy failure.

Maybe they need a new committee to investigate as Darrel Issa’s witch hunt is falling apart.

If Congress really wants to investigate preventable deaths of Americans, they can look at how George Bush ignored intelligence briefings warning about the 9/11 attack, and then responded by sending more Americans to their death in the Iraq war based upon lies. Rather than dwelling further on Susan Rice, they might look at how Condoleezza Rice lied when she denied receiving the anti-terrorist strategy from the Clinton administration. They could look at previous embassy attacks under Republican presidents, including the over 320 Americans who died in embassy attacks under Ronald Reagan or question why Republicans cut funding for embassy security.

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Democratic Strategy For 2014: Get Out The Vote But Don’t Ignore The Message

This should be a bad year for Democrats if we go by historical trends. The party holding the presidency typically loses Congressional seats in their sixth year. It makes matters worse when their are economic problems, even if many people do realize that they are primarily due to a combination of problems created by the Bush administration and problems perpetuated by Republican actions to hinder economic recovery in Congress.

Making matters worse, the Democrats have to defend Senate seats in red states, including states where incumbent Democrats are not running for reelection. Democrats do worse in off year elections, when young voters and minorities are less likely to vote compared to presidential elections. Republicans also have a huge advantage in a system where small Republican states receive as many Senators as far larger Democratic states. Their advantage extends to the house. Between gerrymandering and the higher concentration of Democrats in cities. Republican will still control Congress unless Democrats receive about seven percent more votes.

On top of this, Republicans see voter suppression as a valid electoral strategy.

Democrats did much better in 2008 and 2012 than in 2010. They also expect to do much better in 2016, including picking up several Senate seats due to the playing field being reversed with Republicans being forced to defend Senate seats in blue states. The Democrats see the solution as making 2014 more like 2012. Their strategy:

The Democrats’ plan to hold on to their narrow Senate majority goes by the name “Bannock Street project.” It runs through 10 states, includes a $60 million investment and requires more than 4,000 paid staff members. And the effort will need all of that — and perhaps more — to achieve its goal, which is nothing short of changing the character of the electorate in a midterm cycle.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is preparing its largest and most data-driven ground game yet, relying on an aggressive combination of voter registration, get-out-the-vote and persuasion efforts.

They hope to make the 2014 midterm election more closely resemble a presidential election year, when more traditional Democratic constituencies — single women, minorities and young voters — turn out to vote in higher numbers, said Guy Cecil, the committee’s executive director.

A campaign based upon getting out the vote isn’t terribly exciting, but it is a realization that this is how elections are won in this polarized era. There aren’t very many swing voters, but there can be huge differences between which party does better in getting their supporters out to vote.

Besides, a high tech get out the vote campaign and an old fashioned campaign to try to sway voters are not mutually exclusive. I do hope that the Democrats also think about better ways to get out their message as the Republicans often win by doing a better job here. Sure the Republican message is pure lies, claiming to be the party of small government while supporting increased government intrusion in the lives of individuals, and primarily using big government to redistribute wealth to the top one tenth of one percent.

Democrats need a coherent message, but they often fail because they are afraid of alienating some voters by saying what they believe in. I suspect that this cowardice turns off even more voters, along with reducing the motivation of their supporters to turn out. Once again, a campaign based upon promoting ideas and one based upon voter turnout are not mutually exclusive. They can be complimentary.

Rather than shying away from social issues, Democrats need to campaign as the party which supports keeping government out of our personal lives and out of the bedroom.

Rather than running away from the Affordable Car e Act, Democrats need to stress its benefits. Beyond all the millions who are assisted by the ability to obtain affordable health coverage, there are the two million people who are freed from the “insurance trap” which forces them to work in jobs they do not otherwise want or need in order to obtain health insurance. As the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has shown, the Affordable Care Act will help reduce unemployment, decease the deficit, and strengthen the economy. Besides, we saw what happened to the Democrats when they tried running away from Obamacare in 2010.

In recent years Democrats have taken national security away from Republicans as an issue. If the Republicans want to run on their debunked conspiracy theories about Benghazi, it might be time for Democrats to remind voters of the very real failings of Republicans on 9/11, from ignoring warnings before the attack to invading the wrong country in retaliation. We saw how that turned out. It is also time for Democrats to take additional issues from the Republicans.

Challenge voters who support Republicans based upon misinformation. If they are concerned about the deficit, point out how much the deficit has dropped under Obama (as it previously dropped under Bill Clinton). Repeatedly we see polls in which voters support liberal positions but identify themselves as conservatives. They say the oppose Obamacare but also support most of the individual components of the Affordable Care Act. The only way to fight the misinformation spread by Fox is for Democrats to clearly say what they believe in and defend their positions.

Democrats are planning to run on income inequality. That is fine, but they better make sure that they make it clear that the reason is that the extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of the top one tenth of one percent is a major cause of crippling the economy and keeping down the middle class. Failure to make this connection just plays into Republican memes.

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The Surprising Lack Of Scandals In The Obama Administration

The recent scandals released about Chris Christie remind us of how often we expect to find scandals in government. Power does corrupt. We have become so accustomed to scandals at the top levels of government that it almost comes as a surprise that the Obama administration has been so free of scandal. Some observers almost take it for granted that a scandal must happen sooner or later. For example, back in 2011 Brendan Nyhan described this as an aberration, waiting for an inevitable scandal to occur:

Obama has been extremely fortunate: My research (PDF) on presidential scandals shows that few presidents avoid scandal for as long as he has. In the 1977-2008 period, the longest that a president has gone without having a scandal featured in a front-page Washington Post article is 34 months – the period between when President Bush took office in January 2001 and the Valerie Plame scandal in October 2003. Obama has already made it almost as long despite the lack of a comparable event to the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Of course when speaking of the Obama administration as being free of scandal, I am speaking of real world facts, not the fantasy world of Fox and the right wing noise machine. They have invented plenty of scandals, but in every case their claims were contradicted by the facts. Just this week we had the Senate Intelligence Committee report which debunked the Republican conspiracy theories regarding Benghazi.

When Paul Waldman wrote about how the Republican claims about Solyndra didn’t hold up, he entitled his post Obama Administration Oddly Scandal-Free, again suggesting how the presence of scandals has become what is expected. Paul Waldman recently reviewed this topic again in a post entitled The Scandalous Lack of Obama Administration Scandals. (Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan, who also provides many of the earlier links in this post). He set up these reasonable conditions for what constitutes a scandal:

So let’s take a look back and see what happened to all these affairs that never turned out to be the scandals conservatives hoped they would be. Just to be clear, when I use the word “scandalous” in this list, I don’t mean “bad.” When you say, for instance, that there has been little evidence of anything scandalous occurring in Benghazi, conservatives often reply, “Four people died!” Indeed they did, and that was terribly tragic, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a scandal. Two hundred and forty-one Americans died in the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Lebanon, but it wouldn’t be accurate to call that a “Reagan administration scandal,” because while there were some bad decisions made with awful results, there wasn’t any criminality or corruption or cover-up, the things we usually associate with scandals.

To make a truly meaningful administration scandal, you need two things. First, there has to be some kind of criminal or morally atrocious behavior somewhere, which we can put under the general heading of “malfeasance.” People doing their jobs poorly isn’t enough to make it a scandal. Second, you need the involvement of highly-placed administration officials. Only an affair with both features is a scandal. If a ranger at Denali National Park in Alaska is found to be running a moose-based prostitution ring, that’s only an administration scandal if people high up in the administration knew about it.

Waldman looked at all those scandals which truly dishonest politicians such as Darrel Issa are wasting tax-payers money with faux investigations on. (I am linking to this in case anyone doubts that this attitude really comes from the Republican Party, and not just the clowns in the right wing media who are making these bogus claims.) Waldman looked at Solyndra, Fast and Furious, Benghazi, the IRS, and aggressive leak investigations. In each case, the conservative claims have not held up. He concluded:

So what can we conclude from all this? There are three possible explanations for the lack of a major scandal in the Obama administration. The first is that something truly horrific has gone on, but as of yet it hasn’t been discovered. The second is that the scandals we know about haven’t been fully investigated, and will eventually yield more wrongdoing than we currently understand. And the third is that the administration has not, in fact, committed any horrible crimes. Which seems most likely?

That isn’t to say that they haven’t made plenty of mistakes, because they have. And there are three years left in Obama’s term, so you never know—maybe someone will discover that he’s having an affair with Jennifer Lawrence, or that Valerie Jarrett is a mole for the Yakuza, or that those FEMA concentration camps are real. But there’s also the chance that he’ll end his term without any major scandal, which would be quite something.

A final note: The question of whether we should think of NSA spying as a scandal in these terms is a complicated one that I’m going to have to leave for another day.

And he didn’t even mention the widely held conservative belief of a conspiracy to pass off a foreign-born Muslim Socialist as an American citizen.  Claims of an affair with Jennifer Lawrence from the right are not that far-fetched in light of this. As for NSA spying, I think this falls in the category of policies we disagree with, but not a political scandal.

Regarding the lack of scandal in the Obama administration, the simple explanation might be what Andrew Sullivan previously suggested–that he is not corrupt. I suspect that the explanation might also come down to a difference in how different people see government and where they have come from. Scandals may have become more prevalent in Republican administrations because many on the right oppose the American system of government and do not see it as a force which can be used for good. To them, government is evil and they see nothing wrong for using it for their own ends when in power. In contrast Obama sees the actual functions of government as something worthy of pursuing as an end in itself. Many top government leaders come from positions of wealth and power and seek to increase this as much as possible. Even top positions in government are not necessarily enough for their lust for power. For a former community organizer and someone who not long ago was no more powerful than a member of the Illinois State Senate, the presidency is enough.

This is all quite frustrating for those on the right who seek to attack Obama as corrupt, forcing them to make up a long list of fallacious attacks.

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Hillary Clinton Might Win Nomination Without Opposition–Unless Brian Schweitzer Counts

After looking at bad news for the presumed front runners for the 2016 presidential nominations, and criticism of Hillary Clinton’s conservative record, the speculation today is that Hillary Clinton might still take the nomination with no real opposition. This speculation was precipitated by an announcement that California Governor Jerry Brown will not run. A few years ago, who would have even thought that this would be news? The response from First Read:

Here’s something for political reporters and pundits to chew on: It’s more likely that Hillary Clinton would face only gadfly opposition in a 2016 Democratic primary (we’re looking at you, Dennis Kucinich) — rather than a competitive challenger. California Gov. Jerry Brown has become the latest Democrat to rule out a presidential bid. The Los Angeles Times: “Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday that he will not run for president in 2016, dashing political speculation that he might make a fourth bid for the White House. ‘No, that’s not in the cards. Unfortunately,’ he told reporters at a news conference before brightening about his current job: ‘Actually, California is a lot more governable.’” Already, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has said no. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he won’t run if Hillary does. And while former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer is certainly dipping his toes into the presidential waters, he did the same thing regarding the state’s vacant Senate seat — and remember how that turned out. American politics is full of surprises. But right now, the smart money is on Hillary facing little to no opposition if she runs in 2016.

It is hard to see Brian Schweitzer making a credible challenge to Hillary Clinton, but who would have thought Barack Obama could have won at this point before the 2008 election? I do wonder if Schweitzer is actually positioning himself for a future run, or perhaps as Hillary Clinton’s running mate. His is from a profile of Schweitzer at MSNBC:

It could be that Schweitzer is really aiming his sights for the vice presidency. He pulls his punches ever so slightly when talking about Clinton, Obama’s former secretary of state. When asked about Benghazi, he leaps to her defense.

“The Republicans like to blame her for four people killed in the embassy and that’s tragic,” he told msnbc. “But did the Republicans forget already that during the time I was in Saudi Arabia there was a big explosion in a hotel in Beirut, Lebanon, and 160 American Marines were killed? 160’s a lot more than four, right?”

In fact, 220 Marines and 241 American personnel total were killed in the 1983 bombing. Which brings up another issue for Schweitzer: he doesn’t have much of a filter. In a presidential campaign, even the slightest gaffe can explode into a firestorm.

Ultimately, Schweitzer’s biggest impact on the 2016 presidential contest could be pressuring the centrist, cautious Clinton to stay in the left lane.

It is one thing for Schweitzer to defend Clinton on Benghazi considering the absurdity of the Republican attack, but he has also been critical in other areas, with an aim at keeping her from moving “hard right.”

“The question that we have is, will it be the Hillary that leads the progressives?” he said. “Or is it the Hillary that says, ‘I’m already going to win the Democratic nomination, and so I can shift hard right on Day 1.’ We can’t afford any more hard right. We had eight years of George Bush. Now we’ve had five years of Obama, [who], I would argue, in many cases has been a corporatist.”

Schweitzer has also criticized Clinton for her vote on Iraq, a position which should gain points (if not enough votes to win) from Democratic voters:

“Anybody who runs in this cycle, whether they are Democrats or Republicans, if they were the United States Senate and they voted with
George Bush to go to Iraq when I would say about 98 percent of America knows that it was a folly, that it was a waste of treasure and blood,
and if they voted to go to Iraq there will be questions for them on the left and from the right,” he told CNN.

Later, in his remarks to a holiday party organized by the liberal group Progress Iowa, Schweitzer asked the roughly 70 audience members
to keep the Iraq war vote in mind as they begin to think about potential candidates passing through the state.

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The Obama Scandals, A Look Back At The Fiction

Jonathan Chait looks back on those days not very long ago when the media was obsessed by scandals involving the Obama administration now that the claims of scandal have been debunked.

Do you remember how all-consuming the “Obama scandals” once were? This was a turn of events so dramatic it defined Obama’s entire second term — he was “waylaid by controversies,” or at least “seriously off track,” “beset by scandals,” enduring a “second-term curse,” the prospect of “endless scandals,” Republicans “beginning to write his legislative obituary,” and Washington had “turned on Obama.” A ritualistic media grilling of Jay Carney, featuring the ritualistic comparisons of him to Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler, sanctified the impression of guilt.

After providing evidence as to why the IRS scandal was not a true scandal involving Obama, Chait resumed:

Why did we think the agency was targeting only conservatives? Because apparently Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, ordered the agency to audit its treatment of tea-party groups, and only tea-party groups. The IRS dutifully reported it was indeed targeting tea-party groups; everybody assumed it was doing no such thing to liberal groups. The IRS inspector general is defending its probe, but the IRS’s flagging of conservative groups seems, at worst, to be marginally stricter than its flagging of liberal groups, not the one-sided political witch hunt potrayed by early reports.

What about the rest of the scandals? Well, there aren’t any, and there never were. Benghazi is a case of a bunch of confused agencies caught up in a fast-moving story trying to coordinate talking points. The ever-shifting third leg of the Obama scandal trifecta — Obama’s prosecution of leaks, or use of the National Security Agency — is not a scandal at all. It’s a policy controversy. One can argue that Obama’s policy stance is wrong, or dangerous, or a threat to democracy. But when the president is carrying out duly passed laws and acting at every stage with judicial approval, then the issue is the laws themselves, not misconduct.

The whole Obama scandal episode is a classic creation of a “narrative” — the stitching together of unrelated data points into a story. What actually happened is this: House Republicans passed a twisted account of a hearing to ABC’s Jonathan Karl, who misleadingly claimed to have seen it, creating the impression that the administration was caught in a major lie. Then the IRS story broke, which we now see was Republicans demanding a one-sided audit and thus producing the impression of one-sided treatment. In that context, legitimate controversies over Obama’s civil-rights policies became the “three Obama scandals,” exposing a government panopticon, if not a Nixonian administration bent on revenge.

The collapse of the Benghazi story happened very quickly, when Jake Tapper’s reporting found that Karl had peddled a bogus story. (It’s notable that the only misconduct in both the Benghazi and the IRS stories was committed by House Republicans.) But the scandal cloud lingered through the still-extant IRS scandal, which in turn lent the scandal odor to the civil-liberties dispute. Now that the IRS scandal has turned into a Darrell Issa scandal, we’re left with … an important dispute over domestic surveillance, which has nothing to do with scandal at all. The entire scandal narrative was an illusion.

The biggest scandals here are that Republicans are misusing their positions to fabricate scandals, including hiding testimony from the American people which doesn’t support their false narrative.

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Claims of Anti-Tea Party Conspiracy Fall Apart With Revelations That IRS Also Targeted Progressive Groups

After the disclosure that the IRS had been placing Tea Party groups under extra scrutiny for tax breaks, Republicans thought they had a real scandal. When the facts didn’t support their claims, they tried everything from fabricating fake facts to hiding the actual facts which came out in Congressional testimony. Their claims of a conspiracy orchestrated by the Obama White House took another blow when Bloomberg reported that the IRS was similarly taking a closer look at progressive organizations:

The Internal Revenue Service used terms such as “progressive” and evidence of advocacy on Israel to flag groups’ tax-exempt applications for extra attention, complicating what had been seen as targeted scrutiny for small-government groups.

The IRS’s disclosure yesterday of 15 redacted versions of its Be On the Lookout document, or BOLO, bolstered its contention that delays experienced by Tea Party groups applying for nonprofit status were a symptom of mismanagement and not politically motivated action.

As other evidence has also demonstrated, low-level career bureaucrats were taking shortcuts, faced with interpreting poorly written laws which determine tax-exemption based upon whether an organization’s activity are primarily political. While it is necessary to treat all groups equally, it comes as no surprise that IRS agents suspected that organizations with words including Tea Party and Patriot might be primarily engaged in political activity without any direction from the White House.

First Read put this and another faux scandal in perspective:

IRS controversy loses its punch? In the past week, we’ve seen two revelations that have taken some of the punch out of the IRS controversy. First, per the testimony of a self-described conservative Republican IRS frontline manager in Cincinnati, the employee had no reason to believe the Obama White House played any role in seeming to target conservative-sounding groups, confirming the inspector general’s conclusion. Then yesterday, we discovered the IRS “used terms such as ‘progressive’ and evidence of advocacy on Israel to flag groups’ tax-exempt applications for extra attention, complicating what had been seen as targeted scrutiny for small-government groups,” Bloomberg News writes. “The IRS’s disclosure yesterday of 15 redacted versions of its Be On the Lookout document, or BOLO, bolstered its contention that delays experienced by Tea Party groups applying for nonprofit status were a symptom of mismanagement and not politically motivated action.” Bottom line: The IRS controversy/scandal looks much more like an agency controversy/scandal (where wrongdoing was committed by bureaucrats) than a full-blown political controversy/scandal (where it goes all the way to the top). And in retrospect, that also applies to those Benghazi talking points.

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Republican Hysteria Over Pseudo-Scandals Prevents Consideration Of Real Problems

Scandals cartoon

One consequence of a dysfunctional opposition party which is more concerned with scoring political points than the good of the country is that we have a combination of attacks over fabricated scandals while ignoring real problems. The Republicans have concentrated on Benghazi, even resorting to distorting evidence, and the IRS, which looks far more like low level bureaucrats taking short cuts than any Nixonian abuse of power coming from the White House, despite the Republican attempts to move the goal posts.

One problem with trying to turn real problems into a political scandal is that the actual problems are not addressed. We need to look at issues such as how organizations are evaluated for favorable tax status and how foreign embassies are defended, not twist the facts to blame Obama. Strangely, conservatives who speak out (sometimes correctly) about the size of our bureaucracy fail to understand that the president does not personally make every decision. Republicans who ignored actual abuses of power under George Bush see everything which might go wrong as evidence of evil intent on the part of the current president.

There is a report today which provides hope that some Republican staffers, at least, are looking at trying to learn from the Benghazi attack:

The inquiry led by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee into the slaying of four Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last year has been attention-grabbing, but some senior GOP aides are worried that the partisan overtones are diverting Congress from identifying and addressing the real lessons learned from the attack.

In particular, these aides say key staffers have been overly consumed with chasing down or addressing inaccurate or unfounded accusations emerging from the inquiry.

“We have got to get past that and figure out what are we going to do going forward,” a GOP aide stressed. “Some of the accusations, I mean you wouldn’t believe some of this stuff. It’s just — I mean, you’ve got to be on Mars to come up with some of this stuff.”

In this charged political environment, where some on Capitol Hill have accused the president of a possible cover-up related to the attack just weeks before the 2012 presidential election, defense policy Republicans are trying to refocus attention on core issues and create some good out of the tragedy.

Hopeful, but I fear that the Republicans will still prefer to mislead their base in order to motivate them to turn out and contribute money as opposed to turning to reality-based governing.

One sign of business as usual among Republicans is that Darryl Issa, who pursues his job with the vigor and lack of integrity of Joseph McCarthy, is now attacking IRS inspector general J. Russell George.

Another problem is that real questions involving civil liberties are ignored, primarily as the Republicans would support greater violations. The Obama administration’s actions towards the AP raises First Amendment concerns even if this was done within the law and there are extenuating factors which also must be considered.While conservatives are generally only concerned with abuses which target conservatives, and which often only exist in their imagination, liberals have been non-partisan regarding both the IRS and the media. Liberals were no less likely to be concerned in principle that the target was from Fox with the naming of a  correspondent as a possible “co-conspirator” in an investigation of a news leak . The New York Times concluded their editorial on the matter by writing:

Obama administration officials often talk about the balance between protecting secrets and protecting the constitutional rights of a free press. Accusing a reporter of being a “co-conspirator,” on top of other zealous and secretive investigations, shows a heavy tilt toward secrecy and insufficient concern about a free press.

Along with excessive secrecy, in contrast to campaign promises to have the most open and transparent government in history, the use of drone strikes has led to much of the criticism of Obama from the left. There is some good news on this today, also from The New York Times:

President Obama embraced drone strikes in his first term, and the targeted killing of suspected terrorists has come to define his presidency.

But lost in the contentious debate over the legality, morality and effectiveness of a novel weapon is the fact that the number of strikes has actually been in decline. Strikes in Pakistan peaked in 2010 and have fallen sharply since then; their pace in Yemen has slowed to half of last year’s rate; and no strike has been reported in Somalia for more than a year.

We cannot rely on Congressional over-site as the Republicans would be more likely to promote greater use of drones and show far less concern over issues of either legality or morality. There have been mixed signs that the Obama administration has been moving towards establishing greater consideration of institutionalizing changes in warfare with development of due process and ideally judicial over-site. Hopefully this reduction in the use of drones indicates a greater consideration of the consequences of this policy.

 

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Only Republican Base Believes GOP Noise On The Pseudo-Scandals

Despite all the Republican noise about Watergate-style scandals, most Americans are not being fooled. A CNN poll found President Obama’s approval at 53 percent, up from 51 percent in April (which is within the margin or error). Greg Sargent summarized how the internals of the poll find that only Republicans are falling for this:

* The IRS scandal: Among overall Americans, 61 percent say what Obama has said about the matter is mostly or completely true, versus only 35 percent who say it’s mostly or completely false. Among Republicans, 68 percent say what Obama has claimed is false, and among conservatives, 56 percent say this.But independents believe what Obama has said is true by 58-36, and moderates believe this by 71-25.

Meanwhile, among overall Americans, 55 percent say the IRS acted on its own in targeting conservative groups, while only 37 percent say the White House ordered it.  Among Republicans, 62 percent say the White House ordered it, and among conservatives, 54 percent believe this.But independents believe the IRS acted on its own by 53-36, and moderates believe this by 65-29.

* The Benghazi story: Among overall Americans, 50 percent believe early statements about the attacks by Obama officials reflected what the administration believed at the time, while 44 percent believe they intentionally misled. Among Republicans, 76 percent believe they intentionally misled, and among conservatives, 65 percent believe this. But moderates believe the statements reflected the administration’s beliefs by 60-35. (Among independents this isn’t as pronounced, but still, a plurality sides with the White House, 47-44.)

As long as Democrats and independents are not being fooled by Republican noise the Democrats should not have any serious political problems from these pseudo-scandals. However, the Republicans might receive some benefit from deceiving their base as this could increase turnout and contributions from the right.

Republicans are also attempting a strange shifting of the goal posts in trying to define whether there is a Wategate-style coverup. Republicans who abused power, such as Ricard Nixon and George W. Bush, would have the IRS investigate and harass political enemies. In the situation currently under investigation, lower-level IRS agents appear to be at fault, with those higher up conducting an investigation when the improper treatment of right wing organizations was uncovered. This is how the system should have worked, but Republicans are trying to twist things into claiming that knowledge of the probe by the Treasury Department or anyone in the White House suggests a coverup. It would have been a coverup if the White House had tried to hinder an investigation, but knowledge of the investigation and allowing it to proceed demonstrates nothing wrong.

Steve Benen points out an amusing twist to all of this. The White House (but initially not Barack Obama) became aware of the investigation in April, 2013.  However, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) was informed back in July 2012.  Should Democrats be accusing Issa of a coverup?

There were certainly mistakes made at lower levels, but there has been absolutely no evidence of either abuse of power or a coverup in the Obama administration. The only recent president who might be compared to Richard Nixon and Watergate was George W. Bush, not Barack Obama.

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