May 21, 2013
No, this is not Watergate or Iran-Contra. Nor is it like the sex scandal that got Bill Clinton impeached.
The AP, IRS and Benghazi matters represent a scandal not of presidential wrongdoing, but of presidential indolence, indifference and incompetence in discharging the duties of chief executive.
The Barack Obama revealed to us in recent days is something rare in our history: a spectator president, clueless about what is going on in his own household, who reacts to revelations like some stunned bystander.
Consider. Because of a grave national security leak, President Obama’s Department of Justice seized two months of records from 20 telephones used by The Associated Press. An unprecedented seizure.
Yet the president was left completely in the dark. And though he rushed to defend the seizure, he claims he was uninvolved.
While the AP issue does not appear to have legs—we know what was done and why—it has badly damaged this president. For his own Justice Department treated the press, which has an exalted opinion of itself and its role, with the same contempt as the IRS treated the Tea Party.
The episode has damaged a crucial presidential asset. For this Washington press corps had provided this president with a protective coverage of his follies and failings unseen since the White House press of half a century ago covered up the prowlings of JFK.
The Benghazi issue is of far greater gravity. Still, Obama’s sins here as well seem to be those of omission, not commission.
The president was apparently completely in the dark about the urgent requests from Benghazi for more security. Obama was also apparently completely out of the loop during the seven-hour crisis of Sept. 11-12, when Ambassador Stevens was assassinated, calls for help from Benghazi were denied and two heroic ex-Navy SEALs died fighting to defend U.S. personnel from the roof of that CIA installation.
No one seems to know where Obama was that night.
The following week, as the State Department, CIA and National Security Council all worked the “talking points” to make it appear that this preplanned terrorist atrocity was a spontaneous event triggered by an anti-Islamic video, Obama knew nothing of the discussions.
Thus, almost a week after the massacre, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was put on six networks to move the line that we could not have better prepared for what would happen in Benghazi because it was all a spontaneous event triggered by a YouTube video.
Rice’s version was untrue, but consistent with Obama’s campaign message: “Bin Laden is dead, and al-Qaida is on the run.”
Yet if Rice’s credibility was crippled by what she was sent out to parrot, a week after she got the egg all over her face, Obama was himself peddling the same line at the United Nations. Obama, it seems, may have been the last man to know the cover story had collapsed.
As for the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party applications for tax-exempt status, this bureaucratic misconduct began as far back as 2010, when the Tea Party was a national sensation.