Also published on THE POLICY THINK SITE




Analysis & Opinion by Jay B Gaskill

Scandals often converge like weather systems. At least three scandals are doing that right now to the Obama presidency, and their potential effect on Mr. Obama’s leadership and legacy has democrats losing sleep.

There will be storm damage, to be sure, but all the key buildings will still be standing this time next year.  Sadly, so will be all the critical, unresolved problems facing the nation. Will we even have a president then, worthy of the title?


On the anniversary of nine eleven, in the heat of the 2012 presidential election, the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked by organized Islamic jihadists using rocket propelled grenade launchers. Our ambassador, J Christopher Stevens, was seized, brutalized and murdered; two brave American defenders were killed, among others.  Calls for help were refused. Advance warnings were ignored.

Then administration officials floated a series of false stories, all in the “spontaneous demonstration”, “this was very tragic, but no help was possible” vein.

It is to be noted that an embassy grounds are American territory, and attacks on them are normally taken with the utmost seriousness. Only seven US ambassadors have been murdered in the line of duty. With the exception of the US Iranian ambassador under Jimmie Carter, Benghazi was the only other instance of the murder of an American diplomat during a direct attack on embassy or consulate grounds. The Benghazi consulate was a branch of the American embassy in Libya and enjoyed the same territorial status as the main embassy.

The Obama political firewall held until after the election.  Finally, the whole charade, as captured in the following summary of excuses and lies, has begun to unravel.

  • Security lapses in the State Department by an overworked Secretary of State (Mrs. Clinton who graciously said that, “The buck stops with me”), and in the White House (where the attitude remains “Buck, what buck?”), collided with the official “never criticize a Muslim” narrative.
  • This collision of spin and reality on the ground spawned murders, lies, and videotape…and patently silly excuses like “YouTube made them do it” and “we knew it was terrorism from the beginning” and “help was refused because it was (a) too risky, (b) too disruptive, (c) too late after we hesitated long enough, and (d) anyway, what does it matter now?” That last observation belongs to Secretary Clinton.
  • …And not a word as to why we are having this belated national discussion now, rather than in 2012, during the election.

Wait? The last question answers itself.


A Cancer in the Bureaucracy

From 2010 forward, Internal Revenue officials singled out Obama’s ideological and political opponents, Tea Party, Patriot Groups and other conservative and/or libertarian organizations, for harassment.

When the mischief was exposed this week, an axe fell on the IRS head, a man who, like the president, professed ignorance as a defense. But this bureaucrat was asked to depart six months earlier than he had planned.

Note that our president expressed outrage only that the IRS was the agency at fault (pointing out that its credibility is essential for revenue collection).

Mr. Obama pointedly ignores other similar harassments from agencies like the Labor Department and the EEOC [Ask health product business leader Frank Vandersloot[i] about the smears and audits he has endured, not just from the IRS.]

Mr. Obama’s anger at the IRS seemed only partly genuine, leaving me with the strong impression he was teed off mostly at being made to look bad.


The AP chief went ballistic this month when it was revealed that the feds had seized private phone records. “In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown, but more than 100 journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.” { } The stated reason was a leak probe relating to a story about how the administration had foiled a terror plot.

AP said the government would not say why it sought the records but it is likely the seizure was related to a May 7, 2012 article about a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an al-Qaida plot to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the US.”


I note that the Obama administration quickly went public with the news of its successful anti-terror OP, having persuaded the AP to delay its story until the administration did so.


Both liberal and conservative writers are doing the compare and contrast exercise.

May 17, 2013

It is Nixon Week at the White House

By Derrick Z. Jackson

“Did people in the IRS believe that the Oval Office in some way granted them the authority to target conservative tax-exempt groups? Why did Holder’s deputy, James M. Cole, grant investigators authority to raid the Associated Press?

“Obama and Holder must stop this before this Oval Office is stained forever. In fretting about the Tea Party and leaks to the press, the Obama who promised us unprecedented transparency is rendering an unprecedented display of paranoia and abridgement of freedom.”

Derrick Z. Jackson is a columnist for the Boston Globe.

Read more:

President Nixon was nearly impeached, having resigned before the House could vote on the matter back in 1974. What was different about Nixon’s abuses? …Very little, actually.  Abuse of power in order to cling to power was common to both presidencies. Nixon may or may not have authorized the Watergate break-in, but he lied and tried to cover it up.  He had an ideological enemies list and used the IRS as a political tool.

But, in Nixon’s case, the media of the day were predisposed to run with the issue of power abuse, building opinion to a crescendo of outrage.  And, in Nixon’s case, key members of his own staff, including cabinet officers, had a sense of honor and patriotism that transcended party politics.

Recall all of the resignations in 1974: On April 30, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst resigned. Then White House counsel John Dean was fired. Following that, Attorney General-designate Elliot Richardson appointed solicitor general Archibald Cox as the special prosecutor for Watergate. On October 20, Nixon fired Archibald Cox and abolished the special prosecutor. Then Attorney General Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus resigned.  Impeachment proceedings followed.

All of the officials who refused to impede justice and were fired or resigned were fellow republicans. In Mr. Obama’s case, one can argue on each side of the question which pattern of misconduct – if proved – was or would be worse.  But it will never come to that because the current Attorney General is a political operative, lacking (in my opinion) the sense of integrity, honor and patriotism of an Elliot Richardson or William Ruckelhaus.

There are other differences, of course. In 1974, Nixon’s job approval ratingwas in the 20’s while, today, Mr. Obama’s is in the 40’s.  Richard Nixon was never very likable, while general likability remains one of Obama’s strengths.

But a second term electorate is fickle.  In 1973, for example, Mr. Nixon’s job approval rating in early 1973 was still well over 50%, but dropped catastrophically when the implications of the Watergate break-in became evident.

This Is No Ordinary Scandal

Political abuse of the IRS threatens the basic integrity of our government.

By Peggy Noonan in the WSJ

We are in the midst of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate. The reputation of the Obama White House has, among conservatives, gone from sketchy to sinister, and, among liberals, from unsatisfying to dangerous. No one likes what they’re seeing. The Justice Department assault on the Associated Press and the ugly politicization of the Internal Revenue Service have left the administration’s credibility deeply, probably irretrievably damaged. They don’t look jerky now, they look dirty. The patina of high-mindedness the president enjoyed is gone.

“Something big has shifted. The standing of the administration has changed.

“As always it comes down to trust. Do you trust the president’s answers when he’s pressed on an uncomfortable story? Do you trust his people to be sober and fair-minded as they go about their work? Do you trust the IRS and the Justice Department? You do not.

The president, as usual, acts as if all of this is totally unconnected to him. He’s shocked, it’s unacceptable, he’ll get to the bottom of it. He read about it in the papers, just like you.

“But he is not unconnected, he is not a bystander. This is his administration. Those are his executive agencies. He runs the IRS and the Justice Department.

A president sets a mood, a tone. He establishes an atmosphere. If he is arrogant, arrogance spreads. If he is too partisan, too disrespecting of political adversaries, that spreads too. Presidents always undo themselves and then blame it on the third guy in the last row in the sleepy agency across town.


What happened at the IRS is the government’s essential business. The IRS case deserves and calls out for an independent counsel, fully armed with all that position’s powers. Only then will stables that badly need to be cleaned, be cleaned. Everyone involved in this abuse of power should pay a price, because if they don’t, the politicization of the IRS will continue—forever. If it is not stopped now, it will never stop. And if it isn’t stopped, no one will ever respect or have even minimal faith in the revenue-gathering arm of the U.S. government again.”

Peggy Noonan


In presidential politics as in life, trust issues eventually trump likability. Mr. Obama squandered so much trust on the Obama Care train wreck that his failure on the gun related issues was inevitable. The latest developments risk making that loss of trust permanent.

But, as matters now stand, Mr. Obama will not be removed from office over these three scandals.  He will not resign.

San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Page

Obama suddenly has gone into overdrive to defend his administration against escalating scandal. He released a stack of confidential papers related to the handling of the Benghazi consulate attacks in an effort to brush away claims the White House was hiding the facts.

“He also spoke out to defend a Justice Department search of Associated Press phone records and signaled support for a media shield law, long desired by press organizations.

“Obama needs to take an equivalent step in communicating his concern on the IRS scandal by bringing in an independent counsel.

Mr. Obama’s announced ‘leadership from behind’ approach has granted him some ‘denial space’ in these matters, but leaves him almost no room to lead.

This could have been a signal opportunity to listen to the right with respect and attention, for a move to the center like the one that saved Bill Clinton’s second term.  But that would require policy flexibility, a willingness to practice handshake politics, and the capacity to inspire trust, even among one’s opponents.

Bill Clinton got it, and had the knack to pull it off.

This president shows no sign of getting it.


As first published on The Policy Think Site

Copyright © 2013 Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law, except for the quoted material

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