The president’s critics say he’s too detached, too arrogant, too disengaged. Paul Begala explores this ridiculous line of reasoning.
So the Beltway media (of which I am a card-carrying member) has decided President Obama is too aloof. And as a card-carrying member, I, of course, agree.
President Barack Obama cracks a smile at a ceremony earlier this year. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)
I mean, how could a president not know the level of scrutiny the Cincinnati branch of the IRS was applying to conservative social welfare organizations that sought tax-exempt status under Section 501c(4) of the Internal Revenue Act? How detached. How arrogant. How disengaged.
Believe me, George Washington knew exactly what the Tea Party was doing back in his day, and even though Cincinnati was just being settled as Washington became president, you can be sure the Father of Our Country knew what the Cincinnati branch of the IRS was up to.
While Washington dithers over Benghazi, AP-gate, and the IRS, advocates for immigrants just keep plugging along.
As one scandal after another engulfed the White House last week, proponents of immigration reform feared the worst—that the voracious focus on the Obama administration’s missteps would overshadow, and perhaps even doom, their efforts for comprehensive immigration reform during the rest of the president’s second term.
Immigrants wait to become American citizens ahead of a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), office on May 17, 2013 in New York City. (John Moore/Getty)
What unfolded instead was just the opposite, as advocates of reform had their best week to date even as the White House ducked, parried, denied and deflected questions related to the IRS, AP and Benghazi debacles.
“We hope there’s a fourth scandal,” says Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice and a leader on immigration-reform efforts. “While all of this goes on, we’re just plugging along on this under the radar.”
The IRS isn’t too powerful, says Peter Beinart. It’s too weak. And Obama must not let Republicans weaken it even more.
Since the hullabaloo over IRS investigations of Tea Party groups broke last week, Democratic partisans have mostly been telling President Obama the same thing. First, clear this scandal off your plate so you can focus on the others. Second, the people responsible for this mess, at least according to the Inspector General’s report, were bureaucratic grunts and Bush appointees—you don’t owe them anything. Third, everyone hates tax collectors anyway. In other words, stand aside as congressional Republicans beat the IRS to a pulp.
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller, right, and J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, are sworn in on Capitol Hill before testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee last week. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
That would be a terrible mistake.
It would be a mistake because while Obama is not personally implicated in the IRS controversy, the things he believes in most deeply are. Conservatives love the IRS scandal because it supposedly rips the smiley-face mask off government and reveals it to be a “sinister” (Peggy Noonan), “arrogant” (Noonan), “ravaging tyrant” (David Brooks) abusing largely powerless American patriots. As a perennial warning against the abuse of government power, that story has merit. But as a description of the actual relationship between the public and private sector in America today, at least outside the national-security realm, it’s mostly nonsense. And if Obama and his fellow Democrats don’t rebut that narrative and defend the IRS, they’ll be surrendering crucial ground in the battle that has roiled American politics since the financial crisis: the battle over whether Washington regulates too much or too little.
The handwringers and bed wetters in the D.C. punditocracy should know that Barack Obama will never be on their timeline, says his longtime speechwriter Jon Favreau.
Honestly, they act like it’s his first crisis.
Sometime after the infamous Denver debate last fall, which by most media accounts should have forced the president to immediately quit the race and resign in shame, a few of us who had been with him since the earliest days tried to assess where the performance ranked on our list of All-Time Worst ObamaWorld Moments.
President Barack Obama smiles during a meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano earlier this year. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
It was an exercise in gallows humor, but it lifted our spirits to recall how many times the president had been so mistakenly and definitively counted out over the last eight years. There was the New York Post headline from October 3, 2007, that always hung in Bill Burton’s campaign office: “CLINTON NEARLY READY FOR HER CORONATION.” And who could forget where they were when the news broke about the Reverend Wright or Bittergate scandals that Washington just knew would destroy Obama’s candidacy? In early September 2008, a Politico story even ran the following quote from a Democratic pollster I’ve still never heard of: “A failure to take Sarah Palin seriously will cost the Obama campaign.”
As early as April, but president wasn't told.
What did President Obama know about the IRS scandal and when did he know it? New information from a White House source indicates that the president’s lawyers were informed the week of April 22 that an audit of the IRS would reveal unflattering information. Treasury Department lawyers told Kathryn Ruemmler, chief of the Office of White House Counsel, that an inspector general’s report would show that IRS employees had “improperly scrutinized” conservative organizations. The revelation has fueled criticism that the president, who said he learned of the scandal on May 10, is too lax in his management style.
For such a diverse city, the Los Angeles City Council is a depressing bastion of likeminded men. John Phillips on the city's political glass ceiling.
Los Angeles is the second-largest city in the country and arguably its most diverse. We have beaches and mountains. The superrich and the desperately poor. Beautiful people from all over the planet trying to make it in Hollywood and ugly people here to take 10 percent from them. You name it, we have it.
Los Angeles mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti greets supporters at the Avalon Theatre in Hollywood on March 5. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)
Except for women on the Los Angeles City Council.
All signs point to a May 21 city election where all 15 of the L.A. City Council's seats could be filled by men. Who would have thought the only person with binders full of women in Los Angeles would be Heidi Fleiss?
Legalized abortion causes school shootings, Obamacare will lead to conservatives being denied health services, and other wacky assertions from our political leaders.
North Dakota: Legalized Abortions Cause School Shootings
U.S. Representative Kevin Cramer knows the answer to why there have been so many school shootings in the U.S. over the past few years, and it’s not easy access to guns or inadequate treatment of the mentally ill. No, the Republican from North Dakota insists, the rise in school shootings is directly connected to the legalization of abortion and a supposed decline in Christian values. “We learned this week that the Pentagon is vetting its guide on religious tolerance with a group that compared Christian evangelism to rape, and advocated that military personnel and colluding chaplains who proselytize should be court martialed,” Cramer said during a commencement speech at the Catholic University of Mary that, miraculously, went unnoticed by the national media until this week. “Forty years ago, the United States Supreme Court sanctioned abortion on demand. And we wonder why our culture sees school shootings so often.” Cramer’s link between “normalized perversion” and mass murders rings eerily similar to Michele Bachmann’s argument that the September 11 terror attacks in 2001 and 2012 were God’s way of passing judgement on our country’s moral demise.
Missouri: The Gays Killed the Bullying Bill
Missouri's Republican Representative Sue Allen has called on her constituents to contact openly gay lawmakers Jolie Justice and Mike Colona and blame them for the death of her anti-bullying bill. The key difference between Allen’s bill and other, more successful anti-bullying legislation is that it bans enumerated lists of specific groups of people that need protection--such as gay and transgender students--because she believes they are too partisan. “I typically try to keep partisanship out of my message, but this is an issue for the Democrats who wish for certain students (LGBT-gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) to be ‘enumerated’ within school policies...What they [Justus and Colona] don’t seem to understand is that stronger policies help ALL students, even those they would have characterized.” The problem with Allen’s argument is that enumerating specific groups does not, as she suggests, negate protection for anyone else, it simply ensures that any bullying of people who identify with these particularly at-risk groups is reported.
Plan properly, prepare for uncertainty—the former secretary of defense’s new book is full of great lessons for success in various fields. Just one problem, says comedian Dean Obeidallah: Google.
The Donald is back with a new book. Not Donald Trump, but the original cantankerous, ill-tempered Donald, who possibly has uttered the expression “You’re fired” with more glee than Trump. I’m speaking of Donald Rumsfeld—the man who served in several positions in the federal government, the most recent his “star turn” as secretary of defense under President George W. Bush.
Donald Rumsfeld. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty)
In Rules, Rumsfeld offers numerous lessons to succeed in these various fields. But the No. 1 lesson I have gleaned from his book is: ignore your past and instead recreate yourself so you sound amazing. Rumsfeld has done just that by offering us rules to live by that paint him as a thoughtful, considerate person who is cross between Steve Jobs and Gandhi.
Obama has reportedly spoken about ‘going Bulworth.’ Michael Tomasky says that would be a terrible idea—and he has another Hollywood role model in mind for the president.
If ever there was a made-for-Twitter revelation, it was the little nugget in Peter Baker’s New York Times report Wednesday that had an aide saying Obama sometimes pines at the thought of “going Bulworth.” In all the commentary I’ve seen on this, I haven’t yet seen anyone point out that going Bulworth is a pretty stupid idea, because the Warren Beatty character, after enjoying a brief resurgence in the polls, became as I recall sort of a laughingstock (at least, that’s what I thought) and then ended up staging his own assassination at the depths of his self-loathing. No. If we’re going to delve into movieland for analogies, it’s not Bulworth that Obama needs to “go,” but Rambo—on the Republicans, and in a hurry.
The House hearings yesterday on the IRS matter only left the Republicans hungry for more. NBC’s Lisa Myers, who repeatedly proved back in the Clinton era that she had good Republican sources and that she took them at their word, now says the IRS chose to withhold information relating to the current mess until after last year’s election. This is meant, of course, to raise the specter that the White House was in on this, possibly the president himself.
Then we have Benghazi. And beyond that we have, you know, the actual affairs of state. This doesn’t quite qualify as that, since it’s a waste of everyone’s time and everyone knows it, but the House voted yet again to repeal Obamacare. Of course it hopes never to have to vote on background checks. But by cracky, a 38th meaningless vote to repeal the health-care act, let’s do it!
The controversial military tool is cleared for use domestically in 2015. Miranda Green reports from the House committee charged with what setting the rules on new eyes in the sky.
Congress started it all this year when it voted to allow drones to fly in the U.S. as soon as 2015. Now it’s fighting against its self-imposed deadline to pass legislation that limits the scope of the new technology.
Maintenance personnel checks a Predator drone before its surveillance flight from Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona on March 7, 2013. (John Moore/Getty)
At a hearing Friday, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations discussed what measures should be included in a federal bill that would protect Fourth Amendment rights without limiting the potential benefits of drones.
“The expectation of privacy down the road is going to not be expanded but made smaller,” said Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX). “I think that’s what members of the Supreme Court, to me, are saying, which concerns me. So Congress needs to set a standard.”
A bid by Republican legislators to legalize discrimination in the state constitution ended up backfiring—by emboldening equality activists, writes state Rep. Karen Clark.
This week, Minnesota became the 12th state, plus the District of Columbia, to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Rep. Karen Clark second from right and her partner Jacqueline Zitaduring, right, look on as Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signs the same-sex marriage bill in to law in front of the Capitol in St Paul, Minnesota on May 14, 2013. (Craig Lassig/AP)
During the final debate on the legislation in the Minnesota House, I shared a photo with my colleagues that had been taken at the 1993 gay pride parade in Minneapolis. Pictured there were me and my partner of 24 years, Jacquelyn, standing next to my parents, Millie and Joe Clark, who were carrying a sign that read: “Our Gay Children Should Have the Same Rights as Our Heterosexual Children.”
They’d marched with the Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays contingent to celebrate the historic passage, a month earlier, of the strongest state civil-rights protection for LGBT citizens in the country. Though my parents did not live to see it, 20 years later their message rang true and helped me to pass the Freedom to Marry Act.
Republicans lack any coherent program other than cutting taxes for the wealthy. That’s why they’re going after Obama now, says Robert Shrum
I've written that in the end, congressional Republicans won't agree to move forward on the budget, tax reform, immigration, job creation, or any other issues that matter to mainstream America before the presidential elections. But the fall of 2016 is a long time away, and they have to do something in the meantime. Now we know what it is.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, flanked by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, right, and Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN), meet with reporters on Capitol Hill, April 10, 2013. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
It's not much different from what they've done, or haven't done, all along: obstruct Obama. Traduce him, delegitimize him—and slow economic recovery in hopes that voters will cast a protest vote for the GOP. It worked in 2010, and failed miserably in 2012.
Conservatives are back at it again because the GOP lacks any coherent program other than cutting taxes for the wealthy. Republicans are deeply divided—between the government-hating Tea Party Torquemadas and an establishment that dreads primary defeat, or in John Boehner's case, defenestration as speaker; between the isolationists like Rand Paul and the neo-cons and John McCain.
It was rough—the IRS, Benghazi, the AP phone calls. But the president’s already moving past the week’s ‘Watergate’ to get back to business, as immigration reform edges forward.
President Obama didn’t take the bait when a reporter asked how he felt about the comparison some of his critics were making about the scandals in his administration with those that happened when Richard Nixon was in the White House. The question capped a weeklong orgy of rhetoric with Republicans assailing abuses of power at the IRS and Justice Department, and the media all but writing off Obama’s second term as a colossal management failure.
Obama didn’t protest “I’m not Nixon,” which would have echoed the former president who once famously said in response to a question, “I’m not a crook.” He replied in the measured way that is his trademark, “You can go ahead and read the history, I think, and draw your own conclusions.” For the record, Nixon headed what can fairly be called a criminal conspiracy; some 40 people in his administration went to jail and did hard time.
The fact that a trio of scandals hitting roughly at the same time took on the aura of Watergate says more about the way our media work today than about any corrosive lapses in the White House or personality flaws in the president. “It’s fine to take a pounding for a couple of news cycles to figure out what you’re going to do,” says Chris Lehane, an alumnus of the Clinton White House, who says the president with his remarks Thursday afternoon in the Rose Garden is “out of the bunker” and has made “the pivot” to where it will be harder for the Republicans to use the scandals to thwart his agenda.
Obama swatted away the controversies eroding his authority and credibility, linking Benghazi to his budget request for more money for embassy security, effectively shifting the onus to the GOP, and he made a compelling case on national-security grounds for Justice’s action in pursuing a leak investigation. “I make no apologies, and I don’t think the American people would expect me as commander in chief not to be concerned about information that might compromise their missions or might get them killed.”
They argued. They voted. They failed. Again. A Michele Bachmann-led push to overturn the Affordable Care Act went nowhere, but that’s not stopping anyone from fighting it.
Republicans want the American people to know that Thursday’s House vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act was most definitely not an act of empty political theater.
Yes, H.R. 45 has zero chance of surviving the Senate, much less the president’s veto pen. Yes, the House had already voted 36 times to repeal the law in part or in its entirety. And, yes, there may be one or two other matters on which lawmakers could be more productively expending time and energy. (Immigration reform? The budget?)
But just because Vote No. 37—this one spearheaded by former presidential candidate and noted stateswoman Michelle Bachmann—was futile does not mean it was pointless. No, siree. As the GOP leadership’s office was at pains to lecture reporters this week, Obamacare remains broadly unpopular, and therefore Republican lawmakers have an obligation to the public to keep fighting the good fight.
The scandal isn’t about politics—it’s about civil liberties. And Congress needs to make sure it never happens again, writes the CEO of conservative activist group FreedomWorks.
It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.
Nearly 500 groups applying for tax-exempt status have spoken out against the Internal Revenue Service for abusing its power, intimidating groups that were aiming to educate citizens on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and their civic duty to hold government accountable.
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters, via Landov
It began in March 2010, when an IRS manager in Cincinnati began a bureaucratic filibuster.
Eric Nordstrom, who worked at the Benghazi consulate on the day it was attacked, choked up during Wednesday's hearings. 'It matters,' he said, that the committee investigate what happened before, during, and after the siege.
Corry Booker’s the hero mayor of Newark, and, yes, he’s running for Senate. By Lloyd Grove
The president’s push for $9 an hour has the GOP on the defensive. Eleanor Clift on the strategy behind the move. But this push could take the politics out of the perennial argument.
Meet the new Treasury secretary, same as the old Treasury secretary. Lloyd Green on nominee Jack Lew.
For John Kael Weston and other men on the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan drone strikes raise many uncomfortable questions. He writes on why we need clearer policy and guidelines for these silent killers.