“Phony” Scandals Heat Up
"I Don't Mind A Parasite. I Object To A Cut-Rate One."

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Here are the recent developments in those “phony” Obama administration scandals. You remember them - they’re the scandals where there’s not even a “smidgen of corruption” involved:

*IRS-GATE - According to the Associated Press yesterday:

“The Internal Revenue Service said Friday it has lost a trove of emails to and from a central figure in the agency's tea party controversy, sparking outrage from congressional investigators who have been probing the agency for more than a year.

The IRS told Congress Friday it cannot locate many of Lois Lerner's emails prior to 2011 because her computer crashed during the summer of that year.

Lerner headed the IRS division that processed applications for tax-exempt status. The IRS acknowledged last year that agents had improperly scrutinized applications for tax-exempt status by tea party and other conservative groups.

"The fact that I am just learning about this, over a year into the investigation, is completely unacceptable and now calls into question the credibility of the IRS' response to congressional inquiries," said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. "There needs to be an immediate investigation and forensic audit by Department of Justice as well as the inspector general."

The Ways and Means Committee is one of three congressional committees investigating the IRS over its handling of tea party applications from 2010 to 2012. The Justice Department and the IRS inspector general are also investigating.

Congressional investigators have shown that IRS officials in Washington were closely involved in the handling of tea party applications, many of which languished for more than a year without action. But so far, they have not publicly produced evidence that anyone outside the agency directed the targeting or even knew about it.”

For the entire article, see: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/irs-lost-emails-official-tea-party-probe

And as Ron Fournier points out in these highlights from his post at nationaljournal.com titled “Did The IRS Really Lose Lois Lerner's Emails? Let a Special Prosecutor Find Them”:

“At issue is whether the IRS probes were politically motivated and directed by the White House. Congressional investigators were hoping for answers in Lerner's emails.”

“The IRS also screened liberal groups, which Democrats claim as proof that there was no abuse of power. That's wishful thinking. The fact that liberal groups were screened is mitigating, not dispositive.”

“Republicans lawmakers are prone not to trust any explanation from the White House. Their most conservative voters assumed from the start that the White House was targeting right-leaning groups for intimidation.”

“Six weeks after the scandal broke, I chastised House Republicans for cherry-picking evidence and jumping to conclusions. In the same column, I urged the president to be transparent: pave way for investigators to question witnesses under oath and subpoena the White House and his own re-election campaign for related emails and other documents.”

“Nothing has changed. The White House is stonewalling the IRS investigation. The most benign explanation is that Obama's team is politically expedient and arrogant, which makes them desperate to change the subject, and convinced of their institutional innocence. That's bad enough. But without a fiercely independent investigation, we shouldn't assume the explanation is benign.”

For the entire article, see: http://www.nationaljournal.com/white-house/did-the-irs-really-lose-lois-lerner-s-emails-let-a-special-prosecutor-find-them-20140613

*VA-GATE - The facts on this one have been all over the news and are still coming out. What has generally slipped under the radar is how the Obama administration desperately tried to obfuscate and change the subject when the scandal was first breaking. Here’s an fascinating article from last week by Richard Benedetto at USATODAY.com which tells the tale:

“White House plots VA-scandal distractions: Column

In the wake of the VA scandal, President Obama mounts a series of PR moves.

An air of hubris — a sort of we-know-it-all quality — has permeated the Obama White House from the beginning. It worked as a public relations strategy for the better part of five years. But it seems to be breaking down now.

The sophisticated swagger and savoir faire projected by the President and his strategists — audacity with cool, if you will — captivated a major segment of the 2008 voting public, many of whom were tired of George W. Bush and believed Barack Obama could bring real change to Washington.

This somewhat-arrogant-and-sometimes-intimidating PR approach to governing had success. It helped him pass a $787 billion economic stimulus bill and browbeat fellow Democrats to enact a highly partisan health care plan that Republicans wanted no part of. It got him through a bruising re-election campaign despite a less-than-stellar record on the economy and still-lingering questions about his handling of the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.

But over the past 12 months, the vaunted Obama PR limousine, used to smoothing out bumps with ease, has been blowing tires as it tries to roll over a minefield of crises and scandals.

Troubles began with allegations that the IRS targeted conservative groups for special scrutiny during an election year.

They were followed by startling revelations about NSA domestic spying and the leaking of secrets by Edward Snowden.

Obama ran into criticism for waffling on chemical weapons in Syria, appearing to go soft on Iran's nuclear program and not standing up to Russian President Vladimir Putin over Crimea.

Then there was the disastrous rollout of Obamacare and the re-emergence of Benghazi through email revelations that the White House might have been involved in a cover-up, triggering a new set of hearings scheduled for summer.

Through it all, the Obama PR machine tried to spin all troubles away by staging feel-good events in schools and colleges and showcasing the president on the side of immigrants, poor kids and the little guy trying to earn a living. Despite all those efforts, Obama's job-approval rating in the Gallup Poll has been below 50% for nearly a year.

Then a new crisis emerged — revelations that veterans seeking health care through the Veterans Administration were waiting months to be seen and that records were falsified to hide the facts.

Sensing correctly, if not a bit late, that this scandal could not only be seriously damaging to the president, but also to congressional Democrats running in the 2014 elections, the White House rolled out the PR limo. But after five-plus years of high mileage, it is running more like a rickety fire truck manned by the Keystone Kops.

First, Obama's chief of staff went on TV to say the president was "madder than hell" about the scandal and would get to the bottom of it.

Critics continued to howl.

Five days later, on the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend, and attention on veterans saturating the news media, Obama held a news conference and vowed, "Anybody found to have manipulated or falsified records at VA facilities has to be held accountable."

The next day, a Saturday, in an apparent effort to shift attention to something more positive with regard to veterans, Obama stepped into the Rose Garden to announce that the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan would end this year. Such announcements are rarely made on Saturdays, signaling White House worry about the VA scandal.

So the PR blitz continued. On Sunday, Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan where he was photographed surrounded by cheering American troops.

The next day, Memorial Day, the president used his traditional speech at Arlington Cemetery to reiterate that the war in Afghanistan is coming to an end. More photos in the midst of veterans and their families.

A day later, he was off to West Point. And again, surrounded by uniformed military, Obama delivered a commencement speech that outlined his revised foreign policy. It was widely panned for being rambling and incoherent.

Even with those frantic efforts, the VA scandal was not going away. Obama had to do something more. He fired VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

He followed that up last Saturday with what the PR gurus must have thought was a stroke of genius. Obama announced, again in the Rose Garden, that he secured the freedom of the only U.S. soldier held by the Taliban in exchange for five high-level Taliban terrorists held at Guantanamo.

With the soldier's parents beside him, it made good first-day headlines and pictures. But questions were quickly raised about whether the soldier released was a deserter rather than a prisoner of war, and worries that the terrorists let go might plot once again to kill Americans. Moreover, members of Congress are angry about not being told in advance of the swap, prompting a White House apology.

So the VA problems continue. And the White House is learning the hard way that sometimes it takes more than smart guys and gals and slick PR to run a country. It takes governing.”

See: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/06/05/bergdahl-afghanistan-va-scandal-column/9969187/

*BENGHAZI-GATE - The investigations into this one are ongoing. The real “news’ was reported by The Washington Post earlier this week in Erik Wemple’s article titled: “ABC News’s Diane Sawyer destroys Hillary Rodham Clinton on Benghazi.” Here is the article in its entirety:

“A standard defense for Hillary Rodham Clinton when facing questions about Benghazi, Libya, has been to cite her commissioning of a report from the State Department’s Accountability Review Board (ARB), which took a deep look at the attacks that claimed the lives of four U.S. personnel on Sept. 11, 2012. In testimony before Congress in January 2013, Clinton said: “I hurried to appoint the Accountability Review Board led by Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen so we could more fully understand from objective, independent examination, what went wrong and how to fix it. I have accepted every one of their recommendations.”

In an interview with Clinton that aired last night on ABC News, anchor Diane Sawyer threw the ARB right back in the face of the former secretary of state. The two tangled over the preparedness of the U.S. diplomatic installation in Benghazi for a terrorist attack. In defending her work on this front, Clinton stressed that she had delegated the particulars of security to the experts in the field. “I’m not equipped to sit and look at blueprints to determine where the blast walls need to be, where the reinforcements need to be. That’s why we hire people who have that expertise,” said Clinton, who did the interview as part of the tour for her book “Hard Choices.”

Sensing an opening, Sawyer cited the document that Clinton herself has so often cited: “This is the ARB: the mission was far short of standards; weak perimeter; incomplete fence; video surveillance needed repair. They said it’s a systemic failure.”

Clinton replied, “Well, it was with respect to that compound.”

The anchor continued pressing, asking Clinton whether the people might be seeking from her a “sentence that begins from you ‘I should have…’?” Clinton sort of ducked that one. The accountability-heavy moment came when Sawyer’s slow and steady line of questioning on Benghazi security prompted Clinton to utter this self-contradictory and sure-to-be-repeated statement: “I take responsibility, but I was not making security decisions.”

For the record, possible-presidential-candidates-in-abeyance should never attach conjunctions to their declarations of responsibility-taking.

Another telling moment came when Sawyer placed before Clinton all the warnings that bad things were afoot in Benghazi. “Did you miss it? Did you miss the moment to prevent this from happening?” Sawyer asked. Clinton’s response started with these two words: “No, but …”

The fantastic grilling served up by Sawyer wasn’t exceptional just because of its smartness, its civility or its persistence. It was exceptional for the way in which it upended the emphases of Benghazi “scandal” coverage. Ever since the issue roared to life amid the 2012 presidential campaign, media fixation has attached to how the Obama White House managed the post-attack phase. The allegation here is that Obama’s advisers attempted to frame the events as a random spasm of violence in reaction to an anti-Islam video, as opposed to admitting right away that the United States had been victimized again by terrorism.

Instead of obsessing over that phase of Benghazi, Sawyer went heavy on the security questions: They came first, they dominated the nearly 10-minute Benghazi discussion and they may well fuel a new round of questions for the former secretary. Fox News, which interviews Clinton on June 17, might consider giving her a chance to clarify just what taking responsibility means.”

See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2014/06/10/abc-newss-diane-sawyer-destroys-hillary-rodham-clinton-on-benghazi/

*BERGDAHL-GATE - In his New York Post article from last week, John Podhoretz explains “How Obama’s media strategy unraveled with recovered POW” Bowe Bergdahl. Like Richard Benedetto’s article above, Podhoretz provides a fascinating observation of how this President and his massive media spin machine attempted to manipulate the news and obfuscate/spin the facts:

“What happens when the world’s greatest spin doctor commits malpractice — on himself?

That is the question that now bedevils Barack Obama after what have been, without a doubt, the worst weeks of his presidency.

From the Veterans Administration scandal to the jaw-dropping events surrounding the swap of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the man with the most remarkable intuitive grasp of how to preserve and enhance his own image the world has ever seen has now tarnished it almost beyond recognition.

Who would have expected such a development? From the speech in 2004 that made him a rising star through the campaign in 2008 that made him president, Obama was the most formidable political propagandist of all time.

An unabashed liberal and among the most nakedly partisan politicians in this country’s history, Obama came to fame in ’04 loudly declaiming that we are not red states or blue states, but the United States. He knocked off Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries by using the mechanisms his party had put in place to empower its left wing — while claiming to be a more unifying figure than she.

In June ’08, he began speaking at a podium with a decal resembling the presidential seal on it, a brilliant way of planting the suggestion that his election was a foregone conclusion.

He delivered his convention speech that year on a set that suggested he was speaking in the Athens Acropolis, thus hardening in the minds of the chattering classes the idea that he was the greatest orator since Pericles.

Since taking office, he has continued to work assiduously to maintain total control over his own image. He has stiffed the White House press corps, not only by denying reporters access to him but by creating a force field of discipline that keeps his staff from talking about what is going on in any way.

The public gets what little White House information it has from Obama’s own propaganda stream — official tweets, Instagram photos and mini-events carefully manufactured for positive media effect.

Meanwhile, the administration as a whole has declared a cold war against the media it does not control. It tapped phones of Associated Press staff. In court papers, it called James Rosen of Fox News a “co-conspirator” in espionage for seeking out and publishing a leak. It could have, but has not, dropped a Bush-era subpoena of The New York Times’s James Risen — with the end result that Risen will likely go to jail.

The old-line media may scream and squawk — Jill Abramson, late of the Times, said “this is the most secretive White House I have ever been involved in covering, and that includes . . . presidents from President Reagan on up through now, and I was Washington bureau chief of the Times during George W. Bush’s first term.”

Obama was able to do this because he has fed the public-relations beast in other, arguably more effective ways. Historians and his fellow politicians will be studying his mastery of the trade of image creation and enhancement in the age of Twitter and Instagram and Reddit.

While there has been little or no cooperation with reporters, there sure was plenty of cooperation with the production team of the Oscar-bait film “Zero Dark Thirty.”

The president favors jokey late-night interviews with starstruck hosts who thrill to call him “dude” (Jon Stewart in 2010) over substantive discussions with expert journalists. He “slow jams the news” with Jimmy Fallon. He has become a national entertainer.

Previous presidents could only have dreamt of such uncritical treatment by pop culture; but then, of course, most previous presidents believed the presidency was too serious and august a position, and the power it wields far too formidable, to participate in lowering its exalted standing in the way Obama has.

Obama therefore had reason to believe his stage management of the swap of Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban commanders would play to his advantage.

He made a conscious decision to play up the emotion — having Bergdahl’s parents standing beside him in the Rose Garden, proudly declaiming his obligation as commander in chief not to leave a man behind.

He knew a firestorm would inevitably erupt over the release of the Taliban 5 from Gitmo, but as long as it was a political and policy firestorm, he could insulate himself from it by invoking the greatest of all pop-culture fantasies: a happy ending.

The importance of the storyline was so absolute that his national-security adviser, Susan Rice, found it necessary to go on a Sunday chat show and say Bowe Bergdahl had “served with distinction and honor.”

She knew that was not a true thing to say about Bergdahl’s service, but she had to say it because the pop-culture plotline called for it.

She also said reporters Bergdahl’s release had been urgent because he was near death — a detail that offered even greater emotional justification.

Alas, this proved not to be true either; at a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said the administration had no intelligence to suggest this.

The bottom line is that the president settled on a controversial, high- risk strategy here in a difficult and problematic manner — and then sought to use his mastery of pop culture to change the story to a more palatable one. But some stories just can’t be gussied up.

More important for the president’s future fortunes is this lesson: You can only spin for so long before you start spinning yourself. Spin and spin and spin and soon you have a whirlwind to reap."

See: http://nypost.com/2014/06/07/obamas-well-honed-media-strategy-unraveled-with-pow/

For a related story, see ""I've Had Enough": When Democrats Quit On Obama" by Ron Fournier at:


Yes - "some stories just can't be gussied up." Even massive amounts of lipstick can't hide the fact that a pig is still a pig from people who have eyes wide open. Thankfully, more of us seem to be opening our eyes to what is going on in the Obama administration these days.

Latest Activity: Jun 14, 2014 at 1:20 PM

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