Benghazi, We Hardly Knew Ye …

NEW SLAUGHTERAnd then a big wind came and blew it (almost) all away … .

Republicans can’t catch a break. Just when it felt like they were getting somewhere in their now five-year campaign to neuter Barack Obama, another giant tornado rips through Oklahoma and the national press pretty much drops three mega “scandals”  — Benghazi-gate, IRS-gate and AP-gate — and rushes off to do its professional public comforter thing for the storm victims. “How did you feel?”, “We’re sorry for your loss/thankful for your survival”.

Meanwhile, the effect on the “ten times worse than Watergate” episodes left behind in DC will vary, as they should.


Despite the GOP’s top foreign policy leaders – John McCain and Lindsey Graham chewing on this like a couple starving dogs with the same dessicated mule bone — this “scandal” was never a starter with the press or the majority of the public. The “outrage” was so obviously tailored to infuriate the hyper-conservative base, it was just another “birther” issue. Also, it was premised on the not-exactly digestible notion that somewhere along the line Obama had over-assured the public that he had so successfully flattened Al-Qaeda that terrorism against American interests would never happen again, anywhere, for any reason. Personally, I guess I missed that. Maybe Tom Emmer and Bob Davis were selling it on their show. But somehow most of the country continued to understand that a half dozen guys with machine guns can show up anywhere at any moment. But that “false assurance” was supposed to explain “the cover-up”, which as Obama said recently, wasn’t much of a cover-up since three days after the attack the White House officially branded Benghazi as an incident of terrorism.

The GOP and its media marketers had a tough time with that one. For one thing whenever Darrell Issa holds one of his committee hearings, it’s hard to find a journalist outside FoxNews and Breitbart who hears anything but partisan blowhardry. Issa’s well-known murky business background sucks almost all credibility out of anything he says before he smacks the first gavel. And then, as if SOP Issa wasn’t bad enough, you had the usual parade of the GOP’s nutball caucus, people like Our Gal Michele Bachmann, Iowa’s Steve King, etc., people who are running jokes with the public and whose mere face attached to any issue instantly diminishes the credibility of charges being made … whatever they are in the matter of Benghazi … and they kept shifting.

Right up to the point ABC’s Jonathan Karl, a kind of John Stossel-like affirmative action hire by the network to give it some entrée with conservatives, got very badly played by one of his sources.

The cooking of a White House e-mail to insert the phrases “talking points” and “State Department” effectively toxified and killed Benghazi as a political weapon, which was all it was ever meant to be.

Besides there were far better scandals rolling in … .

The IRS v. The Tea Party.

The sell here is that Obama somehow covertly directed the IRS to discriminate Tea Party groups from getting tax-exempt status … and revealing their donors lists. (It is telling how fiercely donors to conservative groups resist public disclosure, ostensibly because mean old liberals will pick on them and call them names).

The incident is amazingly stupid. But it would be even more stupid for Obama — a guy not in the habit of doing manifestly stupid things –had he directed anything of the sort. the Tea Party et al live for victimhood, and as I’ve said before, they savor the grandiose notion that the gargantuan federal bureaucracy is personally out to get them. And here was red meat on a plate.

It appears that the IRS’s overworked Cincinnati office has been reduced to a snakepit, with regional officers frantically trying to avoid being carved up and served as the lone seared goat.

But again, the ranting and flailing of aggrieved Teabaggers (and they’ve been back out the last couple days, bags dangling from their Tri-corner hats) plays against a fairly wide sense, as the story has been more fully developed, that the country’s tax laws are a godawful mess. And that they’ve been legislated into law by some of the same Congressmen expressing high indignation over the IRS handling of this thing.  The public quickly became aware of the flood of applications that poured post-Citizens United, where every neighborhood “freedom crusader” saw an opportunity to game the system just like Karl Rove and the big boys. Hell, they could go non-profit/tax exempt and do their saintly Constitutional “social welfare” unimpeded by Big Gubmint asking impertinent socialist questions.

Except of course, Karl Rove and the big boys don’t seem to have been hassled in the same way the IRS hassled the pathetic reenactor crowd. (Although Rove’s gigantic Crossroads GPS still does not have the tax-exempt it has applied for … to do its 51% “social welfare” work). Had the IRS directly advised its minions to start with the big money and work down to the Andover Freedom Lovers Patriotic Front the little-loved agency probably wouldn’t have the problem it has today. (There is also an irony in Rove, who vowed to crush the piddly-ass Tea Party groups to keep them from screwing up his candidate selection plans, is now “outraged” at what the IRS has done to the meddlesome little yobs. But he’ll benefit immensely if the end result is weaker IRS enforcement of tax-exempt statutes.)

But as the public gets up to speed with this deeply arcane mess, one takeaway will be the obvious question, “Why are blatantly political groups getting tax exempt status in the first place?” (Beyond that lies the big one. Namely, ‘Why are so-called ‘churches’ allowed to keep tax exempt status even when they flagrantly engage in political activities?’ … Archbishop Nienstedt, are you listening? Talk about a windfall to the public coffers if the IRS ever enforced that one.)

The right-wing echo chambers desperately hope this will be the one that finally allows them to impeach Obama. But the likely conclusion is career disaster for a handful of faceless IRS bureaucrats and Congressional resistance to any fresh ideas for cleaning up the tax code.

The AP/FoxNews raid by the Justice Department

In a sane world this would be the “scandal” that takes out a couple big names. But the general public has no real understanding of a “shield law”, and a virulent sub-set of that same public hates the (mainstream) press, so it isn’t exactly going to rally to its cause. But there’s no doubt this was a stunningly clumsy move. Whoever thought it was a clever idea to make an end run of the reporters and agencies involved in this hunt — thereby keeping the press in the dark that anyone was even looking for information — should be fired for rank incompetence.

But the Obama Justice Department is hardly the first to wander into foul-smelling snooping activity. Does anyone want to re-negotiate The Patriot Act?

But as I say, with Benghazi now rightly removed from active consideration as a “scandal’, the two that remain are both murky, complicated, tough sells to the general public. Moreover, as the wide audience is educated on what exactly happened, each of the last two Obama-killing “scandals” prompts big picture discussions about long overdue resolutions conservatives have chronically resisted.

46 thoughts on “Benghazi, We Hardly Knew Ye …

  1. bertram jr. says:

    My god, man. The sheer incompetence, and hypocrisy of your man, Barry SnoCone – and his handlers.

    And still you writhe, obsfucate, and resist any need to acknowledge the truth. (Because of his “race”, right?).

    It’s almost Dayton-ian. Klobuchar-ian. Star-Tribunian.

    Have you been fitted for your Brown Shirt yet?

  2. MJ says:

    “five-year campaign to neuter Barack Obama” whelp, that pretty much sums it up doesn’t it? It is all so very tiresome.

    I was watching FoxNews last night and it was as though the were North Korea reporting on the President of the United States. As every other channel was reporting on the devastation in Oklahoma, Fox was droning on and on about the IRS problems/SCANDAL. It was really quite sad thinking just how unAmerican they were acting and only perpetuation the problems with how our Country is divided. The most frustrating part was they came across as though they were doing a great service to the public because they were the only channel that “had America’s back” because they have continued the charade of infonewstainment!

  3. Though I am not in America, but I sincerely believe Americans need to work together to overcome every challenge; be it natural, economical, or political. We should stop playing politics with everything. I know you Americans know what make you guys unique. Unity will stand but division will fall. Beware that China is rising!

  4. PM says:

    Enter the tornado truthers:

    Obama caused the tornado in OK to not only draw attention away from the scandals but also to try to embarrass those good ‘Merican OK Senators (Coburn and Inhofe : ) who voted against that wasteful spending to clean up Hurricane Sandy (which Obama was also responsible for–to win election! just like he caused that weather in Fl to disrupt the GOP convention!)

    So, Bertie, Barry Sotero really isn’t an incompetent–he is a veritable super-villain!

  5. Robb says:

    Thank Jesus for your survival. Thank the Lord. Now, how is one suppose to decide whether you should thank the Lord for sparing your new Ford Escape or for sending in the tornado that devastated everything and turned your life upside down? Is he a vengeful God or a forgiving God?

  6. Robb says:

    I’m also a little perplexed that if Obama has the omnipotent power to send in hurricanes and sweep the plains foe Nebraska with funnel clouds than why couldn’t he get the “public option” provision passed in Congress? If he is a diabolical dictator stripping all Americans of their Constitutional rights than why can’t get them to Congress to fulfill their sworn duty to pass a budget or end the sequester? Listening to the right-wing talk, you’d think there is no end to the largess of his power and if not a God, he must be some variation on a Titan deity.

  7. Jeremy Powers says:

    Please stop using the term “Fox News.” There is ZERO news on Fox – just blather, opinion, shouting, stupidity. Whereas the AP phone call stuff worries me, I don’t feel Fox is newsy enough to generate any First Amendment sympathy. In fact, Fox has done more to damage the importance of the First Amendment in the last 15 years than anything else.

    1. I’m sympathetic to what you’re saying. But based on what we know so far about the James Rosen business, the leap to calling him a “co-conspirator” is almost Fox-ish in its hyperbole.

  8. bertram jr says:

    No, he’s just a half black guy who never did anything, or worked anywhere, or paid for anything, but whom guilt-besotted liberals with the attendant race issues mindlessly worship.

    Weird, huh?

    1. Are you suggesting we — the “guilt-besotted” — should look to you for guidance on our “attendant race issues”? And, while we’re at it, what is any of that supposed to mean?

  9. Mike Kennedy says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb and predict these issues, scandals, exercises in incompetency or whatever you want to call them will stick around and plague the Obama Administration, just a prediction. I do have to laugh at Axelrod’s comments that the government is so big that Obama can’t possibly know what’s going on underneath him.

    This is funny coming from administration that thinks bigger government is better government. Unfortunately, it’s no laughing matter because it sets up the premise that agencies can run amok and out of control and the man at the top isn’t responsible.

    I’m going to start calling Mr. Obama the anti-Truman….”the buck doesn’t stop here because I didn’t know what was going on mentality.”

    This fits squarely with the abdication of responsibility in our society, in general. No one is “responsible” for anything because it wasn’t their fault. They were ill, sick, down on their luck, discriminated against or otherwise victimized or just plain ignorant of what was going on.

    Bush wasn’t given a pass on much of anything by liberals, supposedly because he knew everything that every agency was doing. The same standards to do not apply to Mr. Obama, plain and simple.

    Even the “Teflon president,” Ronald Reagan, had the curse of scandal in his second term. Mr. Obama will not be immune, just a prediction.

    1. PM says:


      I agree with you that it seems incredibly unlikely that Obama will get through 2 terms without a scandal, but none of these three seems like much of a scandal to me. Benghazi is silly, the IRS thing is more an example of a bureaucratic problem (and there are certainly none of Obama’s fingerprints there), and the journalist/leaks thing is really more of a policy dispute–what are the limits of secrecy and what can an administration do to stop “national security” leaks. His administration is basically following current laws in this one. You can certainly argue over the laws, but following them is not a scandal.

      1. Mike Kennedy says:

        OK, Jim. She was fired. Different story. The ruling is idiotic, obviously. The other one said she won’t even bother looking because she is so beautiful she can’t work. Big difference. Besides, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, no? I don’t see a thing attractive about the first woman. Maybe it’s her lack of skills that can’t get her a job…and I mean legitimate skills.

        1. Jim Leinfelder says:

          In general, it’s been shown repeatedly by scholarly research that good-looking (by contemporary standards) men and women enjoy higher pay, more rapid advancement, and generally have fine qualities projected onto them at rate not enjoyed by we the lumpen majority.

          That said, I can also imagine that in some contexts being extraordinarily comely could become a liability. Any of the branches of our armed services come to mind. This woman apparently has a family fortune to fall back on, and, thus, no need to go on the “dole,” as you say.

          But having never walked a mile in her fashionable pumps, I’m less inclined to dismiss her claim, my attraction or non-attraction to her notwithstanding.

          1. Well, come on, attractive or no? We are all free to give our opinion on these pages on a wide range of topics. i find nothing attractive about her, but that’s me. What say you?

            And yes, pumps are fashionable among women, but as I tell my lady friends, I don’t see why females punish their feet so bad by wearing such terribly uncomfortable footwear…though some do look…..well sexy. I’ll stop there!

            1. Jim Leinfelder says:

              A tad posh for the likes of me, Mike. But my point was that one needn’t be similarly smitten with her to understand that men, like the weakling Iowa dentist who fired his dental hygienist for her ungovernable attractiveness, are often narcissistic enough to blame an attractive woman for all the flawed wires her beauty trips in them. For that reason, I find her story plausible.

  10. bertram jr. says:

    Bertram was responding to Robb’s rather disingenous question.

    Looks like your IRS Beaurokratik dream girl is coming back in for some rather more shall we say – intense scrutiny.

  11. PM says:

    How long before Michelle gets a Faux News gig?


    I say she’ll be subbing for O’Reilly and Hannity before the summer is over….

    Maybe she and West can co-host a show!

    1. Jim Leinfelder says:

      There’s a surfeit of right-wing gas bags as FOX culls the herd. I don’t see it.

  12. Re: “I do have to laugh at Axelrod’s comments that the government is so big that Obama can’t possibly know what’s going on underneath him.”

    Just in case Fox News or Rush didn’t carry this, you might want to know that the all-knowing, all-controlling Obama was directing the IRS to target Obamacare-promoting groups too…

    Documents Show Liberals in I.R.S. Dragnet
    Published: June 24, 2013

    WASHINGTON — The instructions that Internal Revenue Service officials used to look for applicants seeking tax-exempt status with “Tea Party” and “Patriots” in their titles also included groups whose names included the words “Progressive” and “Occupy,” according to I.R.S. documents released Monday.

    The documents appeared to back up contentions by I.R.S. officials and some Democrats that the agency did not intend to single out conservative groups for special scrutiny. Instead, the documents say, officials were trying to use “key word” shortcuts to find overtly political organizations — both liberal and conservative — that were after tax favors by saying they were social welfare organizations.

    But the practice appeared to go much farther than that. One such “be on the lookout” list included medical marijuana groups, organizations that were promoting President Obama’s health care law, and applications that dealt “with disputed territories in the Middle East.”

    Taken together, the documents seem to change the terms of a scandal that exploded over accusations that the I.R.S. had tried to stifle a nascent conservative political movement. Instead, the dispute now revolves around questionable sorting tactics used by I.R.S. application screeners.

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      And why did we not know earlier that the IRS was scrutinizing both liberal and conservative groups? Because GOP Members of Congress asked the Inspector General to only look for IRS scrutiny of conservative groups, to make it look like an anti-conservative witch hunt instead of legitimate and balanced enforcement of a law that forbids political activity among such groups. From The Hill:

      The Treasury inspector general (IG) whose report helped drive the IRS targeting controversy says it limited its examination to conservative groups because of a request from House Republicans.

      A spokesman for Russell George, Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration, said they were asked by House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) “to narrowly focus on Tea Party organizations.”

  13. Well, all and good on the tit for tat….as it were. However, I’d hazard a guess that there haven’t nor will there be many stories from liberal groups getting grilled on their religious beliefs, their purpose, their funding and all the other questions pointed at conservative groups. Let’s hear it, and let’s see records where liberal groups are waiting, in some cases, years to get approved as a tax exempt group. This appears to be the IRS in full CYA mode. My guess is that this will go on…the storm ain’t passed.

    1. Jim Leinfelder says:

      These remarks, which are merely Issaesque speculation, rather conveniently ignore Rep. Issa’s cynical cherry-picking approach to this “investigation.”

  14. Good HuffPo piece here on how the media blew the IRS scam.

    “the media badly bungled the controversy when supposedly sober journalists like Bob Woodward and Chuck Todd jumped to conclusions and assumed the worst from day one. Instead of doing more reporting to discover the true nature and context of the IRS targeting, or at least waiting for their colleagues to do some, the supposedly liberal mainstream press let their eagerness to show they could be just as tough on a Democratic White House as a Republican one get ahead of the facts. We expect politicians to stretch reality to fit a narrative, but the press should be better.

    The pace at which the scandal went from zero to Watergate was breathtaking, with the narrative of a Nixonian plot to sic the feds on political enemies forming in the immediate hours after the IRS’ initial apology for the targeting on Friday, May 10. On NBC’s “Nightly News” that day, the first words out of White House correspondent Chuck Todd’s mouth were: “It harkens back to a Nixonian-type tactic, if you will, a political tactic here in the White House.”

    Coming at the end of a week of renewed media interest in the Benghazi attack — another scandal that was at least two-parts hype to one-part reality — the two scandals reinforced each other and together created a narrative more powerful than either could possibly hope to be on its own. By Sunday morning, the hosts, guests and pundits on the morning political talk shows easily connected the two and soon there was a cloud of scandal hanging over the White House that every serious person on cable news agreed could doom Obama’s entire second term. David Gregory invoked the “second term curse,” George Will read the portion of Richard Nixon’s Articles of Impeachments that focused on the IRS, David Brooks pointed out that “second terms are generally hit with scandal.” Heading into that week, the “compromised second term” narrative was already cemented and would prove impervious to contradicting information for weeks.

    1. I JUST read that. Isn’t there an algorithm for rating punditry … so that when you’re wrong repeatedly, and/or grievously you’re downgraded and exiled?

      1. That would be a great service to humanity. Maybe…

        Pundit Prognost-o-meter.

        * Prediction or characterization turned out to be total horse shit
        ** Prediction or characterization turned out to be mostly horse shit
        *** Prediction or characterization turned out to be somewhat right, somewhat horse shit
        **** Prediction or characterization turned out to be mostly correct
        ***** Prediction or characterization turned out to be totally correct

        You could tabulate and promote annual and career summaries of pundits’ track records.

          1. This one plays directly into the post about Susan Cain’s book on extrovert/introverts. Extroverts — hyper-confident punbdits — hold sway over their audience largely because they appear so confident of their message, something the introverted so obviously lack. Confidence — even false confidence based on little more than the ability to compartmentalize nagging uncertainty — is enormously appealing. At least as it plays in the moment.

          1. Ditto, here. The next step is applying a punitive mechanism to chronic inaccuracy … that removes them from the carnival stage. Although I’d be happy with a crawl under their every appearance. Something like, “Mr. Rove’s commentaries have been shown to be 6% accurate over the past 15 years.”

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