Updated: June 15, 2013 6:14AM
Only five months into his second term, President Barack Obama finds himself plagued by a pair of blots on his administration worthy of the description scandal — increasing evidence of a deliberate attempt to mislead the American public about the Benghazi terrorist attack and the stunning revelation that the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups.
In a news conference Monday, Obama was quick to condemn IRS scrutiny of the tax-exempt status of groups with Tea Party or Patriot in their names, and equally quick to dismiss revelations about the rewriting of talking points on Benghazi as “political circus.”
No political appointee has been linked to the actions of IRS agents in Cincinnati blamed for targeting conservatives. But it’s no secret these were among Obama’s most vocal critics. Nor is it a secret that Democratic leaders from the White House to Congress to friendly media have consistently demonized the Tea Party movement, creating an environment that made the agents feel comfortable doing what they did. This is an indictment of the awesome power bestowed on the nation’s tax collector and the ability of its bureaucrats to meddle in our lives. And the reach of the IRS only gets bigger under ObamaCare as the agency is tasked with the job on assessing penalties on Americans who don’t get health insurance.
On Benghazi, Obama said “there is no there there.” That’s pretty much what presidents say when confronted with evidence of scandal in their ranks. Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and their defenders tried to portray Benghazi questions as the work of a cabal of Republican partisans. But that argument collapsed last week when ABC News, as mainstream as can be, disclosed that a dozen revisions were made to talking points used by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to characterize the Benghazi attack beginning as a spontaneous demonstration against an anti-Islam video.
Those revisions to the talking points from the CIA were instigated by State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland with the support of White House deputy national security adviser Benjamin Rhodes to wash away references to extremists linked to al-Qaida being involved in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack. Also scrubbed was information that the CIA had warned of the extremist threat in Libya. That would be on top of the appeals from the late Ambassador Christopher Stevens and others in Libya about the threatening situation there.
A month after the attack, I wrote that I didn’t believe State “deliberately ignored warnings of the dangerous environment in Libya.” Now I think the truth may be more complicated than that. It’s increasingly clear the administration, then in the middle of a re-election campaign, was committed to showing that the Libyan intervention was a success as well as claiming to have al-Qaida “on the run.”
That could lead people to try to minimize the terror threat in Libya and then misdirect blame for the attack on that video. But the facts quickly demolished the talking points.
Clinton’s defenders claim she is being singled out. But she was the boss always quick to claim credit for State success, so she can’t avoid accountability. The night of the attack, the No. 2 diplomat in Libya accurately described it to her. State’s commissioned inquiry, called independent, laid blame for the poor security in Libya at lower-level officials. It’s interesting, and maybe no more than that, to note that low-level bureaucrats are being blamed at the IRS. Many more questions need to be answered to determine how much there is there on the IRS and Benghazi scandals.