Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan joins President Barack Obama at a news conference Thursday in the White House Rose Garden. | Lynn Sweet~Sun-Times
Updated: June 18, 2013 8:27AM
WASHINGTON — Add sexual assault in the military as another scandal for the Obama White House — one that is being overshadowed by the three other scandals commanding most of the attention in recent days.
Obama held a press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and was grilled in the Rose Garden about the IRS targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups and the Justice Department snooping on the AP phone records. Still in play is the controversy over the Obama administration response to the Benghazi, Libya attacks.
Later in the day, Obama called a special meeting with military brass to address the sexual assault scandal, with yet another episode of alleged misconduct surfacing.
When it started to rain during the press conference, Obama called over two white-gloved Marines who shielded the leaders with their Mary Poppins umbrellas while standing at near attention. I snapped a photo of the weird umbrella scene and Tweeted it out. Someone at Comedy Central saw it and added a caption over my picture on their website: “The Marines are currently working on a type of umbrella to shield Obama from scandals.”
But it is not going to be that easy for the Obama White House.
IRS: No to special counsel
Obama rejected suggestions that a special counsel be appointed to probe the IRS for targeting conservative groups.
With the Justice Department conducting a criminal investigation and the Treasury inspector general recommending an investigation, “I think we’re going to be able to figure out exactly what happened, who was involved, what went wrong, and we’re going to be able to implement steps to fix it.”
No AP apology
Obama defended the Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder over seizing the phone records of some Associated Press editors and reporters.
“Leaks related to national security can put people at risk,” Obama said. AP editors held a story that may have triggered the government hunt, running it after the White House said the information at issue was about to be released by the White House.
“And so 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.”
Holder vote of confidence
Holder had been rumored to be leaving since the start of Obama’s second term. Now he will stay a bit, so it does not look as if he was run out of town by hostile congressional Republicans. “I have complete confidence in Eric Holder as attorney general,” Obama said.
Sex assault: Needs to stop
The latest military sexual assault problem came on Thursday, when the top official dealing with sexual harrasment at Fort Campbell was arrested in connection with a domestic dispute. A sergeant at Fort Hood was accused of running a prostitution ring on Wednesday.
Obama, meeting with military brass, Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secrertary Chuck Hagel, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and others said about sexual assault, “Not only is it a crime, not only is it shameful and disgraceful, but it also is going to make and has made the military less effective than it can be.
“So this is not a sideshow,” Obama said. “This is not sort of a second-order problem that we’re experiencing. This goes to the heart and core of who we are and how effective we’re going to be.”