The Obama administration has faced an onslaught of scandals that began May 8, when a congressional hearing into the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, became an emotional roller coaster.
The attack, apparently carried out by an al-Qaeda splinter group, killed four Americans, including the United States’ Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens. Republicans were eager to use testimony by three government officials as ammunition against Hillary Clinton and the State Department, alleging that their preparation was negligent and their response nonexistent. Democrats, including Clinton, questioned the necessity of the hearings in the first place.
“What difference, at this point, does it make?” Clinton asked in her testimony. She became visibly choked up when speaking about her personal response to the attacks, holding back tears when describing her interaction with the families of the four victims.
“For me this is not just a matter of policy. It’s personal,” said Clinton.
Later that week, an internal IRS report was made public, accusing the agency of specifically targeting conservative groups for increased tax scrutiny. According to the report, any group applying for tax-exempt 501(c)4 status that appeared to have tea party affiliations or championed a conservative ideology was subject to long delays in processing and intrusive probing. 501(c)4 status is particularly attractive to political groups because it confers tax exemption, and also allows for some donations to elections without requiring they disclose their donor information, unlike political action committees. Representatives for the IRS noted that the heightened examinations were mandated and carried out by lower level staff, not high-ranking officials. Evidence coming out of the office accused of the undue scrutiny, based in Cincinnati, indicates that employees were far removed from the goings on at IRS headquarters in Washington and received little direction. The New York Times and others also reported that “at least two dozen liberal-leaning [organizations] and some that were seemingly apolitical” were also singled-out. Regardless, Obama called the allegations “outrageous,” and Attorney General Eric Holder promised an investigation into the matter.
“We are examining the facts to see if there were criminal violations,” said Holder.
Holder would soon find himself and his Justice Department colleagues in their own pot of hot water, after news broke May 13 that the phone numbers and call histories of more than 100 Associated Press reporters were obtained by the government about a year ago. This situation was prompted by an AP story last spring that detailed a foiled terrorist plot in Yemen that had ambitions to detonate a bomb on a U.S. airliner. The fact that the plot was uncovered and halted by the CIA was classified information.
This prompted the Department of Justice to issue a subpoena, essentially a court order, to obtain the home and cell phone numbers of numerous AP reporters, as well as information about whom they called and how long they talked. The AP was not aware of this until now, a year later, which goes against typical subpoena practice. CEO and president of the AP Gary Pruitt, as well as congressmen on both sides of the aisle, were incensed by these developments, with some even calling for Attorney General Holder’s resignation.
“We regard this action by the Department of Justice as a serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news,” said Pruitt.
Even though he is not personally involved with any of them, these scandals will surely weigh heavily on the shoulders of President Obama and his administration, not to mention fellow Democrats in the House and Senate who will be fighting tough battles for re-election in 2014. Some have already begun to distance themselves from the scandals or speak out vehemently against them. Senator Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), one of the senators running for reelection next year, was one of many Democrats who spoke out against the scandals.
“When you look at all this, it’s like when it rains, it pours,” said Hagan. “It’s very, very troubling.”
Indeed, this “when it rains, it pours” mentality seems to apply to the scandal-obsessed press as well. President Obama held a press conference May 16 in the White House rose garden in the middle of a rainstorm. He asked a Marine soldier to hold an umbrella over his head while he addressed the crowd. This drew the ire of conservatives, who alleged that the president’s order was out of line, since umbrellas are not part of standard Marine uniform.
“Mr. President, when it rains it pours, but most Americans hold their own umbrellas,” wrote former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on her Facebook page. The Washington Post pointed out that several past presidents, as well as Palin herself, have been photographed with Marines, Secret Service agents and others holding umbrellas for them.