Will Benghazi and the IRS controversy define Obama’s legacy?

The President said that if the IRS displayed bias, it would be held accountable. Is it time for someone to hold Obama responsible? Photo: AP

NEW YORK, May 28, 2013 ― President Obama dismissed the recent Internal Revenue Scandal as nothing more than “politics” following a barrage of questions about how his administration handled last year’s Benghazi attacks, and the deaths of four Americans. The administration is accused of using the IRS to play “politics” by targeting conservative based organizations. The President agreed that if the IRS exercised any form of political bias, then it would be held “accountable,” but perhaps it’s time for someone to hold Obama himself responsible.

As the president held a recent news conference, the reaction of Congress was shock: shock at the president’s lack of preparation on questions about Libya and the alleged subsequent coverup. Following Obama’s news conference, the buzz was of an administration that wasn’t prepared to address the fallout from Benghazi, nor to deal honestly with reports of political bias at the IRS and its abuses of power aimed at conservatives and conservative organizations. Republican lawmakers jumped to condemn the Obama Administration’s overreach. Talk of “abuse of power” and “coverup” led inevitably to comparisons with President Nixon and the Watergate scandal.


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California Representative Darrel Issa (R-Calif.) said “Americans should take notice that the administration views itself as being above the law.” House members further concluded that Obama did not have his facts correct on Benghazi, and acted as if he were unaware of the IRS controversy, which called into further question his ability to manage his departments and agencies. The president consistently blamed the Benghazi controversy on Republicans, trying to paint questions about the deaths of four Americans, including a U.S. ambassador, as nothing more than “politics.” 

Sadly, the White House’s chief counsel’s admitted that he received information about the IRS problem three weeks prior, but the president claims that he only learned about the IRS incident a few days before his press conference. The days simply do not add up to a competent and honest administration. The president, upon learning of the IRS debacle, stated, “If you’ve got the IRS operating in anything less than a non-partisan way than that is simply outrageous. And it’s got to be fixed.”

Congress now faces the problem that the IRS has become a surveillance and strong-arm tool for the administration, which directly affects American democracy. It appears that cover-ups, going back to Libya, will become a consistent theme for the Obama administration. How can the White House not take full responsibility for how a government agency operating in the Executive Branch just happens to target and single out conservatives and conservative-leaning organizations?

Lois Lerner, the director of the unit at the IRS responsible for granting 501 (c)(4) status, decided last week to invoke the Fifth Amendment during her testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Lerner, who proclaims her innocence, is a key figure in the unfolding IRS controversy, as she is in charge of the division overseeing nonprofit organizations. The BOLO (be on the lookout) list criteria used in her division directed employees to conduct a more intrusive review of applications for tax-exempt status for groups with the words “tea party,” “conservative” or “patriot” in their names, which some conservative lawmakers are calling outrageous.


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The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an “extensive” investigation into whether ethical rules or laws were broken by the tax agency, and whether “misleading or false information” was given to the committee and further withheld from the White House. Whether an administration investigation into an agency of the administration that was engaged in targeting enemies of the administration in order to further administration objectives is likely to result in a finding of high-leve administration malfeasance strikes some administration critics as doubtful. 

One thing is certain: With so many parts of the Obama Administration involved with spying, auditing, harassing, and stonewalling administration critics, the head of the administration has some explaining to do. It’s far past time to insist that President Obama take some responsibility for his own administration.

 


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