Obama’s incredible shrinking presidency

The trifecta of IRS, Benghazi, and AP/Rosen email scandals are shrinking the credibility of the President. Photo: Charles Dharapak/AP Photos

LOS ANGELES, May 24, 2013 — President Obama continues to deny accountability over the crises affecting three major arms of his administration: the State Department, the Treasury, and the Department of Justice. Either the President is an incompetent leader or a dishonest one.

No one seems to know where President Obama was the night of the Benghazi embassy attack last September, and according to White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, where he was when fateful decisions were being made is “irrelevant.”


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The President claims he heard about the IRS scandal, where agents inappropriately targeted certain conservative and religious groups seeking tax-exempt status, the way everyone else did: through the news coverage.

Both Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder claim no responsibility for the Department of Justice seizing Associated Press emails, or approving the hacking of Fox News’ chief White House correspondent James Rosen’s personal and business emails.

The drone of the denials is almost deafening. And speaking of drones, in light of new reports that four American civilians have been killed in U.S. drone strikes, the President chose to do damage control with a Thursday afternoon counterterrorism policy speech. The gist of the speech was to tell us that organized terrorism is on the wane, and we need to redefine how we approach terrorist acts for the next generation.

Osama bin Laden is dead, and oh, by the way, I’m still closing Guantanamo Bay!


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In light of British soldier Lee Rigby’s brutal beheading by Islamic extremists, and our recent terrorist attacks at the Boston Marathon by the radicalized Tsarnaev brothers, making a speech about how we need to redefine terrorism has as much lift as a lead balloon. This speech did little to increase the President’s credibility rating, and did more to show that he is floundering, grasping at any straw to resurrect what little integrity he might have left.

One man’s important speech is another man’s distraction, and the brewing pots of scandal are troubles that will not go quietly.

Each denial of accountability from the President’s mouth, each administration lieutenant he sends out to deny any White House knowledge, every double-speak from the lips of spokeshold Jay Carney when being confronted with the truth only serves to diminish the President, and in turn, the office of the Presidency.

Real Clear Politics polls show an almost even split between the President’s approval ratings, with 48.4 percent approving of his job performance, and 47.8 percent disapproving. The question on whether the country is going in the right direction is even more devastating, with 31.7 percent saying we are headed in the right direction, but 59.2 percent saying we are on the wrong track.


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Despite the administration’s email drop last Friday, Benghazi continues to stay at the forefront, and the American people are not buying the cries of “witch hunt” from Democrats and the news media. Chairman Darryl Issa (R-Calif.) and the Congressional Oversight Committee plan to get testimony from more whistleblowers, and State Department officials, while Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) have additional questions they want State to answer.

James Rosen’s plight also continues to have legs. According to the Huffington Post, Attorney General Eric Holder personally signed off on the warrant that allowed the Justice Department to search Rosen’s personal email. “The report places Holder at the center of one of the most controversial clashes between the press and the government in recent memory.”

So the snowball effect started by these scandals appear to be increasing in speed and size, as the President and his minions contract from the cold.

The IRS debacle looks especially dubious after the four stooges who were in charge during the period of time conservative and religious groups were targeted played footsie with the Senate Finance Committee; revealing little, while leaving the committee unsatisfied.

Former IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman, Treasury inspector general for tax administration J. Russell George, deputy Treasury secretary Neal Wolin and former head of the IRS’s tax-exempt organizations office Lois Lerner all professed that they knew nothing, or had limited knowledge of the goings on during the time of the targeting.

With this little knowledge of what happens at the agency that you head, how did any of these people manage to gain such titled and well-paid positions? The same standards apply here as to the President: you are either an incompetent leader, or a dishonest one.

Lois Lerner’s lack of knowledge about what it means to invoke her Fifth Amendment rights has backfired on her. Despite her counsel’s instruction, she opened with a detailed statement, denied any wrongdoing, and then tried to plead the Fifth. Chairman Issa confirmed that by making an opening statement, Lerner waived her constitutional right to not comment.

She is still subject to give her testimony, and the subpoena stands. According to the Washington Post, Lerner has now been placed on administrative leave. Probably a wise move, since she has shown both a lack of accountability and a lack of intelligence.

IRS commissioner Douglas Schulman’s 118 visits to the White House over two years does little to put distance between the President and the IRS’s dealings with the aggrieved organizations. The damage control will continue, but so will the diminishing returns.

Out of the entire trifecta of scandals, the IRS is probably the most damning. There is no more loathed organization than the Internal Revenue Service. Most Americans feel screwed over by this agency, even when doing everything they can to follow the letter of the law. So the longer this goes on, the more the American people will be inclined to get answers and see heads roll.

In case you missed it, the IRS will be the oversight agency for the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. So not only will they have control of our tax dollars, but our medical records too. If an organization’s political or religious leanings can make it subject to targeting, who’s to say this agency will not refuse care on those same bases? Or decide whether someone deserves a heart transplant or not because they are Jewish or Christian? Far fetched?

Consider this: the Left loves to invoke the House Un-American Activities Committee of the 1950s as an example of government overreach and demonization of individual citizens. Now it appears the same thing is happening with a leftist administration at the reigns of power. If this scandal reflects anything, it is how easily a bloated agency with too much power can wield that power in an out-of-control fashion.

Dwindling credibility often results in dwindling support from those once willing to prop up a President. Protestations from pundits and news media to the contrary, this is how Watergate started. A whiff of impropriety, mounting evidence, lots of denials, underlings finally squeezed to confess, and the rest is history. Before he knew it, President Nixon was subject to impeachment, and chose resignation.

President Obama might do well to learn from history, before he is doomed to repeat it.


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Jennifer Oliver O'Connell

Jennifer Oliver O’Connell is the "In My Orbit" columnist for Washington Times Communities, writes on Los Angeles Faith and Community for Examiner.com, teaches Yoga, and coaches on careers and reinvention.

You can keep up with what's in Jennifer's orbit through her As the Girl Turns website: (http://asthegirlturns.com).

Contact Jennifer Oliver O'Connell

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