Barack Obama

Four Washington Scandals That Still Matter Despite the Distractions

They're still there, festering


three more years
White House

President Obama's attempt to lead the United States into an intervention in Syria may have provided the White House a distraction from the summer of scandal, but they're still there, festering. As the president waddles toward lame duck status, the various scandals will increasingly come to shape Obama's second term. Scandals like the NSA revelation have already forced the president to address the issues on other than his terms. His decision to go to Congress for authorization on Syria stands in stark contrast to the last time the U.S. intervened in a civil war in the region, in Libya in 2011. Back then, the president didn't seek Congressional authorization and Congress didn't do much about that. This time, though Obama insisted he didn't need Congress' OK, some members of Congress put up much more resistance to the idea of Congress as a rubber stamp for the president. The exercise could have the unintended consequence of making Congress more aggressive in confronting the different scandals. Here are four ongoing clouds hovering over the president:

1. NSA surveillance

spirit of '84?

As referenced above, ever since the first Edward Snowden disclosures back in May, Obama has been on the defensive on the issue of domestic surveillance. Often, the president's statements have turned out to be untrue or deceptive when new revelations come out. And four months after the first ones, they continue, with effects both domestically and abroad. In July, the House voted on an effort to defund the NSA's illegal domestic activities, the Amash Amendment. It failed by a remarkably small margin of seven votes. Recent revelations about NSA spying on the Brazilian president, meanwhile, led to that country's President Dilma Rousseff canceling her state visit to the White House. The controversy could push Brazil to drift toward the more anti-American bloc of countries in Latin America. Obama's response to Brazil's concerns was, essentially, that these things come out in the newspapers and then he has to figure out what's actually happening. It's not just Brazil. Mexico wants answers about alleged spying on its president, too. In Germany, American spying is a major campaign issue in the forthcoming elections. In Vienna, some residents suspect a local villa is actually an NSA listening post. Will Congress stay focused on the NSA? James Clapper, Obama's director of national intelligence, thinks so, saying he believes Congress will curb or even shut down the NSA's domestic surveillance efforts. Earlier this week, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte said he believed "further protections" were necessary to ensure Americans' civil liberties weren't violated and that he wanted "robust oversight," which could still mean not much will change.

2. IRS targeting

plead the fifth

When news about the NSA's domestic surveillance efforts first broke, the White House was already embroiled in a scandal involving the IRS targeting Tea Party groups. Here, too, President Obama addressed the scandal based on news reports, saying he only learned about the "alleged" improprieties when the rest of America did. And here, too, the president's words are revealed to be less than true as more information comes out. A recent report by the House Oversight & Government Reform  Committee, which continues to investigate the scandal, quotes two IRS officials who described a climate at the bureau in 2010 as one where employees were "acutely" aware that the president wanted a crackdown on Tea Party groups. Last week the House Ways & Means Committee uncovered e-mails from Lois Lerner (the IRS official who pled the fifth in a hearing on the scandal earlier this year) that appear to contradict the official story on the scandal. When the story first broke, Lerner, like the president, said she learned about it in the news. But the e-mails show Lerner and other IRS officials in Washington discussing the targeting, which they called "very dangerous," back in 2011.

3. Benghazi cover-up

four dead
screen grab

The Friday in May, just before the NSA story broke, when President Obama addressed the then-breaking story about the IRS scandal, he also took the time to call hearings that had just been held on Benghazi a "side show." The Obama Administration has tried to obfuscate the issues surrounding the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 since they happened. In the immediate aftermath, Obama and his underlings insisted the attack was part of anti-American demonstrations ignited by the trailer for an anti-Muslim film that had been on YouTube for months. When whistleblowers came forward to say nobody on the ground thought the Benghazi attack was related to regional demonstrations, Hillary Clinton infamously asked what difference, at this point, that made. Yet the ongoing cover-up over Benghazi (one CIA employee was reportedly suspended for refusing to sign a non-disclosure agreement about the incident, a senior State Department official claimed reassignments amounted to punishments of the officials involved,  a House report found the State Department's investigation inadequate and not independent) is illustrative of the Obama Administration's, and the overall government's, discomfort with transparency and the truth. In calling the Benghazi scandal a "side show," Obama hoped the media would follow his campaign slogan: move forward. But who knew what when, and who covered up what, remains relevant. And so House Republicans remain focused on the issue. Congressional hearings this week spotlighted the State Department's internal review of failures surrounding the Benghazi attack, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may be called to testify. Despite her insistence it doesn't matter anymore, the scandal could yet haunt her all the way to the 2016 election season.

4. No budget

screen grab

The last time the federal government operated under an actual budget passed by Congress and signed by the president was in 2009. Even when Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate, they were unable to produce a budget in 2010. It took more than three years for the Democrat-controlled Senate to pass another budget measure, this March, which didn't lead to a passed budget. Instead, the federal government has been operating under a series of short-term resolutions. Yet Democrats continue to blame Republicans exclusively for this failure to act. With another threat of a government shutdown looming at the end of the month, when the fiscal year and the latest-short term measure expires, Obama and his supporters are back at it. They're laying the culpability squarely with Republicans, when even the president's own proposed budget (which could be, and is, a virtual non-starter) was two months late this year and planned to add $5.2 trillion to deficits over the next decade. The federal government has run trillion dollar deficits from fiscal year 2009 through 2012 (xls link). In part due to the effects of sequestration, this year's deficit is projected to be $642 billion. The U.S. is set to hit its debt limit again this October, ahead of when the Treasury Department projected. The government continues to spend far more than it brings in in revenue and Congress is expending its energy on yet another continuing resolution.

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  1. I wonder what other distractions the administration has up its sleeve?

    1. Again? That trick never works.

      /Rocket J. Squirrel

      1. Rocky and Bullwinkle would be a vast intellectual improvement over the current gang of idiotic thieves.

        1. Moose and Squirrel are foilink plans AGAIN!


      2. Pull my finger…

  2. You have to admit that Scandal Summer is more interesting than Recovery Summer. And according to Obama supporters, just as real.

    1. I thought Summers withdrew?

  3. …some members of Congress put up much more resistance to the idea of Congress as a rubber stamp for the president.

    Once you get lied to under oath a couple of times and do squat about it, then I think you’re pretty much a paper tiger at that point.

    And no AP reporter spying scandal? Or was that pre-summer?

    1. “Once you get lied to under oath a couple of times and do squat about it, then I think you’re pretty much a paper tiger at that point.”

      Hey now! It wasn’t lying, it was merely providing the “least untruthful answer!”


      1. An answer of reduced truthiness.

        1. would that be limited kinetic truthfulness?

          1. Truthically challenged?

            1. I’d call it a “vast potential for future improvements in telling the truth”.

  4. Scandals? You mean the phony scandals dreamed up by the Teathuglitards and the Vast, Right-Wing Conspiracy?? THOSE “scandals”, Ed?

    Yeah – a bunch of made up stuff to keep OJ from assisting the police to find the REAL killers.

    I mean – keeping The President (PBUH) from being able to concentrate on the things needed to keep abortion safe, legal and rare, end the war on wimminz, provide contraceptives at no charge to middle class college women women’s health services to those who otherwise would have none, pay a Living Wage? to the tens of millions struggling to support families on minimum wage jobs whlie the 1% eat caviar, rid the streets of AR15’s given out like candy cigarettes by the Evul Koch Brothers, and continuing to stem the oceans’ advance, and keep the polar ice caps regenerating.

    Not to mention keeping the implementation of the Affordable Care Act on track despite the crafty and mean-spirited efforts of the Do-Nothing Congress to derail its magnificence.

    THOSE scandals, Ed? I don’t know how you sleep at night.

    1. But, according to the preview of the new IPCC report, Global Warming has stopped, and the seas are no longer rising as fast as feared. So, the President has accomplished those goals! Praise be to Obama, he has saved the planet as promised.

  5. You know, I’m feeling charitable today, and if I could say anything about the political class, it’s not that they’re inherently dumber* than everyone else, it’s that they take on jobs that no one is smart enough to do effectively, so they’re bound to fail, making them look, dumber.

    * Of course, who’s dumber, the guy who knows he’s not smart enough to organize an economy of 360,000,000 individuals, or the guy who thinks he is?

  6. On issue 4. I have on good authority from Paul Krugman that the fix to any problem is for government to spend more. So no worries, right? Gubment doesn’t need a budget cause they ain’t like you and I.…..-strategy/

    1. If only a lack of a budget meant it wasn’t spending my money.

      1. I’ve been reading Rothbard on the Great Depression currently, and from what I can keep up with, he would probably spit in Krugmans face for what he’s suggesting. More money from the gov in the Economy artificially pushes back people’s preference for reinvesting, only delaying the natural cycle of bust and boom which naturally reset the economy. Hard to read but interesting shit.

        1. Not only that, but the limited supply of capital means that government spending replaces private spending. And since government spending has a real multiplier under 1, “stimulus” is always bound to fail unless it is small enough that it doesn’t suck all the air out of the room.

    2. from Krugman:
      “3. Things aren’t always this way, but when they are, the government is not in competition with the private sector. Government purchases don’t use resources that would otherwise be producing private goods, they put unemployed resources to work. Government borrowing doesn’t crowd out private borrowing, it puts idle funds to work.”

      This has to be one of the most ignorant statements I’ve ever seen.

      1. …”Government purchases don’t use resources that would otherwise be producing private goods”…

        So his claim is that money and capital are not fungible?
        That is a truly amazing comment from someone educated in econ.

        1. Krugman’s statements have become bizarre. Either he is mentally deteriorating and becoming senile, or someone is blackmailing him into saying the things he is saying. There really isn’t any other explanation that I can see.

  7. But in all seriousness, as long as the MSM continue to carry water for the libs, the country is doomed. Most of the media in this country might as well be an arm of the Government, and call themselves Pravda. With a truly unbiased media, or even one that cared enough about it’s image to pretend to be fair, like the liberal media of 20 years ago, this crap would be unacceptable. Imagine if any of these scandals had happened under a Republican administration, or if a Republican president had decided to start ignoring the laws he didn’t like, or changing the dates of laws’ implementation despite the language of the law. The media would be (rightly) calling for Impeachment, and the Congress would be listening to “the will of the people”, which is what they mistake “the will of the media” as.
    And then the horribly incompetent local TV News parrots, simplifies, and further distorts the already untruthful party line, and we have a socialist propaganda machine that would make Stalin envious.

    1. I am a Professor of Dialectical Obozoism, and I approve.

    2. At some point this will shift, at least a bit. The recent Syria clown act was widely criticized, even by previously-loyal water-carriers. Even loyal Democrats in the media can’t forever resist covering juicy scandals and the slow-motion train wreck of Obamacare.

  8. Yet another racist post on Reason.

    On the lefty blogs I learned to always trust the NSA, the Ben Ghazi was some kind of GOP stooge or anti-gay activist, that the IRS is more trustworthy than Lord O, and many other hard truths.

    1. If you read less Klan tracts and listened more to Al Sharpton on MSNBC, you would understand that the Latte-Colored Jesus is better than the original version.

    2. I’ve always found Daily$oros to be a good source of racially unbiased support for the President’s righteous murder of evil Muslim children.

  9. Start working at home with Google. It’s the most-financialy rewarding I’ve ever done. On tuesday I got a gorgeous BMW after having earned $7439 this last month. I actually started five months/ago and practically straight away was bringin in at least $74, per-hour. visit this site right here

    1. Now, see? If any other guy was president, could you work at home and get a Beemer?

  10. Only four?

  11. Talking about these things hurts Obama’s feelings, that’s why we need to stop. He’s sensitive!

  12. my roomate’s mom makes on the internet. She has been out of a job for six months but last month her paycheck was just working on the internet for a few hours. browse this site……


  13. Thank you very much

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