How can Republicans in Congress work with President Obama when they can’t trust him to be an honest broker or treat them with respect? If Obama isn’t blaming Republicans for his inability to advance his agenda, he’s calling them names. During Monday’s White House press conference, Obama reiterated his disgust with the GOP’s doggedness to get to the bottom of what happened in Benghazi.
“The whole issue of talking points, frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow,” said Obama. Belittling comments like these don’t warm Republicans’ hearts to help Obama advance one scintilla of an issue in his second term.
Call them what you will– sideshows or scandals – they seem to be swirling around the White House like bees to honey. Days after the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee concluded a fresh hearing into who knew what and when about the terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, the public learned the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) targeted conservative groups seeking non-profit exemption to engage in political activism. The IRS’s interrogation style questioning of the groups began in 2010. It’s hard to read this as anything other than appear politically motivated.
Joining British Prime Minister David Cameron Monday, President Barack Obama tried to set the record straight on both scandals declaring the IRS’ actions “outrageous”. If proven true, Obama said
“people have to be held accountable, and it’s got to be fixed … But I’ve got no patience with it. I will not tolerate it. And we will make sure that we find out exactly what happened on this.”
But will Obama hold senior IRS officials accountable? As GOP Senator Rand Paul tweeted:
“What I pledged to the American people was that we would find out what happened,” Obama told reporters during Monday’s White House press conference. But eight months after US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in Benghazi, neither Congress nor the public knows what really happened. During the recent House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Benghazi, hearing three whistleblowers gave shocking testimony incongruent with what the administration said happened.
Gregory Hicks, a 20-year State Department veteran and Stevens’ deputy at the American embassy in Libya, testified that the Obama administration officials knew “from the get go” Benghazi was a terrorist attack. He said his “jaw dropped” when he saw UN ambassador Susan Rice give interviews to the contrary. Hicks also said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton phoned him at 2am the night of the attack to get information on Stevens.
Newly reported information from emails between the State Department and the White House, among other agencies, reveal both were actively involved in editing the talking points 12 times. The CIA reference “Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qaeda participated in the attack” was deleted from the talking points. In a series of emails beginning 14 September 2012, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland insisted CIA’s reference to the fact “at least five other attacks against foreign interests” occurred in 2012 prior to Benghazi be deleted because it could be “abused” by Congress and make the State Department look bad on security.
Finally, Nuland noted the changes didn’t “resolve all of my issues or those of my building’s leadership”. The word leadership indicates Hillary Clinton, who led the State Department at the time. Things aren’t adding up on Benghazi. Since the state was heavily involved in the editing of the talking points why didn’t Clinton appear on the Sunday talk shows instead of UN Ambassador Susan Rice? Why is White House refusing to make the emails public?
In her testimony before Congress in January, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphatically told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee she “wasn’t involved in the talking points process”. The White House has also maintained that it wasn’t involved in drafting the talking points but simply read what the CIA gave them, making “stylistic” changes.
In the midst of holes blown through the administration’s Benghazi story, Obama testily insisted on Monday, “There’s no there, there” and railed against Republicans for turning Benghazi into “a political circus”. If Obama continues to attack Republicans in Congress with impunity for trying to hold him accountable for his administration’s actions, the president can give up working with the GOP on anything.
Obama said he learned about the IRS scandal “from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this”. Regardless when he learned about it, Obama is the Commander in Chief. All federal agencies are accountable to him and he’s accountable to the American people for whom he works. Congress and the people want to see what’s “there”.