Benghazi talking points?
Not a scandal.
IRS practicing politics?
A scandal for the president?
The rest of the current inquiry is nonsense. Within days after the attack, UN Ambassador Susan Rice was sent on a round of interviews about what was known so far about the attack. I personally viewed her accounting of the tragedy on one Sunday morning news show after another. She qualified everything she shared by emphasizing we weren't sure about all the details yet. I watched as she listened in on one program while Libyan President Mohammed el-Magariaf stated emphatically that this was a terrorist attack. Rice didn't object to this statement; she simply reiterated that there was still a lot to be learned.
In short order, as more information emerged, the White House was completely, proactively forthcoming. It was directly from the Oval Office that we learned this was a planned attacked, carried out by organized and well-armed extremists. That angle was pursued at the direction of the White House, and turned out to be supported by evidence. This evidence wasn't dragged out of the Administration by the press, or discovered through exhaustive Congressional hearings. It was only later, when it became clear that there was nothing about this tragedy that could be pinned on the Obama administration that Republicans began clutching at the straw of the tenor of statements immediately communicated after the event. Unfortunately for them, no wrong-doing occurred there either.
Routing a memo to a dozen people to hammer out wording before going forward is a scintillating and suspect process to exactly no one who has worked in any office, ever. The changes supplied by the White House itself could be characterized as minimal, and as more cautious than advantageous for their image; caution well-warranted considering the fact that attacks on the embassy in Cairo occurred simultaneously and were NOT connected to terrorists.
If you'll remember, standing in stark contrast to that caution was the tone of the statements made on this issue by then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who was perfectly comfortable tossing out sweeping, irresponsible, anti-Administration accusations, before all of the parts of this tragedy had even stopped moving. If nothing else struck fear in the hearts of voters imagining such a man sitting in the Oval Office, that kind of impulsive, short-sighted, and self-serving behavior should have.
As for officials in the Internal Revenue Service targeting Tea Party-associated groups for special scrutiny, well, that news is chilling. Any hint of such activity on the part of low-level agents would be inexcusable. In this case it sounds like there were IRS employees with significant authority directing activity against these groups – activity that amounts to harassment. Any American who cares about free speech should be concerned about this. A full inspector general's report due out later this week will provide more detail. We need to know how far-up knowledge of this activity went, and whether Congress was purposely misled. As high as accountability lies, heads should roll. But hopes that anyone close to president will bear responsibility are sure to be dashed.
Those opportunistic members of the GOP who are thinking that either of these issues could provide a way out of their real task - redeveloping a political party that represents honest conservative principles - will have to go, once again, back to the drawing board.
- Julie Boler