Her column today is simply unhinged from the first sentence:
We are in the midst of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate.
Can she actually believe this? Has this president broken the law, lied under oath, or authorized war crimes? Has he traded arms for hostages with Iran? Has he knowingly sent his cabinet out to tell lies about his sex life? Has he sat by idly as an American city was destroyed by a hurricane? Has he started a war with no planning for an occupation? Has he started a war based on a lie, and destroyed the US’ credibility and moral standing while he was at it, leaving nothing but a smoldering and now rekindled civil sectarian war?
So far as I can tell, this president has done nothing illegal, unethical or even wrong.
You have to bend yourself into several pretzels to even understand what the Benghazi thing is about. All the emails released show what amounts to a classic inter-agency conflict, resolved dispassionately by Ben Rhodes, in a period of considerable confusion. For the half-baked talking points, someone has been already fired. On the DOJ’s aggressive pursuit of a leaker who might have endangered national security, I thought Republicans like Noonan approved of that. But not when it’s Obama, when it suddenly becomes an “assault”.
The IRS story is a different matter and an entirely legitimate scandal at a lower level. I want those responsible to be fired or prosecuted. But there is no proof whatever of any connection to the president, his campaign or anyone near the administration itself. Sarah Hall Ingram, who was in charge of the office scrutinizing 501 (c) 4s has no business still working in the IRS, let alone on healthcare reform. She should be fired as well as her then-deputy, who is out the door June 3.
But how exactly is all this a crippling scandal for the president? He is not involved in any of these issues directly. In fact, it would be highly inappropriate for the president to be micro-managing the IRS or, for that matter, the DOJ. If he were, Noonan would be calling him Carter. At some very distant level, he is formally responsible – but not in the way that Reagan was directly responsible for Iran-Contra, or Clinton for lying under oath about his sex life, or Bush for making brutal torture his central strategy in the war on terror. That’s what makes a scandal a real scandal: the political involvement of a president or a key member of his administration in a cover-up or criminal offense or lie. That simply isn’t here – with the caveat that something may emerge later.
So what on earth is she banging on about? She cannot connect the president directly to this scandal – the first in his four and a half years in office (which must be a record). So she simply assigns blame to him because he is the president. Or this higher bullshit:
A president sets a mood, a tone. He establishes an atmosphere. If he is arrogant, arrogance spreads. If he is to too partisan, too disrespecting of political adversaries, that spreads too. Presidents always undo themselves and then blame it on the third guy in the last row in the sleepy agency across town.
I would say, especially after the catastrophic consequences of the last president, and the continuous siege of the Clinton White House, Obama’s record is extraordinarily clean and remains so. And this president is not partisan, as many Democrats will tell you. He’d love to do a deal with the GOP – if only they were capable of compromise.
I guess what I’m saying is that my own confidence in this president’s integrity and abilities is completely unfazed by these unconnected stories. I have seen no evidence of his involvement in any of them. Noonan hasn’t either. She just invents a conspiracy to audit conservatives with two anecdotes. She writes that “it is not even remotely possible that only one IRS office was involved,” even though we have no evidence that any other one was. The Washington response, moreover, was to tell Cincinnati to cut it out. She then writes:
And why — in the matters of the Associated Press and Benghazi too — does no one in this administration ever take responsibility?
How about this on the DOJ’s leak investigation from today from the president:
“I make no apologies and I don’t think the American people would expect me as commander-in-chief not to be concerned about information that might compromise their missions or might get them killed.”
Yes this is no ordinary scandal, Peggy. Because, as far as the president is concerned, there is as yet no scandal at all.
(Photo: Obama today by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.)