The Times West Virginian

Headline News

May 16, 2013

Obama attempts to regain control amid controversies

WASHINGTON — Under mounting pressure, President Barack Obama on Wednesday released a trove of documents related to the Benghazi attack and forced out the top official at the Internal Revenue Service following revelations that the agency targeted conservative political groups. The moves were aimed at halting a perception spreading among both White House opponents and allies that the president has been passive and disengaged as controversies consume his second term.

In another action, the White House asked Congress to revive a media shield law that would protect journalists from having to reveal information, a step seen as a response to the Justice Department’s widely criticized subpoenas of phone records from reporters and editors at The Associated Press.

The flurry of activity signaled a White House anxious to regain control amid the trio of deepening controversies. The incidents have emboldened Republicans, overshadowed Obama’s legislative agenda and threatened to plunge his second term into a steady stream of congressional investigations.

Standing in the East Room of the White House, the president said Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller had resigned and vowed that more steps would be taken to hold those responsible accountable.

“Americans have a right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it,” Obama said of the IRS actions. “I will not tolerate this kind of behavior at any agency, but especially at the IRS given the power that it has and the reach that it has into all of our lives.”

The president, seeking to keep up his more robust profile on the controversies, also said he would take questions from reporters Thursday at a previously scheduled news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Obama had addressed the IRS matter on Monday, but his measured words left many unsatisfied, particularly given that he had waited three days to address the developments. He also repeatedly asserted that he was waiting to find out if the reports were accurate, even though top IRS officials had already acknowledged the controversial actions.

Adding to narrative of a passive president were White House efforts to distance Obama from the IRS scandal, as well as the revelations that the Justice Department had secretly obtained work and personal phone records of journalists. In both cases, the White House insisted the president had no prior knowledge of the events and learned about the matters like the general public — from news reports.

Obama’s cautious response, combined with his lack of awareness about controversies brewing within his administration, opened him to quick criticism from his Republican foes.

“If Obama really learned about the latest IRS and AP secret subpoena scandals in the news, who exactly is running the ship at the White House?” Republican National Committee spokesman Kirsten Kukowski said.

But in a worrying sign for the White House, some Democrats also criticized the president for not being more aggressive in responding to trouble within the government.

Robert Gibbs, Obama’s former White House press secretary, said the president should have appointed a bipartisan commission of former IRS officials to look into the issue of targeting political organizations. And Gibbs gently chided his former boss for using passive language when he first addressed the political targeting during a White House news conference Monday.

“I think they would have a much better way of talking about this story rather than simply kind of landing on the, ‘well if this happened, then we’ll look at it’,” Gibbs said during an appearance on MSNBC.

The pair of new fresh controversies coincided with a resurgence in the GOP-led investigation into the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

Congressional Republicans launched another round of hearings on the attacks last week. And on Friday, a congressional official disclosed details of emails among administration officials that resulted in the CIA downplaying the prospect that the attacks were an act of terror in talking points used to publicly discuss the deadly incident.

Obama aides insisted the emails were either taken out of context or provided no new information but resisted pressure to make the emails public for five days, before finally disclosing the documents to reporters Wednesday. The emails revealed that then-CIA Director David Petraeus disagreed with the final talking points, despite the White House’s insistence that the intelligence agency had the final say over the statements.

The White House has publicly defended its handling of the controversies. Obama spokesman Jay Carney has insisted it would be “wholly inappropriate” for the president, in the case of the Justice Department matter, to weigh in on an active investigation, and in the case of the IRS controversy, to insert himself in the actions of an independent agency.

However, legal scholar Jonathan Turley disputed those assertions, saying there is no legal reason a president would be precluded from learning about the investigations before the public or commenting on them, at least broadly.

“These comments treat the president like he’s the bubble boy,” said Turley, a law professor at George Washington University.

David Axelrod, Obama’s longtime adviser, acknowledged the White House could have acted more aggressively in “the interest of stagecraft.” But he insisted that the president’s handling of the matters will ultimately be vindicated.

“One virtue he has is that he takes a long-range view,” he said. “It’s easy to get whipped up by the frenzy, but it’s responsible to react to the facts. It has short-term liabilities, but in the long-run, it’s a quality you want in a president.”

———

Follow Julie Pace on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

 

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Powerful storms rip through eastern U.S.

    Powerful storms raking across several states in the eastern U.S. on Sunday have destroyed at least 10 homes in Tennessee, and there were no immediate reports of any deaths or injuries, authorities said.

    July 27, 2014

  • Lawmakers say Obama too aloof with Congress

    President Barack Obama’s request for billions of dollars to deal with migrant children streaming across the border set off Democrats and Republicans. Lawmakers in both parties complained that the White House — six years in — still doesn’t get it when it comes to working with Congress.

    July 27, 2014

  • U.S. faces intelligence hurdles in downing of airliner

    A series of unanswered questions about the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shows the limits of U.S. intelligence gathering even when it is intensely focused, as it has been in Ukraine since Russia seized Crimea in March.

    July 27, 2014

  • House approves bill to boost child tax credit for some

    More families with higher incomes could claim the popular child tax credit under a bill that won approval Friday in the House. But in a dispute that divides Republicans and Democrats, millions of the poorest low-income families would still lose the credit in 2018, when enhancements championed by President Barack Obama are set to expire.

    July 26, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia firing across border into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
    Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    July 26, 2014

  • U.N. school in Gaza in cross-fire; 15 killed

    A U.N. school in Gaza crowded with hundreds of Palestinians seeking refuge from fierce fighting came under fire Thursday, killing at least 15 civilians and leaving a sad tableau of blood-spattered pillows, blankets and children’s clothing scattered in the courtyard.

    July 25, 2014

  • Jet with 116 on board crashes in Mali

    An Air Algerie jetliner carrying 116 people crashed Thursday in a rainstorm over restive Mali, and its wreckage was found near the border of neighboring Burkina Faso — the third major international aviation disaster in a week.

    July 25, 2014

  • Two more planes with Ukraine bodies arrive in Netherlands

    Two more military aircraft carrying remains of victims from the Malaysian plane disaster arrived in the Netherlands on Thursday, while Australian and Dutch diplomats joined to promote a plan for a U.N. team to secure the crash site which has been controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

    July 25, 2014

  • Obama demands ‘economic patriotism’

    Staking out a populist stand ahead of the midterm elections, President Barack Obama on Thursday demanded “economic patriotism” from U.S. corporations that use legal means to avoid U.S. taxes through overseas mergers.
    “I don’t care if it’s legal,” Obama declared. “It’s wrong.”

    July 24, 2014

  • Airline disasters come in a cluster

    Nearly 300 passengers perish when their plane is shot out of the sky. Airlines suspend flights to Israel’s largest airport after rocket attacks. Two airliners crash during storms. Aviation has suffered one of its worst weeks in memory, a cluster of disasters spanning three continents.

    July 24, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads