By Teresa Welsh |
Are White House Controversies problems? Yes. Watergate? No.
What a week for the White House. Over the last few days, the president and his team have faced a turbulent troika of controversial stories. In response, some people in the media and on the right have tried to raise the specter of the Watergate scandal that brought down President Nixon. Maybe they skipped a few chapters of modern American History or lost those memories in middle age, but these trials aren't even in the same league as Watergate.
For those who forget, at the root of the Watergate scandal was a criminal enterprise disguised as a political organization that committed an actual felony. In response the president of the United States forced two attorney generals to resign and fired a special prosecutor to cover up that felony.
On the Benghazi attack that tragically claimed the lives of four diplomats, Ambassador Thomas Pickering wrote a scathing report that detailed multiple shortcomings and which was accepted wholesale by the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who subsequently testified before Congress on the matter. There is no crime in government foul-ups and no cover-up in accepting the findings of an independent investigation. Republicans insist on making the reaction to the attack on the diplomatic outpost a political football, but instead of the Watergate era admonition to follow the money they are focused on following the talking point drafts.
News of the Justice Department seizure of Associate Press reporters' phone records to pin down the source of government intelligence leaks rightfully raised concerns from reporters, but the administration followed the law in securing the phone records and at its heart is a national security problem. I'm concerned about the laxness of the law, but what's going on is not illegal, it's part of a criminal investigation.
Meanwhile an Inspector General report revealed that IRS staffers targeted conservative-leaning groups for intense scrutiny of their tax-exempt status, raising concerns of civil libertarians on both sides of the political spectrum as well as most other Americans who generally fear and loathe the IRS. This is probably the most politically dangerous of the controversies and the president is taking it head on. He has relieved two officials and others should start packing their belongings. But as Salon.com pointed out where was all of this Republican outrage when the IRS was looking into the NAACP and several black churches for political activity during the Bush administration?
All of these are problems for the Obama administration, but on the scale of felonious events and cover-up in Watergate? Not even close.
About Jamal Simmons Principal at The Raben Group
Steve King Republican Representative from Iowa
No – IRS and AP Scandals Are No Watergate
Tracy Sefl Democratic Strategist
James Robenalt Partner at Thompson Hine
Charles B. Rangel Democratic Representative from New York