President Barack Obama Monday continued to dismiss the Republican uproar over last September's attacks in Benghazi, while calling the Internal Revenue Services' treatment of conservative groups "an outrage." Obama said he became aware of the accusations against the IRS last Friday, and vowed that those responsible will be held accountable.
The IRS is accused of improperly targeting tea party groups and organizations focused on government spending and debt, according to an inspector general's report. Some groups are threatening to sue the agency, and Congress may also conduct an investigation. Obama said the administration would investigate the agency's conduct:
If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that is outrageous, and there is no place for it, and they have to be held fully accountable.
This strong reaction is in contrast to Obama's continued exasperation with Republican calls to investigate what happened at the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya last year. The president's opponents contend the administration deliberately misled the public in describing the attack.
Obama spoke with reporters Monday for the first time since congressional hearings on Benghazi held last Wednesday, in a press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron. "Suddenly, three days ago, this gets spun up as if there's something new to the story. There's no there there," he said.
The president maintains that the administration provided the public with the most accurate information it had at the time, and neither he nor then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lied about what the administration knew. Democrats have dismissed Republican probes into Benghazi as a "political circus" designed to discredit both the president and Clinton, a possible 2016 presidential candidate.
National Journal's Ron Fournier said the president's polarized reactions to the two situations matters because Obama is facing a "credibility crisis:"
[A] president's credibility matters. President Bush's second term effectively ended when Americans grew tired of his administration's spinning and dissembling over Iraq and Katrina. They stopped trusting him. They stopped listening to him. He no longer had the moral authority to lead.
Obama missed a chance on Benghazi today to convince Americans that he is still worthy of their trust.
What do you think? Is Obama right that the IRS scandal is an outrage but Benghazi is an invented one? Take the poll and comment below.
- Read Robert Schlesinger: Obama Is Right on Holding the IRS Accountable for Tea Party Scandal
- Read Susan Milligan: IRS Targeting of Tea Party Groups Is a Real Scandal
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