Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Wake Up And Smell the Chicago -- The Thread of Narrative

Taken individually, the trio of scandals that are now bedeviling the Obama administration don't make a whole lot of sense. Why would anyone serving the President think it would be possible to get by with:
  • Running with a cock and bull story about a YouTube video being the cause of an obvious terrorist attack in Benghazi; or
  • Using the power of the IRS to audit and otherwise harass Tea Party organizations; or
  • Using the power of the Justice Department to seize phone records of the Associated Press?
The answer is narrative. It has long been evident that the Obama administration is all about maintaining a narrative and winning the news cycle. My suspicion is that the one true thing that Obama and his people know is how to mount a campaign. Successful campaigns are able to manage the flow of information and establish a narrative about the candidate. To a certain extent, all organizations try to do such things.

In each instance, gaining control of the narrative must have seemed quite important. In the case of Benghazi, it's important to remember that Obama's campaign had just spent a lot of time bragging about how al-Qaida was on the run. What happened in Benghazi made those boasts seem pretty hollow, so it was important to establish a story that made it less about the usual proclivities of terrorists and more about provocations by others.

Similarly, the Tea Party certainly has been a threat to the Obama agenda and in 2010, it was certainly making significant progress in motivating people to get involved in the political process, in many cases people who were in opposition to what Team Obama was trying to do. The temptation must have been quite great for people in the administration to rid themselves of these meddling priests.

While it's early, the reporting on the AP case indicates a similar pattern. The reason that Justice went after telephone records is that it was trying to figure out who was leaking information. Establishing who was contacting AP reporters would be key in stopping the leaks.

All of these moves are understandable. If your goal is to maintain your power base, adverse publicity is a real problem. And let's face it, damage control is no fun -- it's always better to be on offense, so the temptation to use available power to hamper your opponents is always tough to resist. Unfortunately for the president and his team, taken together these moves look pretty Nixonian. And members of Obama's own party are starting to notice:
Outraged Bay State Democrats are blasting President Obama for exhibiting a Nixonian abuse of power after the stunning news that the Department of Justice secretly obtained Associated Press phone records and the IRS targeted conservative groups — new scandals emerging against the backdrop of heightened Benghazi criticism.

“There’s no way in the world I’m going to defend that. Hell, I spent my youth vilifying the Nixon administration for doing the same thing. If they did that, there should be hell to pay,” U.S. Rep. Michael E. Capuano (D-Somerville) said about the IRS scandal. “Not only is it bad government and bad to society, it is horrendous politics. The worst thing you can do is give your opponent an easy hammer with which to hit you.”

“It doesn’t seem to be a couple rogue employees. This appeared to be a systemic issue,” said U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-South Boston), who wants to investigate the matter as a member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The committee already has scheduled a hearing on the issue for this week, Lynch said, adding, “No American should find themselves the target of the IRS or any other federal organization because of their political beliefs.”
Hard to argue with any of that. If politicians in deep blue Massachusetts are worried about these things and willing to issue full-on blasts of this sort, there's likely more revelations to come.

One last thing -- the AP scandal is the one that Team Obama is most likely to regret, because the MSM has been willing to accept and promulgate the Team Obama message all along. It's one thing to use your power against your enemies, but when you mess with your friends, you are asking for trouble. I suspect that the AP is going to be a lot less amenable to helping out Team Obama going forward. Don't spit in the face of your water carriers, kids.

23 comments:

Bike Bubba said...

Don't forget Obama's abuse of the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases, his admonition to "never write down anything" with the UAW bailout, and more. It's a pattern that people have been warning about for years, but at least until now, the MSM have been ignoring it.

And with regards to the IRS deal, some of those audited note that it's not just Cincy, but Las Vegas and DC as well. Given that your problem is where the chain of command meets, it's pretty much assured that the real problem is at least close to the Cabinet level, if not there.

Anonymous said...

I predict that there will be at least 3 more scandals that will be reported within the next month. I'm quite sure that these scandals are George Bush's fault, however.

Anonymous said...

This is awesom!

http://www.upi.com/blog/2013/05/13/Poll-Americans-angry-about-Benghazi-cant-find-it-on-a-map/7321368469022/


If you don't want to follow the link:
41 percent of Republicans believe Benghazi is the worst political scandal in American history, but nearly half don't know where it is.


Of the 41 percent of Republicans who consider Benghazi to be the worst political scandal in American history, 39 percent are unaware that Benghazi is located in Libya. 10 percent said it's in Egypt, 9 percent in Iran, 6 percent in Cuba, 5 percent in Syria, 4 percent in Iraq, and 1 percent each in North Korea and Liberia, with 4 percent unwilling to venture a guess.

Anon...only 3 "scandals" within the next month? You are setting the bar too low. Hell...make it 1 a day. With hyper partisan dupes like these, it shouldn't be difficult.

Regards,
Rich

Anonymous said...

Correction...awesome!

R

Bike Bubba said...

Rich's link is fascinating; ask the Republicans whether they can find Benghazi on a map, but not Democrats, and load the question down with not whether the scandal is serious, but rather whether it's the worst ever.

In other words, the entire poll is a cheap shot directed at the GOP. And that means that PPP can be counted upon for the same.

Mr. D said...

41 percent of Republicans believe Benghazi is the worst political scandal in American history, but nearly half don't know where it is.

The ever-popular "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader" defense.

Okay, you got us, Rich. Obama is the best!

Anonymous said...

Regarding Benghazi....you really should be ashamed. It isn't a scandal now, and it wasn't a scandal when Willard was grave dancing on the bodies of the 4 unfortunate souls that got caught up in it.

The IRS thing...I am waiting for the IG's report. It has some potential to be a scandal, but its real potential is in the political power it gives to the Right. I doubt very much that Obama or any WH official will have had any hand in this. But that shouldn't stop you guys from grandstanding this one to death. What's not to love as a Conservative? The two things you all hate the most...the IRS and Obama. And the Conservatives who are embarassed by the Tea Party and like to keep them at arms length: They get an opportunity to break bread with the Tea Party without sitting down at the table with them. It's a win-win-win for you guys. Congrats!

Can't really comment on the AP story. Haven't read much on it yet.

Oh, and BTW, I seem to remeber the the IRS during GWBs Admin started auditing Churches that had anti-Iraq war Speakers and Preachers, and threatening their tax status. And no Admin used the IRS more than Nixon to go after their enemies. Doesn't make it right, and if Obama or somebody in his Administration did that, they should go down.

Regards,
Rich

Bike Bubba said...

Rich; you don't think that the President's staff hiding the truth about a tragedy for close to a month and obstructing good faith investigations into the matter is a big deal? Really?

And you're more worried about a GOP advantage due to Obama's use of the IRS than Obama's use of the IRS to harass political enemies? Really?

And yes, I think that the problem at least goes up to the Cabinet, if not Obama himself, for a simple reason; numerous IRS offices are implicated, and no one fessed up publicly until the ACLJ started drawing a pattern. When you have multiple offices doing the same wrong thing, the lowest ranking culprit is generally found where the chains of command meet.

Anonymous said...

Bubba,

"And you're more worried about a GOP advantage due to Obama's use of the IRS than Obama's use of the IRS to harass political enemies? Really?"

No! Not really. Not at all.
I am not worried about that...I said it was great news for you guys. Politics is one of my favorite forms of entertainment, and it rarely disappoints. I really enjoy when a plan, or serendipity, comes together...for either side. I meant what I said. Congrats. You don't even need to be right on this one. Your side already won. We pay a lot of money for this stuff. Might as well enjoy it.

As I said regarding the IRS, I am waiting for the IG's report. There is a whole lot that could have happened here. From an innocent attempt to compartmentalize the work load to a nefarious attempt by the WH to harm political enemeies. I am guessing the truth lies somewhere in the middle. You probably think more towar the last option. I am thinking more toward the first. No surprise there.

Begin by acknowledging that 403Cs, both left and right, pretending to be "social agencies", are a joke. Add to that that the IRS is given the thankless Admin task of ruling like judges, on a case by case basis, on whether these organizations qualify.
Then consider that the legislation that is guiding the IRS was written with the primary intent of obfuscating the actual meaning of the legislation. By legilators, both left and right, who have a vested interest in making certain that it is gibberish.

Anything any of us know about this, up to this point, is conjecture and heresay. More will be revealed. Much of that will be embellished.

Regards,
Rich

W.B. Picklesworth said...

Rich, you using the words, "hyper partisan dupes" wins the thread.

Anonymous said...

Mark,
You are right. That was facile. And not fair. I did a little soul searching, looked at those numbers and I see what you mean.

If 41% of all Republicans think Benghazi is the greatest scandal in Presidential history, and half of those people don't know where Benghazi is, it means that close to half the Republicans who found this to be not just scandalous, but worse than Teapot Dome, Watergate, Iran-Contra, Credit Mobilier, Clinton-Lewinsky, and the entire U.S. Grant Presidency. It means that approximately 20% of all self-identifying Republicans are horrible demagogues, because they no they are full of bull.

Regards,
Rich

Mr. D said...

Politics is one of my favorite forms of entertainment, and it rarely disappoints. I really enjoy when a plan, or serendipity, comes together...for either side. I meant what I said. Congrats. You don't even need to be right on this one. Your side already won. We pay a lot of money for this stuff. Might as well enjoy it.

Sorry, I don't find any of this entertaining. Abuse of power isn't especially entertaining, no matter who is at the helm. And we're going to find out a whole lot more about all these topics, plus the business of Kathleen Sebelius putting the arm on insurers as well. It's all going to come out now and it's not going to be entertaining in the least.

Bike Bubba said...

Waiting for the IG's report, Rich? Let me remember ....lessee....who does he report to, again?

And you're going to trust the administration that just redacted 100% of a particular document? Please. This is abuse of power.

Brad said...

Pigs don't know pigs stink. Parody commenter Rich lives in Chicago so all these scandals appear to him to be business as usual.

Anonymous said...

Hey, what do you know:

CNN has obtained an e-mail sent by a top aide to President Barack Obama about White House reaction to the deadly attack last September 11 on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that apparently differs from how sources characterized it to two different media organizations.

The actual e-mail from then-Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes appears to show that whomever leaked it did so in a way that made it appear that the White House was primarily concerned with the State Department's desire to remove references and warnings about specific terrorist groups so as to not bring criticism to the department.

http://thelead.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/14/cnn-exclusive-white-house-email-contradicts-benghazi-leaks/

Read it yoursel, with links to actual emails, and comparisons to what Ben Rhodes actually wrote, and what the Weekly Standard and the "Liberal" ABC News reported.

Scandal indeed. Have you no decency?

Regards,
Rich

Mr. D said...

Scandal indeed. Have you no decency?

So, let's see the emails released, then. All of them. Eventually we will. That would be the decent thing to do, doncha think?

R.A. Crankbait said...

Ah, the ol' "have you no shame/decency" play by our friend, the parboiled frog. I didn't realize that Chicago and Stockholm were sister cities.

Mr. D said...

Speaking of decency -- Hayes and Karl are standing by their reporting and Tapper and David Axlerod (!) are now calling on the administration to release all the emails.

Here's the point, Rich -- just so you understand it. Karl's reporting detailed the substance of the emails. And the reporting came out over the weekend. If the entire email chain was exculpatory, the administration would have released it all on Monday, right? That hasn't happened. Instead, they released only part of the chain, two days later. If it turns out that they played Tapper, there's gonna be hell to pay.

One other thing -- at the time Benghazi happened, Romney was getting intelligence briefings. If it turns out the administration gave him false information, there's going to be a whole new level of scandal here.

Anonymous said...

Scandal is a band that cranked out hit songs in the 1980's. There is nothing to see here. We need to move on.org!

Anonymous said...

"Here's the point, Rich -- just so you understand it. Karl's reporting detailed the substance of the emails. And the reporting came out over the weekend. If the entire email chain was exculpatory, the administration would have released it all on Monday, right? That hasn't happened. Instead, they released only part of the chain, two days later. If it turns out that they played Tapper, there's gonna be hell to pay."


Well, the President was listening to you Mark. He released the full email chain on Benghazi yesterday. Guess what? There was no there there. All those emails seem to reveal is that there was a classic interagency battle going on in the chaotic first few days after the attack over how to present what happened. But there is no scandal. And Obama had no direct role in the inter-agency tussle.

Furthermore, there doesn’t seem to be any indication that the IRS's Cincinnati office audits were directed by anyone outside of the Cincinnati office. Certainly, heads should roll in Cincy, but as far as trying to tie the White House, or even the Treasury Department to this...it's a big nothing burger. Not that that should stop Conservatives from droning on about the IRS. But there really is nothing there, and I suspect you know that.

And finally, on the Justice Department's ridiculously broad subpoenas of the AP in a leak investigation, I happen to agree with you: It's an outrageous abuse of power...that has been going on since 1979, and was turbo-charged by the events on 9/11. (And It also seems that Justice was being pushed by Congressional Republicans to take action). I do hope this story has legs. Maybe we could actually get some action in curtailing the surveillance power of Federal authorities. But, don't hold your breath. There's no real payoff for Congressmen to actually write legislation. Especially when someone might use it against them to accuse them of being unpatriotic. It's so much easier to grandstand on something you had no problem with...until you found out Obama did it.

Thanks for helping me understand;)

Regards,
Rich

R.A. Crankbait said...

Rich's response, condensed:

"It's just a flesh wound."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhRUe-gz690

Mr. D said...

Well, the President was listening to you Mark. He released the full email chain on Benghazi yesterday. Guess what? There was no there there. All those emails seem to reveal is that there was a classic interagency battle going on in the chaotic first few days after the attack over how to present what happened. But there is no scandal. And Obama had no direct role in the inter-agency tussle.

Actually, they didn't. The chain they released starts on 9/14. Nothing from 9/12 or 9/13. Those two days are likely to matter rather a lot.

Hey, I'm enjoying your Chip Diller imitation, though.

Mr. D said...

I doubt Rich will see this, but for what it's worth.