The Edge: Obama vs. GOP: Who Will Sustain More Damage From Benghazi, IRS?

National Journal Staff

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Obama vs. GOP: Who Will Sustain More Damage From Benghazi, IRS?

Barack Obama put himself on the road to the White House by raising the specter of Bill Clinton-era investigations and polarization if Hillary Rodham Clinton were nominated. Now, with many Republicans fixated on Benghazi and the IRS—and a few are even talking impeachment—Obama is facing all of the same, and more.

Are Obama and his party doomed? Or, as some Republicans already are worrying, is the GOP about to overplay its hand?

Obama seized the chance today to align himself with Americans who resent the Internal Revenue Service—in other words, most of the country. He said it would be "outrageous" if the IRS, as reports indicate, had really targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny.

Benghazi is far more complicated, and the president’s comments reflected that. He was angry, dismissive, and tearful, and accused Republicans of using a tragedy to play politics.

Some voters had that feeling about the GOP back in 1998, amid impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, and punished the party at the polls. That’s about the only way for Obama to get lucky at this point. Read more

Jill Lawrence


OBAMA ADDRESSES IRS QUESTIONS; SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE WILL INVESTIGATE. President Obama addressed the IRS’s targeting of conservative outside groups this morning, calling the practice “outrageous,” Politico reports. “You don’t want the IRS ever being perceived to be biased and anything less than neutral in terms of how they operate,” Obama said. “I’ve got no patience with it, I will not tolerate it, and we will make sure we find out exactly what happened on this.” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., pledged an investigation. “The IRS will now be the ones put under additional scrutiny,” Baucus noted. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, introduced legislation today that would criminalize the alleged actions of the IRS. The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on the IRS this Friday. Read more

  • The IRS and Benghazi stories converged this weekend for a self-inflicted tempest that threatens Obama’s credibility, National Journal’s Ron Fournier writes. Read more

OBAMA DISMISSES BENGHAZI TALKING-POINTS CONTROVERSY AS ‘SIDESHOW.’National Journal’s George E. Condon Jr. writes that on Benghazi, Obama was an angry president, clearly outraged at what he sees as Republican partisan perfidy. He blasted the controversy over the talking points as “a sideshow.” He dismissed the e-mails that showed more extensive editing by the administration, saying, “There’s no ‘there’ there.” And he objected to the investigation itself, saying, “The whole thing defies logic.” Read more

  • House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., wrote to committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., that the panel should solicit testimony from former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen, who cochaired the State Department’s Accountability Review Board for Benghazi. Read more

OBAMA, CAMERON MEET AT WHITE HOUSE AHEAD OF G-8 SUMMIT. Obama met today with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, who addressed the ongoing debate within his government over the nation’s ties to the European Union. Cameron said that rather than holding “a referendum tomorrow” on possible withdrawal from the EU, his government would work to renegotiate the terms of the state’s relationship with the EU. Cameron, who will seek reelection in 2015, has pledged to hold a referendum on EU membership in 2017. “What matters is making sure that we do everything we can to reform the E.U., make it more flexible, more open, more competitive and improve Britain’s relations with the E.U.,” Cameron said. Read more

HERSETH SANDLIN WILL NOT RUN FOR SENATE; DEMS LACK TOP-TIER CANDIDATE. Former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., today declined to seek the seat currently held by retiring Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, robbing Democrats of a top recruit in a seat that's looking increasingly difficult for the party to hold, National Journal’s Alex Roarty writes. "While I know you share my confidence that working together we could win a statewide race next year, I’m also confident that the decision not to run is the right decision for Max, Zachary, me and our entire family," Herseth Sandlin wrote in a post on her Facebook page. Read more

SEBELIUS SOLICITS DONATIONS FOR NONPROFIT SUPPORTING FEDERAL HEALTH CARE LAW. The Health and Human Services Department announced Sunday that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has raised funds from private entities for Enroll America, a nonprofit group promoting the expansion of health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is expected to contribute up to $10 million, while tax preparer H&R Block is slated to contribute $500,000 to the effort. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee ranking member Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., compared Sebelius’s actions to the Iran-Contra affair during the Reagan administration, and called for a Government Accountability Office investigation. Read more

5 STAFFERS TO WATCH AMONG HOUSE FRESHMEN. Running an office of a freshman member of Congress is never easy, but certain lawmakers and their top aides have especially unique challenges. Meet the chiefs of staffs of five House members whose election to Congress is somehow notable or newsworthy, including Reps. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., Ted Yoho, R-Fla., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Ann Wagner, R-Mo., and Joe Kennedy, D-Mass. Read more


FARM BILL MARKUP. The Senate Agriculture Committee will begin a markup Tuesday of a new farm bill, the once-every-five-years legislation that sets food and farm policy.

IMMIGRATION MARKUP CONTINUES. On Tuesday and Thursday, The Senate Judiciary Committee will continue its markup of an immigration bill, preparing the legislation for a full-blown floor debate in June. If the sessions go anything like last week's first meeting, they will last for most of the day as members consider hundreds of amendments. On tap for Tuesday is title relating to current work-visa programs—notably the H-1B temporary-worker program for high-skilled workers and the H-2B program for seasonal visas.

GOP TO HOLD CLOSED-DOOR SESSION. House Republicans also are expected to meet behind closed doors Tuesday, possibly to discuss their strategy regarding the debt ceiling, but there is little evidence that real bipartisan negotiations are under way.


“[A]n act of terror is different than a terrorist attack.”—Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, on President Obama’s initial characterizations of the assault on Benghazi (Talking Points Memo)


CLASS OF THOUSANDS: ARE ‘MOOCS’ REALLY THE FUTURE? Colleges across the country, including Harvard and MIT, have implemented massive open online courses, or MOOCs. The classes potentially hold thousands of students and would be conducted through a series of videos. A student still receives credit or a grade for the class, similar to a traditional learning environment. But the concept has received pushback from some educators. Amherst College faculty voted down MOOCs earlier this year. The San Jose State University philosophy department wrote in a letter: “The thought of the exact same social justice course being taught in various philosophy departments across the country is downright scary.” For students in MOOCs, tests could be replaced with multiple-choice quizzes and participation on message boards. Read more


WHAT’S FUNNY ABOUT BENGHAZI? Congress’s most recent investigations into the response to the September attacks on the United States diplomatic mission in Benghazi were featured in a Saturday Night Live skit. Bill Hader depicted Darrell Issa as fame-hungry and shallow. The Tonight Show’s Jay Leno also piled on the hearings, criticizing Obama for not paying more attention to the hearings and trying to move the spotlight away from them. Weekend Update went after House Republicans by painting the hearings as a political attack on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.Watch it here


SNL MISIDENTIFIES MEMBERS IN BENGHAZI HEARING PARODY. Speaking of Saturday Night Live, that Benghazi skit erred in its identification of committee members, Roll Call reports. An actor playing committee ranking member Elijah Cummings was seated behind a nameplate for Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., while Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., is identified by a nameplate as Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. Both members were correctly identified in on-screen chyrons. Read more


GOOD REASONS FOR DUMB MISTAKE AT IRS. At The Washington Post, Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas attempt to explain the IRS’s actions in its targeting of conservative groups that were seeking tax-exempt status. “The IRS is supposed to reject groups that are primarily political from registering as 501(c)4s,” Klein and Soltas write. “If they’re going to do that, then they need some kind of test that helps them flag problematic applicants. And that test will have to be a bit impressionistic. It will mean taking the political rhetoric of the moment and watching for it in applications. It will require digging into the finances and activities of groups on the left and the right that seem to be political even as they’re promising their activities are primarily non-political.” Read more


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