Is it just that the lure of a second presidential term is so unlike anything else that administrations will do anything to secure it? The Nixon Administration in 1972, had the election all but sewn up. Breaking into the Democratic National Committee office was more than dumb and the coverup that followed was far worse than the bungled break-in.
There is no evidence, as of yet, that any of these scandals will lead completely back to the Oval Office but the comparisons to Nixon are inevitable. The president has suddenly found himself dealing with several scandals all at once, including the fallout from the Benghazi terror attack, the Justice Department’s seizing of phone records from the Associated Press and the Internal Revenue Service’s policy of singling out Tea Party and other groups for scrutiny.
Many have drawn comparisons to the Nixon White House when looking at the blossoming scandals arising currently. While President Nixon did, indeed, use the IRS to target political enemies, his motives remain unclear. It has been assumed it was to avenge friends and supporters who had been targeted by the IRS under prior administrations.
While President Obama has called the IRS targeting of conservative organizations “outrageous,” and late Wednesday announced the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, who was previously required to leave the office in a few weeks regardless of the president’s actions, investigations are just now getting under way. The sad reality is like Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton and Bush, it seems second terms somehow get bogged down with defending missteps and allegations of wrongdoings.
Defending the actions of an over confident White House has consumed previous administrations and now the Obama White House will need to defend its actions. If we’ve learned anything from the past, we can be assured these investigations won’t go away anytime soon as they become political footballs that will likely be discussed for the balance of Obama’s term. A CNN/ORC poll found that 54 percent of Americans don’t believe that Congress is overreacting to the IRS scrutiny of conservative groups. By an even larger margin, 59 percent said Congress is making the right moves on the administration’s actions regarding the Benghazi terror attack. That’s all the motivation both sides need to get the press corps re-energized to begin actively pursuing conspiracy theories and cover ups.
The poll became public, and the battle lines continue to be drawn as White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer made the rounds of last Sunday’s talk shows, defending President Obama.
“Here’s the cardinal rule … for all White Houses,” Pfeiffer said, “you do not interfere in an independent investigation, and you do not do anything to give off the appearance of interference in an independent investigation.”
Conversely, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the White House might not have commanded Internal Revenue agents to target conservative groups, but a “culture of intimidation throughout the administration” made them think it was acceptable. The president of The Associated Press says the government’s seizure of AP journalists’ phone records was “unconstitutional” and already has had a chilling effect on news gathering. Gary Pruitt, speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” said the Justice Department’s secret subpoena of reporters’ phone records has made sources less willing to talk to AP journalists.
Let’s have a president serve one, six-year term, be totally focused on the job at hand, and remove the time lost traveling around the nation for 18 months campaigning for the right to validate the first term with a second term.
Simply put, the power of the presidency, the desire to retain that power and the legacy of not being reelected creates far too great an opportunity to see overzealous subordinates cross the line and create scandals that distract the nation.
Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.