Even before the revelation this week of the National Security Agency’s spying on citizens, a trio of major scandals already had Democrats worried about the health of President Obama’s second-term agenda.
In May, as immigration-reform took center stage, friendly pundits advised Obama to restore the political momentum stymied by the Benghazi, IRS and reportergate scandals by appointing a special investigator, asking for Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation and not appointing polarizing Susan Rice as national security adviser or nominating far-left activist Samantha Power as ambassador to the United Nations.
Obama has resolutely rejected every one of those suggestions, and now, with the report Thursday that his government has been tracking the calls of millions of Americans, Democrat political analyst Doug Schoen says “Obama’s agenda is essentially dead in the water.”
“His days, and his administration’s days, are now spent playing defense – in press conferences, in hearings and elsewhere,” Schoen wrote in a Forbes.com column Friday.
USA Today, meanwhile, reported Obama’s agenda has been “scorched” in a “firestorm of scandals.”
After his failure to pass gun-control legislation, Obama hopes to pass a comprehensive immigration bill in the fall that effectively would provide amnesty for more than 11 million illegal aliens who likely would become reliable Democrat voters. He also seeks a budget deal he hopes will put him in a favorable position in the 2014 midterm elections.
But with congressional investigations well under way on the White House handling of the Benghazi attack, the IRS targeting of conservative tea party groups seeking non-profit status and the Justice Department’s use of secret subpoenas and search warrants against reporters, the “firestorm” Thursday was especially problematic for Obama, USA Today said.
The national paper said the latest scandal “stokes controversies he already was struggling to contain and reinforces criticism that has dogged him from the start.”
Conn Carroll, senior editorial writer for the Washington Examiner, said the scandals are particularly problematic for Obama because the “entire case for granting currently illegal immigrants citizenship rests on trusting the federal government to stop illegal immigration in the future.”
“Thanks to Obama’s scandals, that case is now harder to make,” he wrote.
Carroll noted a Quinnipiac University poll that found Obama’s net negative approval rating rising from 45 to 49 percent, compared to the previous poll, indicating the scandals were having an impact.
He pointed out, furthermore, that voters still say the economy and unemployment are high priorities. In contrast, giving citizenship to illegal aliens consistently ranks dead last among voter priorities.
The poll found an even deeper erosion in Americans’ trust in the federal government, with only 3 percent of voters trusting it to do the right thing almost all the time. Just 12 percent say they trust it most of the time, 47 percent say some of the time and 36 percent hardly ever.
USA Today said the scandals only feed Republicans’ depiction of Obama as “an advocate of a big, dangerous and overreaching government.”
“That has been their fundamental philosophical objection to his signature Affordable Care Act, now just months away from implementation of its major provisions,” the paper said.
Thanks, but no thanks
In May, liberal Bloomberg columnist Albert R. Hunt offered a recipe for “rescuing” Obama’s presidency from what he called “faux scandals.”
He urged the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the IRS, the acceptance of Holder’s resignation and abandoning what was then the widely discussed idea of making U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice the head of the National Security Council.
But Obama has resisted appointing a special counsel, stood behind his beleaguered AG and, on Wednesday, announced his appointment of Rice to head the security council and Power to replace her as U.N. ambassador.
As WND reported, Power, known for her crusade against genocide and her role in formulating and advocating a policy that puts global humanitarian crises ahead of U.S. interests, persuaded Obama to use military force in Libya in her role as the National Security Council special adviser on human rights.
The Washington Post’s Ed Rogers affirmed Hunt’s advice in a May column of his own, insisting that “accepting Eric Holder’s resignation is a no-brainer.”
Rogers said Holder’s “credibility is spent” and the president “needs a fresh face and renewed stature in the attorney general’s office.”
Obama also needed to “acknowledge the obvious,” Rogers said, and resist the temptation to appoint Rice after Republicans thwarted his intention to nominate her as secretary of state to succeed Hillary Clinton.
“Rice would be ineffective – both at home and abroad –if tapped to head the NSC,” Rogers wrote in May. “With all the confusion surrounding Benghazi and what took place, the only person we know for certain who did not tell the truth is Ambassador Rice. She would be nothing but a lightning rod for the remainder of Obama’s term in office.”
In his Forbes column Friday, Schoen said Obama’s selection of Rice and Power “indicate that the administration is doubling down, not reaching out.”
“At a time when the President should be doing all he can to reach across the aisle and to quell American’s fears that he is not the man he said he was, he is just plodding along business as usual,” Schoen said.
“The administration is surely in crisis,” he wrote. “We all know it and it’s high time that the President not only recognized it, but also did something about it.”
Rogers, in his May column, asserted Obama “not only needs better scandal management, but he also needs a complete reboot for his second term with some affirmative policy initiatives.”
“If I were him, I would turbocharge an effort for corporate tax reform, open an aggressive debate about entitlement eligibility and means-testing and delay the implementation of Obamacare.”
If you’ve lost the New York Times …
Meanwhile, the New York Times, which twice endorsed Obama for president and has steadfastly back his agenda, published a startling editorial Thursday declaring that the Obama “administration has lost all credibility” as a result of the NSA scandal.
The Times later removed some of the sting of the editorial, narrowing the scope with a series of unannounced edits to read the “administration has now lost all credibility on this issue.”
But it was hard to ignore the disappointment express by the “paper of record” in the man who as a U.S. senator in 2007 rebuked President George W. Bush for widespread surveillance of Americans to fight Islamic jihad.
Obama called Bush’s policy “a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand.”
Obama pledged in a speech then that he would “provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining our Constitution and our freedom.”
“No more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime,” Obama vowed. “No more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient. That is not who we are. And it is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists.”
Liberal journalist Jeremy Scahill said he’s appalled at how fellow progressives are giving Obama a pass on his terror-fighting tactics, Breitbart.com reported Thursday.
Scahill, whose new film “Dirty Wars” assesses the damage he claims is being done by the U.S. “war on terror,” said that had George W. Bush imitated Obama his colleagues would be calling for impeachment.
Obama, Scahill said, has “expanded an air war in Yemen; Bush bombed Yemen once that we know of.”
“Obama shut down the black sites, but he’s using a sort of back door way of continuing it but saying, ‘It’s other nations’ security forces that are doing the snatch and grab; we’re just asking the questions,” said Scahill.
“I think that a lot of liberals sort of checked their conscience at the coatroom for the two terms of Obama and are silent in the face of things that they’d be crying impeachment over if a Republican had done them,” he said.
‘Nothing to see here’
At the White House, meanwhile, Obama’s longtime loyal adviser, Valerie Jarrett, insisted in a recent interview the scandals have no merit and the American people expect the president to press ahead with his agenda.
“In any given day, our administration has about 2 million employees, and things happen,” she told the Boston Globe before the NSA revelations.
“We put in process procedures to make sure if there has been any wrongdoing, there will be appropriate consequences, and we will move on.”
Jarrett said she has “every confidence that people within the White House have behaved appropriately.”
“People all around the country are counting on us not to be distracted or bogged down by this.”