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Benson: "From its response, it's clear that Bloomberg realizes it has a serious problem. And it has every incentive to correct it. If its data terminals are viewed as Peeping Toms by its well-heeled customers, that could destroy its main business."

Columnist Frank Rich. (photo: New York Times)
Columnist Frank Rich. (photo: New York Times)

The IRS, Benghazi, and the Republicans Who Cried Wolf

By Frank Rich, New York Magazine

16 May 13


Every week, New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich talks with contributor Eric Benson about the biggest stories in politics and culture. This week: The GOP finds a new Watergate, the Justice Department bullies the AP, and Bloomberg News gets caught snooping on Bloomberg clients.

ast week, conservatives called Benghazi Obama's Watergate. Now they're applying that label to a new scandal in which IRS officials admitted applying special scrutiny to tea-party-affiliated groups applying for tax-exempt status. President Obama has condemned the IRS's actions. The FBI has opened an investigation. Do you see this having a major impact on the administration and its credibility?

It would help the GOP's political cause if it didn't ratchet up to DEFCON 1 at every Obama White House mishap that lurches into its sights. Benghazi is the "most egregious coverup in American history" (in the words of Senator James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma), but if every other story is Watergate, too, then Inhofe and the rest become the Boys Who Cried Wolf. With all due respect to George Will, who now refers to the Obama "regime" in his column and is citing Watergate articles of impeachment to indict the president, the IRS scandal only becomes Watergate if it turns out that the targeting of tea-party groups was under White House orders or direction. There is no evidence of this. Indeed, the IRS commissioner in charge at the time this happened was Douglas Shulman, a Bush appointee who testified before a House oversight committee in March 2012 that there had been "absolutely no targeting" of conservative groups. Why would a Republican official be part of an Obama cover-up? The same question must be asked about the State Department spinmeister and Cheney factotum Victoria Nuland, whose fingerprints are all over the Susan Rice "talking points" at the heart of that "most egregious coverup in American history." The conspiracy plot thickens - or does it thin? Meanwhile, a bigger scandal hovers over all of this: the IRS's granting of tax breaks to blatantly partisan political "public welfare" groups whether they be affiliated with the tea party, Karl Rove (Crossroads GPS), the Obama administration (Priorities USA), or fat-cat third-party movements (Americans Elect).

The Justice Department informed the Associated Press last Friday that it had secretly seized phone records of reporters and editors, apparently to suss out the source of a leak on a CIA-foiled terrorism plot. This administration has indicted six current and former government officials on leak-related charges, far more than any previous administration. How much do you worry about a chilling effect on political and national-security reporting?

This is the scandal with legs. It is not the work of lower level bureaucrats and is entirely consistent with the Obama White House's efforts to shut out, intimidate, and manipulate the press. I don't think Eric Holder's explanation adds up - any of it. It doesn't make sense that he would have recused himself from the broad investigation of the AP; his explanations of why he did so (e.g., because he has "frequent contact with the media") sound like dissembling. Holder's claim that the AP story "put the American people at risk" is also suspect. I believe Gary Pruitt, the AP's chief executive, when he says that his organization "held that story until the government assured us that the national security concerns had passed." There's nothing in Pruitt's career or the AP's past behavior to support the case that he would be making this up. So, yes, the Obama administration is and has been trying to chill reporters on national security and other areas. And, as we are seeing daily, its efforts at intimidation have done little to stop leaks. The sweeping assault on the AP's phone lines demands a true investigation - not a dog-and-pony show by the Republican House.

Politico says that these two scandals show that D.C. has turned on Obama, with congressional Republicans, Establishment Democrats, and the press all out for blood. Are they overplaying the importance of the last few days? Or has something indeed changed in the narrative of the Obama presidency?

It's way too early to tell, of course. Wasn't the BP spill supposed to end the Obama presidency? Or was it the revolt against Obamacare? Not for the first time, the GOP could overplay its hand. In the accounting of Chuck Todd of NBC News, fully a third of House committees are now devoted to investigating the Obama administration. The Republicans see a golden opportunity to rev up their base in anticipation of the 2014 election. If scandal fever keeps escalating and we get anywhere near the frenzy of the impeachment crusade against Bill Clinton (perhaps unlikely, since the key ingredient of sex is missing), it could backfire. That's what happened in the second-term Clinton midterms of 1998, when Gingrich's revolutionaries actually lost seats in the House because of their incessant fixation on scandal. In 2014, the Democratic base could well be moved to turn out, too, including Latino voters who will be reminded daily that Congress was too busy investigating the Obama White House to deliver immigration reform.

Another journalistic imbroglio erupted over the past few days, when the New York Post broke a story that Bloomberg News reporters had been using the company's data terminals to monitor the activities of Wall Street banks. Bloomberg News has been one of the rare journalism success stories during the industry's downturn. Will this revelation set it back?

From its response, it's clear that Bloomberg realizes it has a serious problem. And it has every incentive to correct it. If its data terminals are viewed as Peeping Toms by its well-heeled customers, that could destroy its main business. Meanwhile, Bloomberg News's serious reputation as a news organization - and they do lots of good work - could also be destroyed by the image of reporters illicitly invading the privacy of Bloomberg terminal customers. The big question mark out there is if this snooping extended to Bloomberg data terminals at the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department. Investigations are under way. Let's hope Eric Holder is not in charge. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

-23 # aaheart 2013-05-16 12:34
We’ve see that we can’t take Obama at his word. He’s already lied to us too many times to take his word as honest and true. Guantanamo is still an embarrassment before the world and Obama had promised to resolve the detainee situation, many who are already overdue for release. Now over a hundred are so despondent at having to tolerate one day longer in the American Gulag that they would prefer to die. They are manacled to a gurney, having a NG feeding tubes forced down through their nose to their stomachs, and forced to endure the pain and infections rife with such treatment...and many of them aren't even supposed to be there!

When the Food Safety Modernization Act was passed, we were assured that it would not be enforced on home gardeners , small farms and businesses. After all, the food poisoning problems had come from large corporations. We were deceived.

Obama promised a more transparent administration and yet there have been more actions against whistleblowers, more obfuscation and loss of transparency than ever imagined in the Bush administration.

When the NDAA 2012 was working its way through Congress, Obama insisted that indefinite detention was not his was. When he signed it he said they had no intention of using it, and when the court declared it unconstitutiona l, Obama immediately appealed. When the Judge made it null and void until appealed was adjudicated, Obama sought another judge to make sure it was available for use.

Trust is gone.
+39 # bingers 2013-05-16 14:49
For every Obama misstatement there are thousands from the Republicans. Very nearly everything they say or do is a lie or a misdeed, and you want to cherry pick a couple of things, mostly irrelevant, Obama said? BTW, NDAA was just a renewal of US policy from decades back, not an Obama measure.
+8 # Smiley 2013-05-16 16:18
Those things you call "cherry picked" are hugely important. Obama continues to prove himself just another corporatist. Republican/Demo crat who cares? The conflict between them just an act.
+14 # kalpal 2013-05-17 09:07
Its OK to lie if you are a Republican, not so much if you are not.
+1 # Nominae 2013-05-20 04:37
Quoting bingers:
For every Obama misstatement there are thousands from the Republicans. Very nearly everything they say or do is a lie or a misdeed, and you want to cherry pick a couple of things, mostly irrelevant, Obama said? BTW, NDAA was just a renewal of US policy from decades back, not an Obama measure.

What kind of an argument is this ?

"*My* criminal crowd is not as loathsome as *your* criminal crowd" ?

"*My* LIARS don't lie as often, or as well, as *your* LIARS" ?

Can such an inane argument *really* be stated with a straight face ? Are we *really* down to such a desperate state of incoherent helplessness, hoplessness and denial ?

Can you see that such a statement has you DEFENDING Liars and Criminals straight out ? So long as they are "your" liars and criminals ?

THEY ARE ALL CRIMINALS (save the ones left "out of the loop" like Warren and Sanders)

Can you see that when they are ALL FELONS there is something inherently wrong with the *entire* system ?

IT'S BROKE, and it is *not* going to be repaired from within.
No matter HOW *sweet* you think YOUR liars and criminals are.

You can vote all you want, but the "handle" you pull is not ATTACHED to anything. And the most that happens is that the current batch of liars and criminals are replaced with the next batch of liars and criminals.

We need a NEW SYSTEM !
-25 # Trueblue Democrat 2013-05-16 15:03
aaheart, all your points are quite valid, and no one has contested a single one of them, but I see that at this writing you were a minus 4 (until I gave you a thumbs up), without a single person having the grace to point out what they see as your errors.

That is the central characteristic of the Obamacrat: a knee-jerk thumbs down to any Obama critic, never saying why.

I've long wondered about this, being on the receiving end of such mindless responses. Can it be that the Obamacrat has a Nero complex -- sitting there in the colloseum lazily giving a thumbs up (he lives) or a thumbs down (he dies)?

Or is it more likely that the Obamacrat is not well enough educated to pen a cogent response? I think that may be true, but that would answer the question only if the Obamacrat recognized his deficiencies and the need to keep silent.

+12 # juliajayne 2013-05-16 15:49
Speechifying and insulting people is all well and good, but you are then no better than those you seek to delegitimize.
-10 # edge 2013-05-17 06:53
Quoting juliajayne:
Speechifying and insulting people is all well and good, but you are then no better than those you seek to delegitimize.

You just proved Trueblue Democrat point with this reply...patheti c!
+10 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-05-16 17:37
You did forget to mention he is black. We "all know" a black man "is not well enough educated to pen a cogent response." Even a black Harvard graduate. Ahh, those old white Southern males or females.
-8 # Trueblue Democrat 2013-05-16 20:36
We "all know" a black man "is not well enough educated to pen a cogent response."

Maybe you, Eldon, know it, but I do not. More interesting, however, is the question: "Why do you make this a Black thing?" For you to want to spare a person criticism because he is Black is a clear manifestation of your ingrained racism. You need to work on that before it consumes you.
+7 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-05-16 21:33
# TRUEBLUE DEMOCRAT Thank you for your comments. Your swipe at Obama may be well taken if you in fact can match his education credentials. Obama's university scholarship.Fir st, Columbia University. Degree in International Relations Harvard Law School. Juris Doctorate (J.D.)Graduated Magna Cum Laude. A great honor to be bestowed by any university. At the end of his first year, he was selected, based on his grades and a writing competition, as an editor of the Harvard Law/Review. In his second year, he was elected president of the Law Review. Now dear Trueblue, can you grasp that a black man, a very special black man can write? Now that you know he err "can write," would you mind apologizing to those on this board who read your right wing drivel? Your comments are typical of the old Southern male or female right wing. The question still remains, can you write?
-6 # Trueblue Democrat 2013-05-17 07:11
Show me in my original post where I mentioned President Obama. I wrote about Obamacrats (like you). Show me where I alluded in anyway to President Obama's race -- you brought that up.

I have no doubt that the President is well educated. Clearly he can read and grasp the meaning of what he reads. Clearly YOU cannot.

Heeding Oliver Wendell Holmes guidance in his "Hydrostatic Paradox of Controversy" I'll have nothing more to say to you.
+5 # kalpal 2013-05-17 09:15
By using the term obamacrat you clearly identify with dixiecrats who were never known to be tolerant of blacks unless they wanted to have sex.
-8 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-05-17 09:17
TO TRUEBLUE: Thank you for promising "I'll have nothing more to say to you." I do think Obama can be called an Obamacrat. You (jokingly) remind me of a person who once said, "the sun is not real because last night it was dark."
+2 # SMoonz 2013-06-04 15:04
This is the strangest and one of the most ridiculous replies to someone I have seen in these threads.
You are the one who brings up the subject of race, then when you are quoted you turn around and ask someone to apologize for it? What is wrong with you?
-6 # kalpal 2013-05-17 09:13
For you to avoid admiting that you find your own ingrained racism fitting and proper is silly and sickening.
-7 # edge 2013-05-17 06:54
Quoting Eldon J. Bloedorn:
You did forget to mention he is black. We "all know" a black man "is not well enough educated to pen a cogent response." Even a black Harvard graduate. Ahh, those old white Southern males or females.

+7 # kalpal 2013-05-17 09:10
Surely you were very enthusiastic about the Bush/Cheney lies. They were proper and fitting lies, adorable and shining. All politicians lie more often than the sun appears to rise in the east. What they lie about and how many Americans die, are maimed or are impoverished is the point in question.
+33 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-05-16 16:25
One reason the Republicans are trying to sell this "snake oil" to the public is based on the fact that the Democrats were too forgiving toward the Bush administration (and some Democrat senators voted for Iraqi war funding)when the American public was lied to about the Iraq invasion. The Republicans "bought out" those who were taught to believe that by invading Iraq and taking over their oil fields, "successful" military action would cause oil to revert to $20 a barrel. That was lie number one. Lie #2 There was no attempt to cause oil prices to go down but to maintain oil prices at very high levels. The actual reverse happened but the public was "taught" to believe other wise. The head of News Corp of the World, Rupert Murdoch (Fox News) promoted the invasion. Democrats got pushed around in this ruse. Now, the Republicans think the Democrats are soft and perhaps will cave again with their latest "hatred for Obama' efforts.
+25 # mdhome 2013-05-16 16:29
Guantanamo is still an embarrassment before the world and Obama had promised to resolve the detainee situation, many who are already overdue for release.

``````````````` ````````````Gua ntanamo was going to be closed, but was stopped by the Republican'ts in congress

You are the problem.
+6 # kalpal 2013-05-17 09:06
Political lies are every bit as common as right wing low IQ's.

No administration has escaped being caught lying. Its just that it so common among right wingers that it is accepted utterly proasic and unremarkable.
+62 # Elroys 2013-05-16 12:54
I find this Republican attack machine aborant,offensi ve, treasonous, treacherous and appealing to the willful and not-so- willful ignorant.
I guess they believe that America and the world wil forget what their last President and VP - Bush / Cheney did with Iraq - the lies that cost, not 4 American lives, but 1000s plus 100s of 1000 of Iraqi lives, and trillions of $ short an long term - and they were NEVER prosecuted for their treason and high crimes and misdemeanors. Mistakes were probably made in Benghazi. But it's a pin-prick compared to Iraq and the Bush administration. Someone - THE PEOPLE - need to silence these disgusting human beings called "political leaders" in the party that have devolved in a bunch of hyenas wanting to accomplish nothing more than to destroy Barack Obama and prevent Hilary Clinton from running for President. They are truly radicals in our midst that will go to any length to destroy the President and past Secretary of State,including destroying our democracy.

Please - someone end their misery.
+43 # mdhome 2013-05-16 16:32
Benghazi probably would have turned out a lot different IF the republicans had not cut the funding for security at our outposts is the state department.
+2 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-05-16 17:51
You have to courage to say that the Republicans are out to destroy. but, what good have they created?
+54 # Skyelav 2013-05-16 13:26
Yes, yes, yes, but the fact remains that no matter what Obama does, or concessions he makes to the right wing, the republicans hound him like a pack of wild dogs. Instead of helping improve life in the U.S. they would rather waste taxpayers' resources doing nonsense, just as they did to Bill Clinton. The further right he goes, the angrier the republicans seem to get. Maybe that's because the Democrats are subsuming their talking points. Whatever the trason, the Plutocrats are winning while we fiddle.
+34 # Brooklyn Girl 2013-05-16 14:12
Which is why he might as well be a real Democrat instead of Republican Lite. Enough.
+15 # dascher 2013-05-16 15:48
Isn't a significant part of the scandal the admission by AP that it sat on the story at the request of the government?

It would appear that this is still standard operating procedure for the US Press - even after this kind of "cooperation" was used by the Government to feed the frenzy for the War on Iraq and continues to feed the frenzies to attack the dangerous rogue "nuclear" states of Iran (who has NO nukes), North Korea (who may have as many as 6 that might or might not work), and the sort of "nuclear" Syria (who might have been thinking about developing nukes) because they are a threat to the United States and its people... despite the evidence that they are no such thing and none of these states having invaded their neighbors for at least quite a few decades - as opposed to the "responsible" States of Israel, India, and Pakistan who seem be be incapable of going very long with engaging in some kind of military action against their neighbors and all of whom we KNOW actually possess significant nuclear arsenals.

A.P. and the rest of the US Press are not so much news organizations as entertainment complexes that have colluded with the government to keep Americans scared of 'the other' and as ignorant as possible.

Now the US Press is 'shocked' that the goverment would do something like this to them? Lie down with dogs and get up with fleas.
+16 # vgirl1 2013-05-16 16:13
Definition of TPrepublicans:

The party of NO, incapable of governing and looking for the there that is NOT there!
+4 # corals33 2013-05-16 17:40
What is being called modern society with all its so-called complexities and varieties is nothing but the result of small groups of secretive individuals overtly or covertly conspiring to control the activities of the so-called "rank and file" without them realizing the origin and sources of the controlling power.The rule and letter of law cannot apply to those who rule or to those who administer the letter of the law.Period.
+16 # ganymede 2013-05-16 21:34
Someone mentioned earlier about doing something to put the Republicans out of their misery.I don't think the Democrats are capable of doing the coup de grace to the rightwingers, but, I'm becoming more confident that the Republicans will finally implode on their own. None of these attacks are getting much traction even with the uncritical media unconsciously pushing the rightwing agenda. None of this stuff is major especially compared to the crimes and ommissions from the Bush/Cheney years, the fraudulent Reagan years and any times the Republicans have been in control of the government. These people have brought us nothing war, misery and greed, even worse than the Democrats who at least have a growing core of committed Eliz Warren types.Next year's elections will be the tipping point for the rightwing. I don't think they have much of a chance of retianing the House, and definitel can't win the Senate and Presidency. Things will continue to get better even with the hapless Democrats, as long as we continue to push for it.
+3 # Pere_Ubu 2013-05-17 07:24
If the AP scandal is the only valid one, perhaps it's attributable to the fact that Obama, much like Clinton, has been hounded by the Right for years for being "soft on terrorism" and "hating the military". It may be an understandable overreaction given that kind of pressure, like Clinton's free use of cruise missiles in Afghanistan and Sudan.

Which doesn't excuse it, of course.
+14 # SageArtisan 2013-05-17 10:41
2001 - September 11, 2001 attacks, 2,997 killed, Bush had advanced knowledge and chose to ignore it or do anything about it

2002 - Reporter Daniel Pearl, kidnapped and beheaded in Karachi.

2002 - Nine people killed by bomb blast near US embassy in Lima - seen as attempt to disrupt forthcoming visit by President George W. Bush.

2002-2006 - Karachi consulate attacks: three separate attacks killed 18 people (including an American diplomat) and injured 87.

2002 - Two Marines shot, one killed in Kuwait.

2003 - Riyadh Compound Bombings kill 9 Americans, among 35 others.

2003 - Three American diplomats are killed by a roadside bomb targeting their convoy in Gaza. Palestine Resistance Committees, an umbrella organization has taken responsibility for the attack."[2]

2003–present - Damascus terrorist attacks: American interests in Syria targeted by Islamists.
+16 # SageArtisan 2013-05-17 10:47
2004 - Civilians Nick Berg, Jack Hensley, and Eugene Armstrong kidnapped and beheaded in Iraq.

2004 - Paul Marshall Johnson, Jr, civilian working in Saudi Arabia, kidnapped and beheaded; five other Americans die in attacks in Saudi Arabia in 2004.

2007 - American embassy attacked in Athens, Greece.

2008 - John Granville, US diplomat, assassinated in Khartoum, Sudan

2003 - 2013 American casualties in Iraq for a war to end WMD (an illegal war desired by Bush and Cheney) killed 32,021 Americans and wounded over 100,000

Recently Bush and Cheney have been found guilty of war crimes.

Where was all the Republican furor over these incidents? Obama is a black man and does not merit the same credibility or treatment as a white man in the eyes of the white GOP nutcases.
+5 # jwb110 2013-05-17 13:10
There is are a lot of baldfaced lies in the Republican strategy to unseat the first Black President. The Republicans seem to have picked up an old Communist tenant: "The end justifies the means." For those who thinks these guys are Fascist need only look at the old USSR to see that this country looks more like a Communist Dictatorship. I know because I was in Russia. Adlai Stevenson said that the US and the USSR were like eye site lines at some point the US would look more like a the USSR and vice versa. Looks to me like he had it right.

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