Hey, everybody! Welcome to another Sunday. Which means welcome to another day of watching, or reading along to, me. And my exercise in futility. For America! Yes, once again, for you, I am here watching these Sunday morning gobemouches flap their lips, pointlessly, into the teevee cameras. My snap judgments and poor spelling follows in their wake. This week, we all know what's on everyone's mind -- the disclosure of unexpected information, that could change everything we thought we know about the past few years of our lives. By which I mean JOHN HURT IS GOING TO BE THE DOCTOR WHAAAAAAAT?
Also the IRS did some stuff they shouldn't, enough to make them this week's Benghazi, until UmbrellaGhazi starts next week. It'll be EPIC, TNT, we know Drama, et cetera.
As a programming note to all liveblog readers, I want to point out that America's Greatest Arlen, Arlen Gargagliano, has opened her own very tasty and fun restaurant in Tuckahoe, New York called Mambo 64. Named for the Commodore 64 of Mambos. Gargagliano's new restaurant has everything -- Caipirinhas, panuchos, a thing with quinoa in it -- really, something for everyone. So plan your road trips accordingly this summer, okay?
As a second programming note, next week is Memorial Day and this liveblog shall be on vacation. We'll return the week thereafter, unless we develop an unhealthy attachment to Memorial Day. No guarantees are being made.
Anyway, the drill. You know it. It goes a little something like: feel free to converse in the comments, drop me a line if you need, follow me on Twitter if you want, check out my Rebel Mouse page if you're bored.
Shall we begin?
FOX NEWS SUNDAY
Okay, what does ol' Chris Wallace got going for us? IRSGhazi! All those 501(c)(whatevers) got Ghazied by people in Cincinnati and now we're in a "crisis of confidence," because if there's one word we've traditionally associated with "the IRS" it's "confidence."
This could be a hawt, hawt conflict-scandal whatsit were it not for the fact that there is currently no political faction that isn't upset about what happened. No one is "pro-IRSGhazi profiling." Everyone is very much opposed. So the winner of this particular Ghazi will be whoever bellows the loudest and jumps around with rage. Right now, if you want to "win" this scandal, you need to be on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, ripping your clothes to tatters and shrieking "DAMN YOU, IRSGHAZI! I WILL HAVE MY REVENGE!" and then take off naked and screaming through the city.
Dan Pfieffer, one of the more difficult names in Washington to spell correctly very quickly and so he's just going to be known as Danny Fife from now on, is here to explain how against the IRSGhazi the White House is, and he doesn't look like he's at all prepared to do much shrieking or garment rending. He could have at least bloodied his hand with the viscera of his enemies! Oh well, we'll see how he does.
Danny Fife says the the White House unequivocally did not here about the IRSGhazi until the Treasury's counsel's office called them to explain that an investigation was about to wrap up. Does that mean that even then there was no knowledge of the profiling or the IG investigation? Fife says that they knew that the IG was investigating the potential that political groups had been targeted, from the Treasury's counsel, just a few weeks ago. Not before.
But Wallace points out that the IRS's IG told Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin about the investigation last year, specifically about the targeting as well. So Wallace, not unreasonably, wants to know if it's possible that Wolin never told Tim Geither and that Geithner never passed it on up the chain. Fife says that the "Cardinal rule" is that you don't interfere or appear to interfere in an investigation. From his standpoint, the proper people were informed and the investigation was proceeding.
He points out that Representative Darrell Issa was given the same heads up as Wolin, but at the time there were no details, no evidence, nothing to Ghazi on and on about yet. Fife partially quotes Issa's line to Wallace: "I knew what was approximately in it when we made the allegations about a year ago. This is one of those things where it's been, in a sense, an open secret, but you don't accuse the IRS until you've had a nonpartisan, deep look."
Fife says, bottom line: Wolin did not tell the White House about the investigation.
But a number of Democrats in Congress wanted the IRS to investigate these groups. Fife, who obviously cannot speak for random Democrats in Congress, refers Wallace back to the IG report, which held that the IRS' was not motivated by an outside influence or a political influence. "It was a management issue, not political motivation," Fife says, suggesting that the wellspring of this Ghazi was mere incompetence.
But Joseph Grant, who was the heading the tax exempt division, said that the referrals came from "public, media, watchdog groups, and members of Congress." In truth, we should be scrutinizing all of these "social welfare" groups, because they are all a little bit dishonest and a little bit scammy. It's too bad that the end result is that there will be less scrutiny of these tax exempt groups. Naturally, I, along with everyone else, expects that the scrutiny is consistently applied.
But back to the point, Fife says that he can only refer to the IG report. More importantly, he says that the White House is focusing on restoring the trust in the agency. He says that the IRS is going to go through a month-long audit, now.
Wallace wants to know why the President didn't get into the middle of the investigation himself, and Fife basically tries to point out that it would be unprecedented and not a little bit crazy for a President to get neck deep in an investigation of an independent agency.
Wallace wants to know what, and why, specifically, the president is outraged about here. Uhm...he's mad at the IRS? See, Obama didn't run down Constitution Avenue with the blood of Cincinnati IRS functionaries streaked in mysterious glyphs on his naked chest, bellowing in bare-ass rage, so he is losing this Ghazi. Fife tries to explain that the President is mad at the "breach of trust," but he is very calm about it, and doesn't even throw his coffee cup across the room in a fit of pique, so he is also going to lose this Ghazi, if he is not careful.
Wallace wants to make hay out of the fact that the lady who ran the tax exempt division of the IRS is now working on Affordable Care Act implementation, and what that means for the public trust. Can she be replaced? Can we be sure there will be no political agenda? I have no idea how there would be a political agenda in Affordable Care Act implementation? Presumably, the worst thing you can do to the Tea Party is target them with health care via the ACA, which keeps them healthy and happy and alive and ENRAGED.
Fife says that the person in question was not named in the IG report. It's yet to be demonstrated that she's done anything wrong. The thirty day audit may yield some evidence suggesting otherwise, in which case they'll hold her responsible. Fife makes a basic plea to not throw someone out of their job until such time as it's been determined they've done something wrong. Which is pretty reasonable.
Wallace turns to Benghazi. The ORIGINAL GHAZI. THE O.G. Wallace has a long preamble to a question. That question: what did the President do the rest of the night, after he was informed about the Original Ghazi. Fife says he was "kept up to date throughout the entire night." He says that despite the conspiracy theories, there is a mountain of documentation that has been provided to account for the actions everyone taken. Fife then filibusters for about four sentences of platitudes.
Wallace wants some more specifics about what Obama did, like what time did he brush his teeth, and was the rage he felt at the ongoing Ghazi so strong that he brushed and brushed and brushed until his gums bled, leading to him dropping to his knees and yawping, "BENNNNNNGHAAAAAAZI!!!" through a mouth brimming with Aqua-Fresh lather and gum-blood. Fife says that he spent the night in discussion with his "security team." Wallace whinges abouthow that means he didn't talk very much to Hillary Clinton or Leon Panetta. Fife says that he was in contact with the staff that has the job to keep him apprised by all this. Wallace wants to know if he was in the Situation Room. Fife says, basically, that he was in a bunch of rooms.
"I don't remember what room the President was in, that's a largely irrelevant fact," Fife tries to explain, "The premise of your question is that something could have been done to change the outcome." But he doesn't get this! Obama can only win the Benghazi Ghazi if he spent the night in the Situation Room, with Clinton and Panetta, emoting wildly, drinking blood from the neck of a GITMO prisoner for strength, and having to be restrained by fifty men to keep him from ascending on angel wings to Libya, armed only with fists, to stop the Ghazi.
They argue about this for a while. Wallace wants to know how Obama responded. He is literally asking after Obama's rage levels, at the Ghazi.
There is some discussion about the emails from the Benghazi. Fife goes through a litany of complaints about how the emails have been used, misinterpreted, and manipulated. His fundamental point, however, is that all the emails really reflect is that the investigation into what specifically happened and who did the attacks were a difficult and challenging mystery to solve, especially in the first days after the event. The second thing the emails reflect is the desire to not do anything to throw off the integrity of the investigation. That's all stuff that should have been properly inferred by the media the first time government functionaries stepped out to slowly explain what they thought was going on.
The other thing worth pointing out is that Jonathan Karl at ABC News got rooked by some Republican, as far as the emails he misreported.
Fife ends the conversation by reminding Wallace that the White House doesn't jump into or interfere with inter-agency investigations, their job is to act swiftly once the investigations are concluded, and to his mind they've done that satisfactorily. The truth here, is that Pfeiffer really got off easy, with this line of questioning. For Wallace, this really is a contest to see who can get into the biggest display of bare-assed rage. And now we'll see if Paul Ryan can out-bellow him, and thus win today's game of Ghaziyachtzee!
Why does Paul Ryan think that the IRS didn't tell Congress about the investigation -- was it bureaucracy? Or was it election-year skullduggery. Ryan says that he doesn't know, they will investigate it, and he won't speculate. Then he darkly muses that this went very "high up" and was an "abuse of power to the nth degree," which is hilarious considering the President can now just kill American citizens with drones without a trial. Sure! Being temporarily inconvienced by a bureaucratic cock-up that was easily uncovered and which no one in any political party supports is an "abuse of power to the nth degree!"
But that's how you win at Ghazi-ing! Well, played, Commander Haircut!
Is Ryan impressed with Fife's answer? Does he have any evidence that refutes what Pfieffer has said? Ryan says that he does not have an answer, but the investigation is young. He then begins to filibuster, and Wallace cuts him off to ask about the difference between an "audit" and "investigation." Ryan says that the "investigation" is what is currently happening.
Is Ryan impressed with the explanation that was offered, that Tea Party groups were singled out via corner-cutting short cuts? And what does he make of the fact that other groups, besides conservative groups, were targeted? Ryan waves it off by saying that search terms like "progressive" were not targeted, so that means people were targeted solely because of their political beliefs. I think there is still a good chance that this was still more stupidity than malice, as the tax-exempt office was also being inundated by Tea Party groups coming on line. Nevertheless, I'm the sort of person who still demands consistency, both as a best practice and a guard against these sorts of accusations. The actions taken allow Ryan to make these accusations.
That said, it's not actually been proven that this is more than a bureaucratic snafu, as Ryan suggests. But, again, you don't win a Ghazi by trying to be reasonable, or by playing things close to the vest.
Ryan still totally believes that the Original Benghazi was a massive cover-up, for the purpose of keeping a set of talking points in the air for seventy-two hours. Frankly, his heart is definitely now more in the new Ghazi and not the old Ghazi. Wallace, sensing this, tries to goad him by reminding him about the stake he had in the original Ghazi, as he was running for Vice President. Ryan says he doesn't have an answer, and, again, he sounds sort of less alive and excited than he did talking about the IRSGhazi.
Obviously, though, Ryan thinks that big government is terrible and the Obama White House is awful and everyone who didn't vote for he and Mitt Romney are probably very sorry.
Okay, time to have a PanelGhazi with Brit Hume and Kirsten Powers and Karl Rove and Dennis Kucinich.
Hume says that the Ghazies are "quite serious," and that the problem the administration faces is that the IRSGhazi was coincidentally favorable to the President's politics, and to Hume's estimation, the White House has "had trouble telling the truth." It's a weird argument. Obviously, investigating Tea Party groups do not align with the President's interest because there's nothing to be gained except suspicion. Hume also doesn't seem to realize that there is no pony, at all, for the White House, in the original Benghazi, and that the very fact that it happened in the first place took us well past the post in terms of "aligning interest with the White House's politics."
Also, LOL, when you explain what you know on Monday, and then you know new things on Tuesday as a result of the effort you are making to investigate the matter, you are not "having difficulty telling the truth," you are "learning more about what happened."
Anyway, I am happy to hold future Presidencies that Hume loves to these standards, if he wants, but I'd rather be fair and consistent.
Why should groups, like Rove's even get tax-exempt status, asks Wallace. Rove just says that the Democrats use these groups to fight Republicans, so turnabout is fair play, as long as you are following the rules. This doesn't answer the question: why do these groups deserve tax-exempt status.
Kucinich says that there's evidence to suggest there is political targeting of these groups, and to him, the big problem now is that now there will be big limits placed on properly auditing these weird groups.
"You have to be careful about giving a free pass," Kucinich says.
Hume is pretty sure that the Affordable Care Act lady should be fired too. Rove suggests that Pfeiffer's defense of her was that she was "ignorant" as to what was going on. Pfeiffer actually said that she was innocent-until-proven-guilty of any wrongdoing, and that she was entitled to the benefit of the doubt until the ongoing investigation demonstrated otherwise. Not the same as saying that she was "ignorant" and thus, "endorsed." Wallace actually CONDUCTED the interview with Pfeiffer, and doesn't correct this.
Someone needs to give Wallace a Petscan because I'm pretty sure he hit his head on something on the way to the panel table! (He maybe should check with OSHA.)
Anyway, more panel. Rove thinks it's an open question as to how the standing of "big government" fares after all the facts on the various Ghazies comes out, but he's pretty sure that Obama's poll numbers will suffer. Rove glides past the point on the poll numbers -- there's slight concern among those bothering to tune in to the Ghazies, but these remain Beltway+base obsessions.
Kucinich wants to hold Obama accountable for not doing more to help the people whov'e been ground up in the gears of the economic downturn, and says that when it comes to "big government," the real action is with the national security state. That's almost TOO substantive for Sunday morning. Who talks about the American people and their economic woes on a Sunday show? Everyone knows that unemployment is a matter that solely impacts the electoral prospects of affluent political elites, and with no election on the wing, talking about it is dumb.
Brit Hume reminds everyone that he hates big government. Kirsten Powers disagrees.
Rove is pretty sure that we'll have five more weeks of Ghazies, so I doubt that anyone actually needs me to liveblog these shows next week? For Memorial Day, just re-read this one, or smack yourself in the forehead repeatedly with a ball peen hammer. Basically the same concept.
FACE THE NATION
My own Ghazi, right now, is the fact that we are thirty-five minutes into the Arsenal-Newcastle match and the Gunners have yet to notch a goal even though this is a must must win for them against a team with nothing to play for. ARSENGHAAAAAAZZZIII!!!
Okay, Face The Nation will get down and dirty in the Ghazi, we'll see of it goes better or worse for Danny Fife, who will be shouted down after the fact by John Cornyn and Jason Chaffetz. Plus Gary Pruitt is here, to talk about the DoJ probing the AP's phone records (was wondering if that would matter to anyone!). Plus there will be a panel, as always.
Schieffer asks about Denis McDonough's order to his underlings to not spend more than ten percent of their time, working on Ghazies, and whether that means no one is taking the Ghazies seriously. Fife says no, they take it seriously, they just don't want the Ghazies from dragging time away from "doing the people's work." Schieffer chides Fife, saying that this is "exactly the same line" as Nixon did during Watergate. Fife responds by saying that unlike Nixon, they aren't making excuses for the IRS's actions or pretending they were kosher, they are taking actions to repair the situation.
Fife, as he did on Fox, tells Schieffer that yes, the timing of how and when they found out about the IRSGhazi is exactly as they let out, and blah blah blah Cardinal Rule about not getting into a investigation or interfering with one, etc.
Schieffer seems confused about why it took Obama "three days to say anything" about IRSGhazi, if he was so upset. Fife says that it's not enough to be fast out with a statement -- you need to have facts right before you say anything. Schieffer accuses the Obama administration of being aloof and "unacquainted with the work of his own administration" -- citing a WaPo editorial. But I have news for everyone! If there was one takeaway from the Susan Rice Fiasco portion of the Original Ghazi, it's that no one will be coming from the Obama administration fast with some facts to the media ever again. There is going to be a lot more waiting around, and I guess a lot more wondering if Obama FEELS EMOTIONS he professes to feel.
That's what's sort of dumb about Schieffer's question. He doesn't seem to think that Obama was HIDING something or doing anything SUSPICIOUS by waiting to address the press -- he just doesn't think Obama can be properly angry about this.
Is the Obama administration "the most transparent in history?" Pfeiffer says yes, and I miss the next three minutes of FACE THE NATION, because THAT IS TO LAUGH, BROTHER.
Schieffer says that the disconnect is that when the Obama administration has things going for it, they are quick to talk about it, but they delay things when things are going wrong. That's actually not true! Susan Rice rushed to Sunday shows to deliver talking point balderdash very quickly, on the notion that SOME INFORMATION NOW was better than GOOD INFORMATION LATER. (Schieffer brings this up, and he's extracted the wrong lesson from the situation.) Everyone got burned! It will probably never happen that way again, and maybe that's for the best.
Fife says that they brought current information to the media through Susan Rice, and updated it with new information as it became available.
Schieffer grouses, "That was just a P.R. plan," referring to Susan Rice.
Bob Schieffer! I sort of hate to tell you this, but you host a Sunday Morning Beltway Chat Show. YOU ARE THE P.R. PLAN. If you want to not participate in "P.R. Plans" you should resign, yourself.
Schieffer asks why the Secretary of State didn't come on the Sunday Shows. She didn't come on the shows because she has successfully deduced them to be a pile of excrement.
"Why are you here today," asks Scheiffer. Because you asked him to come on? Honest to God, Face The Nation, if you don't like the quality of your guest, have some self-respect and tell him to stay home.
John Cornyn is now here, for his P.R. opportunity. He thinks that it's "implausible" -- the White House's reaction, and an "unfortunate culture" that includes "cover up." What's been covered up? I mean, no one is trying to defend the IRS or pretend that there's not stuff worth knowing about it.
CORNYN: All I know is what I read in the press and listen to you and other members of the news media say. What we do know is that Secretary Lew of the Treasury, shortly after he was confirmed in March, said he knew about this. And then the president -- I'm talking now about the IRS scandal -- and the president himself said he didn't learn about it until May 11 when he read it in the newspaper. That's either evidence to me of somebody not doing their job or the kind of willful ignorance I alluded to earlier or trying to cover things up.
Cornyn is allowed to not know things before they are reported in the newspaper, because reasons. (Keep in mind that Issa was apprised of the same investigation, a long time ago, and remained out of it for the same reasons Pfeiffer cited today -- interfering would cause problems.)
Cornyn says his interest is in the IRS targeting Tea Party groups from Texas, an interest he shares with everyone else. There is no political faction that publicly supports political groups being targeted by ideology, so ease up a little, John.
Schieffer brings up the AP scandal, and wants his take. This is a bit beyond Cornyn's capacity. He says that we have to get to the bottom of national security leaks. So, he's cool with probing the Associated Press? He says he is "confused" though, because why did the DoJ focus on the Associated Press and not the person who leaked the AP the story.
Well, it's sort of hard to find leakers, John! One thing you can do is say, "Come on, guys, who leaked this to the AP?" and maybe the leaker says, "Shucks, you got me, I never thought you'd ask, but you got ne fair and square." If that technique doesn't work, I guess you can ask the AP straight up, and see if they've suddenly got way into burning their sources for no good reason. Failing that, I guess you have to take measures to investigate the matter. Seizing phone records, however, is a pretty awful thing to do. It's okay to just be angry, John. You don't need to be confused.
Cornyn obviously hates Eric Holder and wants him to take it on the arches. He'd rather Obama appoint someone new to the office, for the GOP Senate to block in perpetuity, instead.
By the way, Laurent Koscielny finally scored for Arsenal.
Jason Chaffetz is here, and he wants MOAR DOCUMENTS released on Benghazi. He is hungry for documents. He is especially mad because he's seen an email in which someone professed a certainty that the attack on Benghazi was committed by terrorists, only to have it walked back by Susan Rice, only to have it walked forward three days later. It's almost as if people just send emails around, promiscuously, without any thought that any one will become an important part of the public record.
As always, Chaffetz is doing what's been done since the get go -- mistake noise for signal, and overassign importants to a piece of the overall mosaic of data. This is why you'll never ever see anyone go on Sunday shows or hit the media in the wake of a "fog of war" situation and offer any information ever again, until they've got something unimpeachable to say. The new standard is that you can no longer offer you best information now, if you information later is going to be better. Since it inevitably will be better, later, you won't be getting those periodic updates anymore.
The other really annoying thing about Chaffetz plucking these tiny pieces of the data set up and pretending that they contain multitudes is that all the talk about the talking points is complete horseshit. Cracking the nut of the talking points doesn't solve a foreign policy problem. It doesn't make us safer. It won't achieve any substantive result for the American people.
What I need from a Jason Chaffetz is for him to put down his teensy wittle piece of the mosaic, screw his courage to the sticking point, and litigate THE DECISIONS THAT LED US TO INTERVENE IN LIBYA IN THE FIRST PLACE. Because that was the foreign policy decision that naturally, predictably, inescapably, led to the consequence of Americans being killed. And it never, ever comes up. No one has the guts to question the wisdom of that.
The rest of Chaffetz appearance is just more of this cojone-less grandstanding. He will fight to investigate his dumb dust motes, his stray emails, his incidental bits of language that washed over the transom, for as long as the media is willing to pretend there is anything real at stake. It's amazing how terrified everyone is to talk about things that are real, and which have real stakes. Meanwhile, let the drumbeat for further misadventures in Syria continue to sound.
Maybe Gary Pruitt, of the AP, will demonstrate the right balance between measured anger and actual substantive argument that we have so far lacked. Pruitt says that he found out about the DoJ snooping through his reporters/editors' phone records when the U.S. Attorney for the Washington, DC district sent him a letter, notifying him that a secret subpoena had been filed, covering the phone records of "over a hundred journalists" for two months.
Pruitt says that the cause seems to have been a story that the AP broke about the CIA thwarting an al Qaeda attack -- timed around the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death -- using another one of those underwear bombs. Schieffer points out that this was, essentially, a good news story. Pruit concurs, but adds, "Strangely, at the same time, the administration, through the press secretary and the Department of Homeland Security, were telling the American public that there was no credible evidence of a terrorist plot related to the anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. So that was misleading to the American public. We felt the American public needed to know this story."
Pruitt points out that with the story in hand, they contacted the government. Intelligence agencies shared concerns about related national security risks, if the story was published. Pruitt says that the AP held the story, per agreement, for five days. "On the fifth day," Pruitt says, "we heard from high officials in two part of the government that the national security issues had passed and at that point, we released the story."
What's important about Pruitt's allegations here is that the AP was playing ball, got authorization, and the next thing you know the DoJ has jumped to paging through the phone records of 100s of reporters. Is there a conundrum, that needs resolution, between a free press and national security? Sure. But it seems to me that you don't jump to seizing 100s of reporters' phone records as "step two" in that resolution.
To Pruitt's mind, the White House wanted the story to be held another day, not for national security concerns, but because they wanted to spike the football.
"We didn't think that was a legitimate reason for holding the story," says Pruitt. That is 100% correct. I'd do the same thing, if I were in that position, six days a week and twice on Sunday.
Schieffer asks after what the possible motivation was. Intimidation? Pruitt says he doesn't know. He surmises that the message being sent is that leakers better not talk to the press. "We don't question their right to conduct these sort of investigations," Pruitt says, "We just think they went about it the wrong way. So sweeping, so secretively, so abusive and harassingly and overbroad that it constitutes an unconstitutional act."
"I think this will hurt journalism," Pruitt says, who adds that the AP's sources are already starting to get reluctant to talk. "It's not hypothetical," he says, "We're actually seeing impact already."
Further imapcts? "The people of the United States will only know what the government wants them to know," says Pruitt, "and that's not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment."
That discussion with Pruitt was like an oasis of substance in the Sunday Morning P.R. Experience Desert
And Arsenal wins.
THIS WEEK WITH SOMEBODY, WHO REALLY CARES AT THIS POINT
George Stephanopoulos is here, so let the mixed bag begin. I'll be attempting to not pause my TiVo too much, because we've pretty much heard everything we're going to hear today. And, underscoring that, here's Danny Fife, again.
He again says that the White House did not know about the investigation until last Wednesday, Neal Wolin knew about it, didn't tell the White House, blah blah. He says the White House hasn't communicated any influence to monitor any tax exempt groups, they will help pursue legitimate oversight, but they won't go on a partisan witchhunt.
Steph asks Fife if the President believes the targeting of specific political ground is illegal. Fife says that the "law is irrelevant" because the President finds it outrageous on general principle. Steph is all, "You don't really mean that the law is irrelevant, do you?" Fife says that what he means is that the President is not going to wait for the DoJ to rule on the legality, he's going to have the matter investigated and accountability properly doled out.
Fife says that they need to have factual cause to remove the lady running the Affordable Care Act stuff for the IRS from that position, and so nothing is going to be done about that until the 30-day review is over.
We move from IRSGhazi to Benghazi. Question about Carney. Changing the word consulate only. Fife does his "the emails show three things" routine again, which we've already heard and recapped from Fox News Sunday.
"Hopefully we can put this all behind us," he says, and adds that Susan Rice is owed an apology for all the opprobrium that was heaped upon her. Again, sure, why not. Save the opprobrium for the people who said, "Let's extend our military misadventures to Libya, and get some Americans killed." Instead of a hot war on the minutiae of inter-agency memoranda.
It's always funny to me, to live in Washington, and see people pursue all this de minimis nonsense, and ask to be treated as if they've got these big goddam balls. That Jason Chaffetz sack-of-squeak really thinks he deserves a medal or something, for his bravery. No one seems to want to have a serious inquiry, except for maybe gary Pruitt of the Associated Press.
Big things going on, troubling policy decisions, leading to corpses, and everyone wants to be recognized for the brave way they dig through piles of email, in a gigantic game of Words With Frenemies.
But, as for Susan Rice, let's just say that officially, her sin was that she came on the Sunday Shows, flashing her job title, as a means of coming across as someone with GENUINE EXPERTISE, but who actually wasn't doing anything but reading from a script. That's worth criticizing. People paraded as experts, insiders, who are doing nothing more than prattling out something that was developed into a sheet of talking points by an army of lower-level functionaries.
The thing is, if you are going to crucify Rice for parading herself on a Sunday Show as an expert whilst actually doing nothing but following a P.R. script, we would literally run out of trees in Washington, because that is an apt description for virtually everyone who appears on a Sunday Morning Chat Show.
Here to yell at one another pointlessly as they pass their time on this earth as skin sacks are Rob Portman and Bob Menendez and Tom Price and Charlie Rangel. Wow, when the topic is shady tax stuff, the Democratic Party really delivers their finest!
But again, absolutely no one in Congress is IN FAVOR of what the IRS did, all oppose it. The only way to "win" this Ghazi is to be the loudest and angriest guy yelling about it, so we'll see who emerges as the winner.
Rob Portman doesn't know what happened at the IRS but he's pretty sure "politics was put ahead over the public interest." He seems concerned, but he's calm and reasonable and isn't flashing any wild-eyes. Bad opening move from Portman if he wants to win the Ghazi.
Steph tries to goad him into escalating, but Portman is still being calm, speaking in a flat aspect. It's like he's reading off his calendar. This is just bad Ghazi strategy from Portman.
Let's see if Menendez fares better. He says that there are "two scandals" here. Promising move! He says that what the IRS did was "wrong" and "outrageous" and indicated a "lack of management" and says that "we should look legislatively if we have to create screens and filters" for them, so that the IRS can do their job correctly. The second scandal, he says, is that the "C-4's" have spent hundreds of millions of dollars improperly, and by gum, it's unfair to the tiny Tea Party groups who've done nothing wrong to take the lion's share of attention when it's the Karl Rove big fish that are doing all the scammy stuff.
That, my friend, is pretty masterful Ghazi-ing.
Price is up for it, though! "This is chilling stuff," he says, and gets straight dystopian -- noting that the IRS was looking into the contents of religious groups and book groups. And he's on board for filleting the upper levels of bureaucracy at the IRS, saying that we "all know that these kinds of decisions aren't made at low levels." He probably could have taken the lead in this Ghazi, maybe even won it outright, if he'd gone far enough to say that "high levels" include the White House.
One of the rules of a four-way Ghazi-bang like this is that mentioning impeachment is like grabbing the Golden Snitch -- you do that you win the game. That's why Michele Bachmann is the best at Ghazi.
Rangel's turn. He says that "tens of thousands of IRS workers are getting a bad shake" and that it's the law governing these tax-exempt groups itself that "lends itself to abuse." It's wrong, he says, for people to be penalized for their political beliefs, but the problem is that "the law has been abused ever since it's been there." That's not very good Ghazi play, but he's slightly more animated than Robot Portman.
Steph will kick it back to Portman, to see if he can raise his pulse. He gets a little snippy. He almost moves into the basic area of anger. His content is good Ghazi, but he's not getting his yawp on. Portman is just leaving Ghazi points on the table. Steph keeps giving him chances, too!
Menendez jumps in, and he coasts on the lead he has -- he's plenty sarcastic and he drives one emotional point home.
Opportunity for Price, though. He just needs to get hot under the collar, maybe raise the specter of White House shenanigans. And he goes right at the the Affordable Care Act -- "remember that the IRS is the enforcement arm" of the Affordable Care Act. Steph asks him if he thinks that the lady in charge had to "go," Price says that she "at least needs to step back." Price should have driven the lane, but that was really good Ghazi, even if it was more cerebral than it should have been.
Really, a good long yammer-stammer-anger-hammer would win this thing outright. Rangel has the last shot: "There's no Republican agenda except to stop the President of the United States." No, Charlie, the Ghazi requires constant outrage at the IRS!
I'm going to chalk the final tally as Rangel coming in last, followed by Robot Portman in third. I award this Ghazi to Price, narrowly and on points, over Menendez. Overall, these were some pretty mediocre Ghaziers, though. ABC News should have booked better.
It's panel time, and now I realize that I actually jumped off Face The Nation and deleted it from my TiVo and moved to This Week without actually recapping their panel. Well, the recap of that panel is you should have probably tuned out everyone not named "John Dickerson," and gotten on with your life.
Meanwhile, over at the Newseum we have George Will and Katrina VandenHeuvel and Jeff Zeleny and April Ryan and Ron Fournier who among the "leadership surrealists" has the emptiest head. We are talking 2BR/2BA/rvr vu/no pets.
I get emails, from Stephen:
I've found this Benghazi stuff so tedious and misdirected I skip much of the coverage, including yours. No offense intended, obviously. But I'm tuned in to your Soundoff this morning and just want to be sure that - at some point down this long road - you've turned a phrase linking fake outrage over Benghazi with the 80s/90s DC hardcore punksters Fugazi. You seem like the sort of guy (meaning: I identify with your take on media and stupidity, and mistake that for a shared history) who probably went through a Fugazi phase, so "Fughazi" undoubtedly occurred to you moons ago. Apologies if I either missed precisely such wording in your previous writings on the topic or have just now wasted your time by suggesting something that would be unmissable to a professional wordsmith.
Ahh, you are correct, Stephen, that I definitely should have found a way to make this connection, and call it "FUGHAZI," because that is pretty much perfect, and you should know that I look for wires whenever anyone is speaking on these awful shows.
Sadly, we must turn our attention to the panel.
Will is still happy to make/draw comparisons to Watergate because IRSGhazi is "the use of the machinery of the Federal government to punish enemies." Though, he goes on to discuss a IRSGhazi tick-tock that leaves the White House out of it. Fournier says that "the problem with this scandal" is that it's better to be competent and corrupt than benign and incompetent, because blah blah blah, decades long decline in the faith of every institution everywhere.
KVH thinks that Will is nutbag for comparing IRSGhazi to Watergateghazi because Watergateghazi involved much more criminality and much less attempt at accountability. Will insists that he's only made the comparison between Watergateghazi and IRSghazigate because "abuse of the IRS" was part of the articles of impeachment against Nixon. KVH disagrees with this, and disagrees with the existence of these tax-exempt groups in general.
Zeleny says that Douglas Shulman is in the hot seat, because he was running the IRS at the beginning of this period, and then he starts making strange noises with his mouth.
Ryan says that the White House is "trying to win the picture on this" by asking the new IRS commissioner to pursue a 30-day investigation of the whole agency. Fournier says that "all that has to happen is for there to be a BCC email to the White House letting them know there was this problem" and it's Nixonian.
Now there is a siren, blaring, outside my window, drowning out whatever Will and KVH are arguing about. I return to her saying that "Republicans are going to inhale scandal," but I think we have moved to the freebase period of Ghazi.
I think KVH just set the record for the longest unbroken monologue in the history of these daft panels.
Fournier says that the Obama administration really doesn't have a leg to stand on, accusing the GOP of going on a fishing expedition when their DoJ is playing snatch and grab with the phone records of AP reporters. That is 100% true but come on, Ron, surely you are at least impressed with the White House's show of Green Lantern power, at last, right?
Fournier explains the matter at length, but Pruitt's already talked about this, and there's nothing to add to that recap.
Ryan says that we have set a bad example to other nations, who have worse press freedoms than we do. By not living up to our creed, we make it easier for everyone else to have one. KVH points out that while the administration's actions deserve no apology, the GOP has been "baying like wolves in the night" for the DoJ to pursue leakers and thus, this is a "transpartisan ecumenical problem."
I think that the Gilbert And Sullivan operetta of this period in out lives will be called "The Yeomen Of The Transpartisan Ecumenical Problems."
The panel gets pretty dull, for the next few minutes. Will and KVH basically do not impress one another. Zeleny says that the White House has run out of time to pass laws, so we can pack it in. Fournier says that it's not a good thing for Americans to lose their faith in government. He also says that he's been "talking to millenials." Will hates government and is glad no one trusts it any more. KVH also says more stuff about millenials.
THIS WEEK is going to conclude by highlighting commencement addresses from around the country. Stephen Colbert got to address the graduates from the University of Virginia, which means the multiple Peabody and Emmy award-winner can finally understand what a real honor feels like.
Okay, I am going to bog off now, and celebrate the fact that Arsenal has qualified for the Champions League again. More like Tottenham Notspur, right?
Probably none of you care. Anyway, remember we are taking Memorial Day off. We will return to monitoring these sad, declining media institutions and their undeserved acclaim on June 2nd. Until then, good luck, and have a nice fortnight!
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