“And I’ve raised these issues with the Attorney General, who shares my concerns. So he has agreed to review existing Department of Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters…”
-- President Obama in a speech at National Defense University.
President Obama is tasking someone with intimate knowledge of alleged abuses by Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department to investigate the matter: Holder himself.
Obama sought Thursday to quell rising concerns in the press and public about the targeting of journalists by the Justice Department – an overbroad secret subpoena against the Associated Press and the naming of FOX News’ James Rosen as a possible criminal for working a source at the State Department – by again expressing his support for the First Amendment and instructing Holder to reflect on his policies.
NBC News is reporting that Holder himself signed off on the subpoena that targeted Rosen, though the agency remains officially mum on the subject. However, DOJ rules require that such document grabs require approval from the top cop.
Comparing Rosen’s regular reporting to the work of an enemy spymaster in order to grab his Gmail account and phone records has brought fear and anger to the Washington press corps. Suggesting that Holder himself can properly oversee a review of his own agency is further straining the administration’s already stretched credibility on the subject.
House Republicans tell Power Play that Holder and his deputies will soon be called to testify about these heavy-handed measures, with a particular eye on the question of how many other press probes there are beyond the AP snatch and Rosengate.
It seems unlikely that Holder saying he’s looking into the subject and will report back in six weeks time will satisfy.
Obama’s decision to delay and deflect on the scandals facing his administration may work on Benghazi, but is certainly dubious when it comes to the crisis at the IRS. As for the Department of Justice, though, slow is not the way to go. Every day that reporters have to stew on this stuff will make the problem worse.
GOP Hawks Pounce on Peace Talk
"Unless we discipline our thinking our definitions, our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don't need to fight, or continue to grant presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states.”
-- President Obama in a speech at the National Defense University.
Hawkish Republicans are ripping President Obama’s wishful thinking on one day being able to end what was once called the Global War on Terror.
The hawkiest hawks, Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte, are decrying Obama’s hope that one day the war powers granted to the president in the wake of 9/11 would one day be repealed and, despite much chance of it happening, the importation of the enemy combatants at the Guantanamo Bay prisoner of war camp.
This constitutes a double win for Obama who gets to talk peace while taking credit for slaying terrorists by remote-control and casts the Republican Party back in the old role of the war party at a time when Americans are war weary. Obama therefore gets to preserve and expand much of the Bush-era agenda but still get to claim the status of the anti-war president.
Simply by rattling the cages of McCain et. al. with hypotheticals and musings, Obama was able to distract the GOP from their prosecution of the administration’s abuses of civil liberties at the IRS and Department of Justice and give news outlets the chance to herald Republican support for the status quo.
Attacks at Ft. Hood, Boston and now London have shifted the national concern from institutional Islamist militancy to grassroots jihad carried out by radical Muslims living in the West. Obama has some political vulnerability here, but not on ending the war in Afghanistan or his rejection of new attacks on Syria.
The GOP hawks may one day be proven to be Churchillian figures, warning of a growing menace while the majority dismissed their alarms. But it took a decade for Sir Winston to be proven right. Conservatives might wonder what Democratic control of Washington until 2023 might do to their agenda.
With this ploy, Obama was able to erode some of the progress Republicans are making with younger voters by pointing out the abuses aimed at Obama’s political adversaries and the press. A neat trick to be facing charges of abusing the press in the name of national security but still get to claim the high ground.
“I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws, I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.”
-- Lois Lerner, then-director of Exempt Organizations for the IRS, in House testimony this week.
The groups targeted by the IRS may not think that a paid vacation is the appropriate punishment for Lois Lerner, but in the world of Washington bureaucrats the former IRS section boss just got keelhauled.
Lerner is out on leave, which would have been a smart move for the administration from the very moment her section was found to have targeted President Obama’s political enemies.
Instead, the administration let her stay on the post after the revelation and even after it was found that she had faked the announcement of the internal probe’s findings by planting a question. Only the humiliation of Lerner invoking her constitutional right against self-incrimination was enough to get Team Obama off the stick.
Even if Lerner is as innocent as she claims, no investigation can be deemed credible when the head of the section is still on her job. And no effort to build shattered public confidence can work with the same people working at the agency.
The administration was likely trying to avoid a show of alarm and to keep Lerner from feeling aggrieved and getting dishy with investigators. But by failing to grasp the severity of their situation all along Team Obama has lost the benefit of what could have been a strong move at the outset. Now she was forced from her job by House Republicans rather than at Obama’s behest.
Similar thinking may be behind the decision to promote Victoria Nuland, revealed to be one of the primary forces behind doctoring the public statements on the raid by Islamist militants against a U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
Rewarding Nuland with a plum post as top diplomat for Europe may tend to keep her in solidarity with the embattled administration, but will harm the president’s primary need of the moment: restoring his battered credibility.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“I think what we are going to have is Holder on the Hill. He should be under oath and he should answer this. And perhaps he will say, like the secretary of state, ‘I don't read stuff I sign.’ But that's not going to be easy to do.”
-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET at http:live.foxnews.com.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he serves as the host of "Power Play" on FoxNews.com and makes daily appearances on the network including "America Live with Megyn Kelly," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace." Most recently, Stirewalt provided expert political analysis during the 2012 presidential election.