Tide of scandal threatens White House

Add for good measure a just exposed and old fashioned Cold-War style spy standoff with Russia, and the shady 1970s vibe is complete/FILE

Add for good measure a just exposed and old fashioned Cold-War style spy standoff with Russia, and the shady 1970s vibe is complete/FILE

WASHINGTON, May 14 – A trio of scandals bore down on the White House Tuesday, leaving US President Barack Obama struggling for traction and threatening to drain already ebbing momentum from his second term agenda.

After a first term which largely escaped the grubby controversies and political brouhaha that habitually tests presidential administrations, Obama faced attack on multiple fronts.

Republicans demanded answers on claims that the Internal Revenue Service had targeted conservative grassroots groups.

They also pressed on with probes into Obama’s handling of the attack on the US mission in Benghazi – shrugging off the president complaints of a partisan “circus.”

And a bombshell revelation on Monday that the Justice Department secretly seized phone records of Associated Press reporters stirred the increasingly febrile atmosphere that envelops Washington in times of scandal.

Add for good measure a just exposed and old fashioned Cold-War style spy standoff with Russia, and the shady 1970s vibe is complete.

Obama, increasingly frustrated at the Washington games he came to office vowing to end, has attempted to keep the damage from the three domestic kerfuffles at arm’s length.

“What we don’t know at this point is whether it jumped the fence from the IRS to the White House,” said Senate Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell, twisting the knife on Tuesday.

On Monday, he branded Republican attacks on his administration’s handling of the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi last year as a “sideshow.”

He eagerly joined the pile-on meanwhile at the IRS – likely the most reviled government agency in America.

“I’ve got no patience with it. I will not tolerate it,” he said, vowing to get the bottom of the claims against the agency.

And his spokesman Jay Carney said the White House had nothing to do with the operation to comb the AP’s phone records – as part of an apparent case targeting national security leakers.

“We are not involved in decisions made in connection with criminal investigations, as those matters are handled independently by the Justice Department,” said Carney.

Republicans have seized on the IRS drama, in particular, with delight, sensing openings to taint Obama with scandal – even though the agency is an independent body – and to unite their fervently anti-tax political grassroots.

“What we don’t know at this point is whether it jumped the fence from the IRS to the White House,” said Senate Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell, twisting the knife on Tuesday.

“Clearly, we’ve only started to scratch the surface of this scandal,” said McConnell, who demanded the president make available any IRS official who can reveal what went on at the agency.

For Republicans, the tactic is obvious: link Obama with any whiff of scandal, whether he is responsible or not.

“How dare the administration imply that they’re going to get to the bottom of it,” Republican congressman Darrell Issa told CBS Tuesday.

AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

Agence France-Presse is a global news agency delivering fast, in-depth coverage of the events shaping our world from wars and conflicts to politics, sports, entertainment and the latest breakthroughs in health, science and technology.