Producing 'Scandal Exhaustion'

In discussing the Obama administration's most recent entries to its already exhaustive roster of scandals, we could start by trying to figure out which one is the most important.

The answer, unfortunately, is that each of the three most recent scandals Team Obama has inflicted on the nation is the most important in its own way.

There's Benghazi, where an American ambassador and three other brave Americans were attacked by and died at the hands of al-Qaeda and AQ-inspired terrorists. During the attack, they were denied the military assistance which might have rescued them. Afterwards, the administration concocted an utterly fabricated story of the attack's motivation, complete with the imprisonment to this day of a man who had nothing to do with the event, and hid what really happened to make it all fit a palatable pre-election template.

For those who believe that a government owes its citizens the truth regardless of the political season, and that failure to provide it during a contested election campaign means that its results are arguably illegitimate, Benghazi, despite the appearance of other scandals which seem to have been deliberately timed to distract the nation's attention (more on that later), still deserves consideration as Number One in the Obama scandal hit parade.

Then there's the Internal Revenue Service's behavior during the past several years, starting with its deliberate singling out of applications for tax-exempt status by Tea Party, conservative, and religious groups for overbearing and harassing scrutiny, unconscionable invasions of privacy, and indefensible delays, while applications from leftist and shady groups sailed through without a hitch.

One outfit definitely in the shady category was the Barack H. Obama Foundation, headed by the president’s half-brother. Despite the fact that it had "operated illegally for years," Lois Lerner, the director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations office, approved the charity's application in June 2011 -- retroactive to December 2008. Last Monday, the Daily Caller's Charles C. Johnson found that BHOF "does not appear ever to have been based" where it has claimed to be in several years of tax filings.

As I noted last week, the IRS's requests seem "to have been designed to tie up as much of applicant organizations’ time and resources as possible to distract them from their core activities." They were also often accompanied by copious doses of implied intimidation relating to applicants' presumed political and religious views.

The agency demanded that one Tea Party group which reported having a book club send it a list of all books the club had read and a review of each. One of the applying group’s leaders defiantly “sent them the actual books and told them to read them themselves.”

Lerner admitted on May 10 that the IRS had in some instances asked for donors' names. What she didn't reveal is that, among other things, it also frequently asked for "a list of all issues that are important to the organization and ... its position regarding such issues"; "whether the officer, director, etc., has run or will run for public office"; and "conversations and discussions members and participants had" during their groups' activities.

Existing and nascent religion-oriented organizations were also on the IRS's radar. Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the Graham family’s international humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse, has accused the IRS of "trying to intimidate us." The IRS asked the Coalition for Life of Iowa to "please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers." It denied Cherish Life Ministries the tax-exempt status it sought "because of its position on abortion," and told the group it would only receive it if it promised to "present both sides of the abortion argument." Last time I checked, Planned Parenthood does nothing to present the pro-life side.

The IRS's harassment went into overdrive against True the Vote, which can only be considered "conservative" if you concede that conservatives are the only people remaining in America who are interested in fair and clean elections free of voter fraud:

(TTV President Catherine) Engelbrecht’s application with the IRS for non-profit status allegedly triggered aggressive audits of one of her family’s personal businesses as well. The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) began a series of inquiries about her and her group; the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms) began demanding to see her family's firearms in surprise audits of her and her husband’s small gun dealership--which had done less than $200 in sales; OSHA (Occupational Safety Hazards Administration) began a surprise audit of their small family manufacturing business; and the EPA-affiliated TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environment Quality) did a surprise visit and audit due to “a complaint being called in.”

The IRS situation is probably Numero Uno in the scandal department among those who believe that a fair and impartial administration of the tax system is vital. Additionally, as with Benghazi, it would also be tops on the list for those who believe that the administration's deliberate concealment of its aggressive targeting of those who oppose it on every front arguably delegitimized the 2012 election. Then add to the scary statist mix the fact that the IRS is on track to be heavily involved in ObamaCare's implementation. Yikes.

Last, but not at all necessarily least, there's the Department of Justice's April-May 2012 phone snooping on the Associated Press and its more recently revealed pursuit of criminal evidence against at least three Fox News reporters and a producer several years ago.

At last count, DOJ's intrusions into AP involved "records for five reporters' cellphones and three home phones as well as two fax lines," along with "the records for 21 phone lines in five AP office(s) ... where 100 reporters worked."

The intrusions into the activities of the Fox News journalists were far more severe. DOJ's posture that those involved may have engaged in criminal activity by merely gathering information has set off fire alarms among press-freedom watchdog groups and pundits from across the political spectrum. One Fox executive told Mediaite that "the Obama White House is starting to make the Nixon administration look like Sesame Street." That may be an understatement.

Those who believe that the press has a right to pursue information wherever it is, that it's the government's problem if it can't protect its information from leaking out, and that it will be a frightening world indeed if the press, as bad as it already largely is, has to be worried about its members being jailed for obtaining information from "unapproved" sources will probably place the DOJ-AP-Fox situation at the top of their recent Obama scandal hierarchy.

The piling on of the IRS and DOJ scandals on top of Benghazi is no accident.

Lerner and the White House have both admitted that they brought out selected pieces of the IRS scandal at a time of their own choosing -- on May 10 at an American Bar Association conference -- by orchestrating a planted question. Though AP wisely held off reporting it until the next Monday, Eric Holder's Department of Justice sent its letter informing AP of its phone fishing expedition that same day.

The administration's apparent goal is to produce "scandal exhaustion," an exponentially advanced form of the "scandal fatigue" which served President Bill Clinton so well in the late 1990s.

Their bet is that very few people will have the time or energy to keep up with the "he said, she said" barrage, the hearings, the daily stonewalling, and the inevitably arcance legal and jurisdictional arguments. They're hoping that they will give up, retreating into their private lives and joining the already teeming ranks of low-information voters. They are further betting that the outrage which remains will be so fragmented that it can be safely ignored.

The administration's aggressive timing can be attributed to the current mediocre economy. Team Obama also needs the populace to become so disillusioned that it ends up resigning itself to accepting their current "new normal" circumstances as the best they can ever hope to see.

AP's reporters are doing their part, despite their aforementioned mistreatment. One recent headline: "Obama Agenda Marches on Despite Controversies."

Sadly, though it isn't occurring now, I wouldn't bet against it happening in the future.