President Barack Obama is facing a credibility crisis as the IRS and Benghazi scandals converge like a perfect storm, according to National Journal editorial director Ron Fournier.
In both cases, the administration appeared to distance itself from the revelations, and may have deliberately misled the public about its knowledge of the incidents, he writes in the Journal.
Now, says Fournier,
the president needs to step up and take more ownership of the mattes if he is to save his credibility and moral authority.
And instead of simply making promises to tackle those specific issues, Fournier says, Obama "may need to forcefully condemn the half-truths and distortions disseminated under his name," adding, "He may need to fire people who can't get his story straight."
For months, the IRS denied it was targeting conservative political groups for reviews of their tax-exempt status until a top IRS official admitted to it late last week. The agency then blamed low-level employees, but a draft of an inspector general's report reportedly says that senior IRS officials knew agents were targeting tea party groups as early as 2011.
The White House did not immediately condemn the practice, and distanced itself, suggesting the IRS is an independent agency. During a news conference Monday with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Obama finally spoke out, calling the practice "outrageous."
In the days following the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Lybia — which U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said grew out of a street protest rather than a terrorist attack — the White House also distanced itself, blaming her statement on talking points put together by the CIA.
But last week, leaked emails revealed that the White House and State Department both were involved in removing all mention of terrorism.
"Why does this matter?" Fournier asked. "Because a president's credibility matters."
He pointed to President George W. Bush's second term, which was was marred by what Americans perceived as "spinning" issues such as Iraq and Hurricane Katrina, which ultimately undermined the public's trust in him.
"It's far too early in this perfect storm of controversy to condemn Obama to Bush's fate," Fournier said, "but he and his advisers face a credibility crisis."
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