Tags: davis | scandal | focus | gop

Lanny Davis: Focus on Scandals Could Hurt GOP

Monday, 03 Jun 2013 04:10 PM

By Melanie Batley and John Bachman

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The Republican fixation with the scandals plaguing the Obama administration could end up costing them congressional seats in the next election, says Lanny Davis, former special council for President Bill Clinton.

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV, Davis, a Democrat, who is author of a new book called, "Crisis Tales: 5 Rules for Coping With Crisis in Business, Politics and Life," said Republicans could be defeated in the same way they were in 1998 which he says was a result of the GOP politicizing the impeachment process of Bill Clinton.

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"I would say if the Republicans want to lose the congressional elections and not talk about what they're going to do for the American people and try to make 'scandals' that they generated by partisan calls for resignation [of Attorney General Eric Holder], that's a make-my-day moment for us to hold seats in the Congress in 2014," said Davis who is known for his expertise in media strategy and crisis communications.

"They couldn't be making a worse mistake by thinking . . . all of this so-called scandal environment is going to help them elect Republicans in November '14. I don't think it will," he added.

Davis pointed out that there's been a long line of attorneys general going back to Thomas Jefferson's presidency who have faced calls for resignation: a function, perhaps of the difficult role they have in being a political appointee yet having to hold the president to account.

"John Kennedy's attorney general was Robert Kennedy, his brother, Republicans thought he was unqualified," Davis said.

"Certainly from John Kennedy to Janet Reno to Alberto Gonzales and Mr. (Edwin) Meese under Ronald Reagan, every attorney general has an inherent conflict of interest."

He added, "That goes back in American history. It's a tough job and all of our recent attorney generals have been attacked somewhat viciously."

Davis referred to Holder as a "good friend." But he said that has not stopped him criticizing the attorney general for "communications failures" in his testimony before Congress and mistakes in political judgment for allowing Fox News reporter James Rosen to be named as a co-conspirator, during a federal investigation. But he believes it's a step too far to call for his resignation.

"He's a good man and an honest man who made some serious mistakes of judgment and now the word perjury is being thrown around? This is all Republican partisanship that is going to hurt them, I predict."

Davis says that Republicans are also out of line in the way they have characterized the other controversies surrounding the White House. He was critical, for example, of weekend comments by GOP Rep. Darrell Issa for calling White House spokesman Jay Carney a "paid liar," saying they went too far.

"I never use the 'lie' word and don't like when others do because it attributes intention," he said.

"I always give a high standard of evidence before I can say that somebody intends to mislead or to say a falsehood, which is lying. So I think that Chairman Issa should avoid that word unless he has absolute proof that somebody has woefully mistaken the truth."

Davis added, "I don't have any doubt that he has information to show that Jay Carney was ill-informed and badly advised."

But he said that is not the same as calling someone a liar. "It'd be better if people said it could be a lie here but let's wait for the facts to come out."

Davis said he also thinks that a failure in communication between the legal and public relations sides of the White House underlie all the crises currently hitting the administration, but he argues they are simply mistakes, not deliberate attempts to mislead the public.

"It just makes no sense to have the division between public relations and the law inside the White House," he said, adding that transparency rather than evasiveness is "very important" for the White House.

"There's no doubt that they have mishandled a lot of these media stories and made matters worse."

Davis also commented on the announcement last week that James Comey was appointed to head the F.B.I., and said that despite the fact that Comey, who served under President George W. Bush, went along with a number of policy initiatives that Democrats disagreed with, he nevertheless respects him.

"Comey is a truly great man, has great integrity. I am allowed to disagree with some judgments and saying a man has great integrity and should be the F.B.I. director for sure," said Davis.

"I would love to hear Republicans give Eric Holder the same benefit of the doubt in questioning his judgment, disagreeing with him but not making accusations of perjury."


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