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Wake up and smell the Chicago: The thread of narrative

Taken individually, the trio of scandals that are now bedeviling the Obama administration don’t make a whole lot of sense.

It has long been evident that the Obama administration is all about maintaining a narrative and winning the news cycle.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Taken individually, the trio of scandals that are now bedeviling the Obama administration don’t make a whole lot of sense. Why would anyone serving the President think it would be possible to get by with:

  • Running with a cock and bull story about a YouTube video being the cause of an obvious terrorist attack in Benghazi; or
  • Using the power of the IRS to audit and otherwise harass Tea Party organizations; or
  • Using the power of the Justice Department to seize phone records of the Associated Press?

The answer is narrative. It has long been evident that the Obama administration is all about maintaining a narrative and winning the news cycle. My suspicion is that the one true thing that Obama and his people know is how to mount a campaign. Successful campaigns are able to manage the flow of information and establish a narrative about the candidate. To a certain extent, all organizations try to do such things.

In each instance, gaining control of the narrative must have seemed quite important. In the case of Benghazi, it’s important to remember that Obama’s campaign had just spent a lot of time bragging about how al-Qaida was on the run. What happened in Benghazi made those boasts seem pretty hollow, so it was important to establish a story that made it less about the usual proclivities of terrorists and more about provocations by others. 

Similarly, the Tea Party certainly has been a threat to the Obama agenda and in 2010, it was certainly making significant progress in motivating people to get involved in the political process, in many cases people who were in opposition to what Team Obama was trying to do. The temptation must have been quite great for people in the administration to rid themselves of these meddling priests.

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While it’s early, the reporting on the AP case indicates a similar pattern. The reason that Justice went after telephone records is that it was trying to figure out who was leaking information. Establishing who was contacting AP reporters would be key in stopping the leaks.

All of these moves are understandable. If your goal is to maintain your power base, adverse publicity is a real problem. And let’s face it, damage control is no fun — it’s always better to be on offense, so the temptation to use available power to hamper your opponents is always tough to resist. Unfortunately for the president and his team, taken together these moves look pretty Nixonian. And members of Obama’s own party arestarting to notice:

Outraged Bay State Democrats are blasting President Obama for exhibiting a Nixonian abuse of power after the stunning news that the Department of Justice secretly obtained Associated Press phone records and the IRS targeted conservative groups — new scandals emerging against the backdrop of heightened Benghazi criticism.

“There’s no way in the world I’m going to defend that. Hell, I spent my youth vilifying the Nixon administration for doing the same thing. If they did that, there should be hell to pay,” U.S. Rep. Michael E. Capuano (D-Somerville) said about the IRS scandal. “Not only is it bad government and bad to society, it is horrendous politics. The worst thing you can do is give your opponent an easy hammer with which to hit you.”

“It doesn’t seem to be a couple rogue employees. This appeared to be a systemic issue,” said U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-South Boston), who wants to investigate the matter as a member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The committee already has scheduled a hearing on the issue for this week, Lynch said, adding, “No American should find themselves the target of the IRS or any other federal organization because of their political beliefs.”

Hard to argue with any of that. If politicians in deep blue Massachusetts are worried about these things and willing to issue full-on blasts of this sort, there’s likely more revelations to come.

One last thing — the AP scandal is the one that Team Obama is most likely to regret, because the MSM has been willing to accept and promulgate the Team Obama message all along. It’s one thing to use your power against your enemies, but when you mess with your friends, you are asking for trouble. I suspect that the AP is going to be a lot less amenable to helping out Team Obama going forward. Don’t spit in the face of your water carriers, kids.

This post was written by Mark Heuring and originally published on Mr. Dilettante’s Neighborhood.

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