“What difference, at this point, does it make?”
— Hillary Rodham Clinton, in House testimony on Benghazi
“Well, I got a couple of thousand goddamn questions, you know. I want to speak to someone in charge.”
— Roy Neary, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”
Spoiler alert: The IRS scandal, the AP phone records scandal — they go nowhere. In September, we’ll all be looking back thinking, “Huh, that was a big waste of time.” It will be — in fact, it already is.
Just when Benghazi has reached critical mass, the Obama administration, which has had only one scandal (Fast and Furious early in term 1, and that fizzled fast and furiously), suddenly has two more scandals? Coincidence, yes?
No. Not at all. They were dropped, on purpose, at a most convenient time, and they’re already played out. Exactly according to plan.
The phone “scandal,” in which the Justice Department secretly subpoenaed call logs from The Associated Press, ended before it started. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., called to the carpet by House investigators, testified last week that he had recused himself entirely from the matter. He didn’t know a thing about the case, he said with a smirk. Not a thing. Done.
So, months from now, maybe they lop off the head of the man who orchestrated the records grab, Deputy Attorney General James Cole. But even that isn’t assured. Justice is now making a case for why the clearly unconstitutional records grab was not unconstitutional; it’ll be months before there’s any closure. Will anyone care in August?
And the IRS “scandal,” in which the federal tax-collecting agency apparently targeted tea party groups, also will fizzle. Already, the president — incensed over the mess, spitting mad! — has canned the acting commissioner, Steven Miller. Well, not really, his term ended June 8 anyway. At least the president demanded the head of the commissioner of the agency’s tax-exempt and government entities division. Well, not really. Joseph Grant decided to “retire” June 3. Bring on the government pension and free health care.
Plus, the administration already has pinned the whole debacle on a few “rogue” IRS employees in the Cincinnati branch. You think anyone will find the president’s fingerprints on orders demanding that the agency crack down on political opponents? Please. This is the Chicago mafia: They cover their tracks and they long ago filed off their fingerprints.
What’s more, Lois Lerner, who headed the IRS division in charge of evaluating charitable and other nonprofit organizations, rolled out the scandal herself at a conference of lawyers. The slumbering press corps didn’t unearth the “scandal,” Mrs. Lerner merely called a friend and planted the question concerning an upcoming inspector general’s report. That’s how the story broke.
But who cares: The president’s taking action! Let’s move on, folks, nothing to see here.
The whole ham-handed game play is comical. Just as shocking testimony emerged on the Benghazi scandal, the administration rolls out two scandals, with the targets just coincidentally — the media and right-wing conservatives. Absurd. But fairly brilliant. The self-absorbed media predictably swooned over its plight — this is the biggest scandal ever. And the right-wingers grew indignant, finally able to say “We told you so.” Well played, Obama administration.
Even more: Neither scandal matters, certainly not now. The IRS mess stretches back years — reports say as long ago as 2009 — but Team Obama has already gotten what it wanted: The IRS, most likely at the direction of the White House, slowed down the growth of the tea party, changing the 2012 election immeasurably. The phone fiasco, over a published AP story no one even remembers, does not appear to lead anywhere, least of all back to the White House. So the DOJ guys know somebody at one phone number dialed somebody at another phone number? So what? Who cares?
While both “scandals” are all over but the shouting, the shouting will consume the summer. Into the dog days with both scandals we go. Meanwhile, the president is steadfastly moving on his agenda on guns, amnesty, Obamacare — and far away from Benghazi, dismissed as a political witch hunt.
Need proof? Last week, Mr. Obama took two questions from the press corps — one on the IRS mess, the other on the phone scandal. Success — Benghazi is gone, forgotten.
Meanwhile, no one even knows where the president was the night a U.S. ambassador was murdered, or why the U.S. military sent no help. No one knows who inserted into official talking points a false story that an anti-Islam video led to the massacre. And no one seems to care — least of all the White House.
“I don’t remember what room the president was in on that night, and that’s a largely irrelevant fact,” top Obama aide Dan Pfeiffer said Sunday.
Then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton angrily spat: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”
And the president last week said simply: “There’s no there there.”
But be warned, White House: Bob Woodward, who knows a thing or two about scandals and cover-ups, isn’t falling for the double head fake.
“If you read through all these emails,” the Watergate reporter said, “you see that everyone in the government is saying, ‘Oh, let’s not tell the public that terrorists were involved, people connected to al Qaeda. Let’s not tell the public that there were warnings.’ I have to go back 40 years to Watergate when Nixon put out his edited transcripts to the conversations, and he personally went through them and said, ‘Oh, let’s not tell this, let’s not show this.’”
“I would not dismiss Benghazi.”
Too bad, Bob. Washington’s press corps already has.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times and is now editor of the Drudge Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.