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Inside the Beltway: The Culture Count

- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 19, 2013

Like a bad restaurant, the Obama administration attracts scathing reviews from Republicans and conservative critics who are tired of what's on the policy menu, and repelled by the signature "culture" of White House operations. The trio of scandals centered on Benghazi, the IRS and the Justice Department has ramped up the tirade, and until facts and conclusions emerge, the talk of the moment is culture-centric.

The administration has fostered a "culture of cover-ups," said Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, who told CBS as much on Sunday. Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Dave Camp of Michigan gave the same review. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida feels the White House has more of a "culture of intimidation," as does Sen. Mitch McConnell.

But wait. We've heard this all before. Witness the book "Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies," by Michelle Malkin. Date of publication: Aug. 9, 2010. And of interest: President Obama vowed he would remedy "a culture of irresponsibility that took root from Wall Street to Washington to Main Street," on June 17, 2009.

CALL FOR KEN STARR?

"We may hate the IRS because of its taxing power. We may hate it more because of its new 'Obamacare' power. But it is a massively important government agency. And now we know that it is fraught with corruption and a liberal-left political agenda. Only an independent special counsel could possibly straighten this mess out," says Larry Kudlow, CNBC host and economics editor of the National Review Online.

"I think a special counsel is going to wind up being necessary," Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican, told ABC on Sunday.

But who? A guessing game is about to ensue — but the roster of potentials won't include Kenneth Starr, who served as independent special counsel during the investigation of former President Clinton's relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Mr. Starr is now president of Baylor University.

AND IN SUMMATION

"President Obama used his weekly radio address on Saturday to reassure the American people that he has 'played no role whatsoever' in the U.S. government over the past four years. 'Right now, many of you are angry at the government, and no one is angrier than I am,' he said. 'Quite frankly, I am glad that I have had no involvement in such an organization.'"

— Parody news report by New Yorker columnist and comedian Andy Borowitz.

HERE COMES THE LAWSUIT

The American Center for Law and Justice now represents 27 tea party organizations targeted by IRS scrutiny of their nonprofit status applications; imminent action awaits.

"The unlawful and unconstitutional conduct of the IRS will be addressed in a lawsuit to be filed in federal court," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the nonprofit legal group, who plans to act this week. "The IRS has refused to respond to our demand by letter and has failed to approve the tax-exempt status of 10 of our clients, which are still being targeted and investigated even after the IRS admitted to the corrupt conduct."

THE HISTORIC HOLDER

"Are U.S. Attorney Gen. Eric Holder's days numbered?" asks Eric Ostermeier, director of the University of Minnesota's Smart Politics, a research group.

Mr. Holder — now in public focus over the Justice seizure of Associated Press phone records — is the nation's 82nd attorney general. He has the ninth longest tenure of any attorney general in history, "Through Sunday, Mr. Holder has now been in office 1,564 days — four years, three months, 17 days. Which is historically a very long time for the nation's attorney general," says Mr. Ostermeier.

William Wirt, who served in the post under James Madison and John Quincy Adams for 11 years, holds the longevity record. Janet Reno is in second place, serving in the Clinton administration for seven years.

Turnover of President Obama's Cabinet was low during his first term, but has accelerated with the recent departures of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, and five other officials. Could Mr. Holder be next? Don't hold your breath.

"Though Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus has called for Mr. Holder's resignation, there is no sign yet that the current situation has risen to the level of President Obama calling on Holder to resign," Mr. Ostermeier says.

POLL DU JOUR

71 percent of Americans say IRS targeting of conservative groups about their tax-exempt status is "unacceptable"; 84 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of Democrats agree.

54 percent overall say Republicans are reacting "appropriately" to the IRS matter; 85 percent of Republicans and 31 percent of Democrats agree.

 59 percent overall say the U.S. government could have prevented the Benghazi terrorist attacks; 75 percent of Republicans and 49 percent of Democrats agree.

 59 percent say Republicans are reacting appropriately to the Benghazi situation; 88 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats agree.

 52 percent overall say the actions of the Justice Department in collecting Associated Press phone records was "unacceptable"; 66 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of Democrats agree.

 17 percent overall have a "great deal" of confidence in our system of government; 15 percent of Republicans and 21 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A CNN/ORC poll of 923 U.S. adults conducted May 17 and 18.

 Summations, frustrations, proclamations to jharper@ washingtontimes.com

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