Back on July 10, Germany expelled the CIA station chief in Berlin, charging espionage.
The move was extraordinary: Germany, one of America’s closest allies, went public with a private gripe. More, the move was the kind expected by a rival country like Russia, signaling a complete breakdown of diplomacy between the U.S. president and the German chancellor.
Asked about the stunning move, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said this: “I’m not in a position to comment.”
Has he called Chancellor Angela Merkel, a reporter asked. “I don’t know of any calls “
“Q: So since then there haven’t been any
“Mr. Earnest: I’m saying that I don’t know of any.”
The earnest spokesman, clearly a skilled prevaricator, bobbed and weaved on every question, saying at one point: “I’m not in a position to offer any reaction, either in terms of articulating our position or previewing any actions that we may or may not take.”
Then, he simply moved on: “Questions on other topics?” The assembled press corps obliged — asking about the border and immigration (the story the White House wanted to keep front burner). And the CIA story disappeared — not another word was written, not another question was asked.
The Obama administration, the most politically calculating team in U.S. history, had once again succeeded, simply by falling silent. When disastrous news emerges, Team Obama does two things: refuses comment and charges its foes with playing politics. And because the news cycle streams on, the media jump onto the next shiny thing they see and the disastrous news becomes old news replaced by new news.
There have been dozens of scandals, and most have simply slipped away, replaced by newer scandals. The Fast and Furious gun-running scheme has never been fully explained, and Congress was so fed up that it held Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt (another story that disappeared).
There was (and is) Benghazi, Solyndra, the IRS targeting conservative groups, the “disappeared” hard drive, the Justice Department collecting AP phone logs, “Rosengate,” the GSA scandal, the VA mess, and on and on. None of them has resulted in a firing or even a mild admission of wrongdoing by the administration.
But what has been most fascinating about the scandals is the way they drop. Nearly every time, they appear just as the president’s back is against the wall and he is dying to change the subject.
Take last week. Two more scandals emerged but disappeared just as quickly.
With Congress battling over immigration, Team Obama, sure that it could bank on that issue remaining A1, dumped a damaging story: The Central Intelligence Agency had in fact been spying on computers used by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which oversees the spy agency. (Of course, the Justice Department and Mr. Holder earlier decided that there had been no spying and that no one should be charged.)
The story dropped Thursday: There was just one question on it during the daily White House briefing. The press corps was far more interested in what the White House wanted to talk about — House Speaker John Boehner suing the president.
The next day, no one thought to ask the president about the scandal during his 50-minute press conference, at least until the very end, when one reporter blurted out: “What about John Brennan?” (That came just after another reporter wished the president a happy birthday.)
Meanwhile, another scandal came and went even faster. “The White House ‘accidentally emailed’ non-classified talking points regarding a classified torture report and how the CIA likely withheld information from then-Secretary of State Colin Powell to an Associated Press reporter on Wednesday,” The Blaze reported.
That’s right, just when Mr. Obama is in a veritable sandstorm of scandal, out “leaks” a report — accidentally, of course — about terrorist interrogation during the George W. Bush administration. Said The Blaze: “The New York Times’ Matt Apuzzo put a positive spin on the ‘accidental’ email, saying he chooses to ‘see it not as a mistake but as an exciting move toward transparency for this White House.’”
But clearly, the “accidental” email was sent to distract and deflect. Team Obama was flooding the zone: With the media fixated on the pointless immigration debate (did anyone really think it would ever go anywhere, with the midterms two months away?), Mr. Obama dumped some disastrous news (CIA spying on the Senate) while deflecting with a story he knew his liberal media friends would hype (Bush torture).
Say what you will about the president and his soulless team of sycophants, but they’re good. They know how to play the media, which apparently doesn’t mind in the least being played.
And by now, what’s another scandal, really?
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.