Scandal-Plagued Start to Obama’s Second Term Demonstrates a New Kind of Audacity

President Obama thought he could avoid falling into the traps that have plagued the second terms of many presidents. He thought he ride his election momentum and ram through a highly partisan agenda. He thought he could toe the lines of accountability and legality because, well, he was the president! He was wrong.

Glenn Thrush reports for Politico:

“President Barack Obama genuinely believed he could buck the second-term curse of fecklessness and scandal that afflicted the last three two-term presidents, even if history — and his adversaries — suggested otherwise.

The combination of clever and determined Republican resistance on nearly every front, bad luck, Obama’s overconfidence in his capacity to leverage a decisive reelection victory into legislative clout and his own administration’s past mistakes have left the president feeling deeply frustrated, even angry — and eager to find a way to recapture the offensive.”

But let’s be clear, this has nothing to do with Republican resistance and everything to do with the supreme overconfidence within the Democratic party. Politico reports that one senior aide joked after election night, the doors of the White House “might need to be widened a bit” to accommodate the president’s head-inflating ego.

But big egos come with big side effects. Look no further than the Benghazi fallout to see why. The Obama Administration attempted to spin a terrorist attack, which resulted in the death of four Americans, as a spontaneous event that resulted from a YouTube video. In an effort not to lose the political momentum following the death of Osama bin Laden the White House scrubbed the memo of any potentially damaging references. For instance, they removed a mention of the “at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi” and took out that “we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qa’ida participated in the attack.”

In spite of those changes White House Press Secretary Jay Carney attempted to keep up the ruse and keep Americans in the dark. “The White House and State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of those institutions were changing the word ‘consulate’ to ‘diplomatic facility’ because ‘consulate’ was inaccurate.”

That was patently not true. There were twelve different iterations of the talking points, each of which made edits, many of which were substantial, to the document. Nevertheless, Carney has stuck with his story. On Friday Carney said that, “The only edit made by the White House or the State Department . . . was a change referring to the facility that was attacked . . . it was a matter of non-substantive factual correction.”

That, my friends, is audacity. It involves the parsing of words and the twisting of definitions to reach the incredible conclusion that revisions don’t count as edits because they were part of an iterative process. This, as Time’s Joe Klein writes, could draw the White House’s truthfulness into question:

The official White House line—admitting no error—is a bit of a gamble, since it calls into question the meaning and reliability of other White House statements. And with the possibility of other scandals lurking, including the recent admission by the Internal Revenue Service of targeted audits on conservative groups, it runs a real risk of backfiring.

Talk about an ugly story. The Internal Revenue Service, an arm of the Obama Administration, admitted last week to intentionally targeting conservative groups and subjecting them to extra scrutiny before granting tax-exempt status. Initially, the inappropriate singling out of groups was thought to be limited to those that contained the words “tea party” or “patriot” and begin in 2011. Today we learned that the probe extended to groups that “worried about government spending, debt or taxes, and even ones that lobbied to ‘make America a better place to live,’” reports the Wall Street Journal.

Because apparently making America a better place is a menacing motive that deserves to be investigated.

What’s more, the Washington Post uncovered that outgoing IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman learned in May 2012 that tea party groups were targeted. That means the IRS knew about the scandal for an entire year before releasing anything. The timing, being smack dab in the middle of a heated presidential election cycle, raises the question of whether the timing was political motivated. As if to add more fuel to the fire the IRS then took a handful of the pending applications of conservative groups and illegally handed them over to a media outlet for a story attempting to show how “social-welfare nonprofits had misled the IRS about their political activity on their applications and tax returns.”

This is the corrupting influence of power. A once careful president who promised the most open and honest administration in history is now stumbling over his own inflated ego and seems convinced that the mere aura of his office will hide the misstep. It’s a troubling direction for his presidency. More importantly, it’s a dangerous route for American democracy.