Though arguably the least significant of three burgeoning scandals that have made this the worst fortnight ever for the presidency of Barack Obama, the Justice Department's covert seizure of the telephone records of Associated Press reporters may cause him the most grief. Journalists unmoved by evidence his Justice Department ran guns to Mexican drug cartels and promoted vote fraud are very, very upset.
Some Democrats who parroted administration talking points on Benghazi jumped ship after the Internal Revenue Service admitted targeting Tea Party groups. "Low level" staffers in the Cincinnati field office were to blame, said Lois Lerner, director of the Exempt Organizations division. Senior leaders were unaware.
She was lying. The brass knew from the get-go. Jewish groups supporting Israel also claim to have been targeted. Someone in the IRS leaked confidential data about conservatives to the liberal group Pro Publica. The FBI has launched a criminal probe.
Fewer have been willing to parrot the party line on Benghazi since Greg Hicks, the No. 2 guy in our embassy in Libya, testified that during the attack on 9/11/2012, he told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton it appeared to be the work of terrorists affiliated with al-Qaida.
That telephone conversation took place at 8 p.m. Washington time. Before Ms. Clinton talked to President Obama two hours later, the State Department in Washington also received a cable from the CIA station chief in Benghazi saying this was a terrorist attack and another noting that an al-Qaida affiliate was claiming credit for it.
Shortly after talking with the president, Ms. Clinton put out a press release that seemed to blame the attack on "inflammatory material posted on the Internet."
The next day, she acknowledged the role of "heavily armed militants," but later, with the coffins of the four slain Americans as her backdrop and their loved ones as her audience, she spoke again of the controversial video: "We've seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with."
Misleading the grieving has not enhanced Ms. Clinton's appeal as a presidential candidate. That's more upsetting to Democrats than what she said or meant to conceal.
Lisa Meyers of NBC reported May 10 that Democrats had been calling her "trying to undermine Greg Hicks' testimony." But Mr. Hicks is a registered Democrat who's voted for both Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama. Smearing him as a Republican tool is a hard sell.
Republicans are playing politics on Benghazi, because "the day after it happened, I acknowledged that this was an act of terrorism," President Obama said at a news conference Monday.
You may remember how eagerly CNN's Candy Crowley, "moderator" of the second presidential debate, embraced this lie last October. On Monday, The Washington Post fact checker gave the president "four pinocchios" and explained why his use of the term "act of terror" was different.
When it seized the AP phone records, the Justice Department was trying to find out who leaked a report which contradicted the administration's narrative that al-Qaida was a spent force.
The IRS scandal reminds them of Watergate, several Democrats told the Boston Herald. Siccing the IRS on his political enemies was an article of impeachment against President Richard Nixon.
President Obama knew nothing of what the Justice Department and the IRS were doing, the White House said. If asked, I'm sure the president would say he also is unaware that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in shaking down businesses to fund Obamacare or that the EPA's been playing politics, too.
"We're only starting to scratch the surface" of the IRS scandal, said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. More Benghazi whistleblowers will come forward soon, predicted Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. A source in the CIA told him one more shoe -- apparently unrelated to Benghazi -- is about to drop, said Drudge Report editor Joseph Curl.
The IRS scandal will separate "the meritorious liberals from the meretricious," wrote columnist George Will.
There are fewer of the former. But the ranks of the meritorious may be augmented by liberals who lack integrity but have more brains than do the president's hard-core defenders. It's one thing to ride the Obama rocket when it's soaring, another when it may corkscrew into the ground.
Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (email@example.com, 412-263-1476).