What now? Obama must take a new course after scandals

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Americans have to wonder where we are left in terms of governance at the end of a horrible week for President Barack Obama that has included the surfacing of an attack by his administration on journalists of The Associated Press, partisan enforcement of tax regulations by the Internal Revenue Service and still inflammatory stirring of the embers of last year's fatal attack on American Embassy officers in Benghazi, Libya.

What do these problems have in common? A key element is a ghastly politicization of American governance. Someone lacked enough respect for the defense of the freedom of the press in the First Amendment to the Constitution to go around in-place safeguards and grab from a communications company two months of home and office phone records of hundreds of journalists.

Turning the IRS, the instrument of funding government, into a political tool of opponents of conservatives was simply demented. The Benghazi matter shows massive fingerprints of government politicians playing word games instead of dealing with the dangers to, and deaths of, Americans overseas.

So then the question inevitably becomes, who is responsible for these massive errors? The easy answer for the Republicans, who have been gunning for Mr. Obama from the beginning of his first term, but especially since the American electorate chose him for a second term in November, is the president. That has to be seen as partly true. The buck does stop on the desk of the president.

On the other hand, a quick glance at the overall American governmental picture suggests that keeping everyone -- Congress, the courts, the states and even local officials -- rowing in roughly the same direction, in accordance with any kind of principles, is likely beyond the capacities of anyone.

So what can be done? It must be something Mr. Obama is asking himself. It could be that Mr. Obama needs now to move into a strictly nonpolitical mode, disregarding entirely the 2014 and 2016 elections.

He should now govern the country with brutal simplicity, striving only to make all these people on the taxpayers' payroll do their jobs in consonance with American principles and the Constitution. It's called public service. Americans aren't seeing much of it.

opinion_editorials


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