Don't get giddy with Obama scandal fever

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Which scandal to focus on? And how far to press each investigation?

Those are the urgent questions Republican leaders face. Their answers depend on a third question: What do they hope to accomplish?

It would be so easy to succumb to glee. After all, conservatives have tried for years to hinder a president who they believe was always intent on, and has largely succeeded in, significantly expanding the reach of government and therefore changing the very nature of American life.

And they've hardly laid a glove on him. Now they think they finally have Barack Obama and his administration positioned for a little rope-a-dope, and the excitement is palpable.

But Republicans run the same risk they did during the Clinton years, when they threw everything they could at the proverbial wall, waiting for something to stick. And when it finally did, in the form of a soiled blue dress, the public was still more disgusted with the Republican Congress than they were with Bill Clinton.

The voters knew he was a rogue when they elected him. L'affaire Lewinsky was just tawdry confirmation. Plenty of people liked him afterward, too. Whether they identified with his weaknesses or his sad escapades made them feel better about themselves, or the economy was still roaring -- it hardly matters why.

What Republicans have never fully accepted -- despite 2012's outcome -- is that voters know who Barack Obama is, too. If they didn't in 2008, thanks to the mainstream media's complete lack of interest in the candidate's hard-left ideology, the voters knew by 2012, because they'd seen it in action. And a slim majority still didn't care.

Now though, our de facto acceptance of European-style socialism could change. That's because in this new crop of scandals, the voters can see the consequences of leftist thought.

While they can see it in the Justice Department's secret seizure of Associated Press phone records, it's even clearer in the behavior of the nameless, faceless ideologues of our most powerful and frightening bureaucracy, the Internal Revenue Service.

The IRS touches every American's life. That touch will grow heavier with the advent of Obamacare. All voters -- those who pay federal income taxes and those who don't but don't want to see their tax credits disappear with Obamacare's insurance mandate -- may finally question the wisdom of vesting so much power in the IRS.

So now that the public may be paying close attention, what results would Republicans like to see from these disparate scandals?

Holding the House and taking the Senate in 2014? Reversing Obamacare? Gaining the White House in 2016? Overhauling the tax code?

The winning approach to all these goals is to judiciously pursue hearings on the IRS and Justice Department scandals to keep this very real and sobering corruption regularly in the news -- but save Benghazi for 2016.

Benghazi can't hurt the president. If any single person must shoulder blame for those needless American deaths, it is Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose State Department refused Ambassador Chris Stevens' requests for additional security.

Yes, the president went missing during the assault, when lives could probably still have been saved. And at the United Nations, he obliquely blamed an American's anti-Islamic video for inciting the Benghazi violence, knowing full well that this was false.

But Americans know who he is and like him, despite the blame-Americans-first-and-oh-their-misuse-of-free-speech-too philosophy. He's already won a second term, and if the deplorable economy didn't sway voters' minds, this won't.

But former Secretary of State Clinton's indignant cry to an investigative congressional committee, "What difference does it make?" is a cruel question still begging to be answered.

If Ms. Clinton were as savvy as Barack Obama, she would have professed her deep concern about Benghazi, vowed to get to the bottom of it -- and then steered the blame away from herself. That's adept political cynicism.

Instead, Ms. Clinton was inept. It makes her more vulnerable -- and more valuable to Republicans. They need her to survive as the Democratic frontrunner for 2016, when a well-timed Benghazi ad will wreak maximum havoc.

Benghazi is about covering up a bad and deadly decision; the other two scandals are about the abuse of power. The IRS targeting of Tea Party groups and others interested in educating citizens on the Constitution (God forbid!) is very clearly an ideological assault from the left. And DOJ's targeting of the AP roils an important ally, the mighty media, without whose collusion the current Democratic president might never have won office.

This season of political scandal is like winning the lottery, but most lottery winners can tell you it ruined their lives. The Republicans could overplay their hand. If they ever needed party discipline, it is now.


Ruth Ann Dailey:


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