On Monday, NPR Morning Edition anchor Steve Inskeep expressed -- in the face of all the evidence of Fast and Furious, Solyndra, MF Global, and so on -- that the first term of Obama's presidency was "remarkably scandal-free." When I challenged him on the factual inaccuracy of this, he tweeted in reply , "Hm, did I say it was scandal-free or that it 'has been described' as such?"
However passively Inskeep expressed it, he certainly agreed with it. Inskeep asked Cokie Roberts, "This administration has been described -- I don't even know how many times- - as remarkably scandal-free. But when you get into the second term of an administration, there's often some dirty laundry that comes out. Is that what's happening now?" Roberts agreed:
COKIE ROBERTS: Well, that is part of what's happening. And it certainly is scandal-free so far, in terms of any kind of financial misdeeds or any sexual misdeeds. It's political misdeeds -- and those are, you know, things that obviously the opposition party is going to go after. The president is very lucky that he has a Democratic Senate because it's much harder to have a full-blown bipartisan - or seemingly bipartisan - investigation when you own one house of the Congress. And that has been protecting him so far.
Since when are "political misdeeds" and "scandal" completely different terms? And how is the bankruptcy of Solyndra and other government-backed energy companies not evidence of "financial misdeeds"?
Inskeep's interview could have expressed this phenomenon in a different way: scandal is erupting in the second term because Team Obama tried so frantically to squash all their scandals so they could WIN a second term. But the Benghazi attack and coverup (and the rotten IRS treatment of conservative groups) were first-term Obama scandals, just like Solyndra and Fast and Furious, and so on. Reporters shouldn't pretend otherwise if they want to be seen as careful keepers of the factual record.
NPR's reluctance to assign any scandal to Obama came through earlier in the segment when Inskeep suggested Republicans have to persuade the public that Benghazi is a scandal -- because the liberal media refuse to declare it a scandal for some reason:
INSKEEP: OK, have Republicans finally succeeded in persuading the public-at-large that that attack in Benghazi, Libya wasn't just a tragedy but actually a huge scandal?
ROBERTS: Well, whether they've succeeded or not, they've certainly gotten some fuel for their fire from the e-mails that the State Department wrote about the talking points on the Benghazi raid.
INSKEEP: What to say about it afterward, that was the question.
ROBERTS: And what to say about it afterwards. And reporting on those internal e-mails shows that the State Department was trying to edit the talking points for -- to make, to make things look better for them and for the Secretary of State. And so now the Republicans are saying that this is a big scandal, that it's a cover-up, that a special committee should be named to investigate it, Democrats of course saying the Republicans are just trying to go after their possible presidential candidate in 2016, Hillary Clinton.
The segment included one soundbite from Republican Darrell Issa expressing that Clinton (and Obama) were not the investigation's targets, that the target was finding out why the government failed to protect our diplomats and then failed to tell the truth about it in the aftermath.
The focus on Hillary Clinton also dominated the brief section of the PBS NewsHour weekly wrap on Friday that was dedicated to Benghazi. Bizarrely, Mark Shields declared that any mention of the Secretary of State in a hearing about what went wrong inside the State Department must automatically be assumed to be a political dirty trick:
MARK SHIELDS: I mean, [the Greg Hicks testimony] was quite moving, it was quite emotional, his testimony, I felt. At the same time, Judy, the Republicans on the committee cheapen it. Thirty-two times by actual count they have mentioned Hillary Clinton. I mean, you can see -- is there a legitimate inquiry here? Yes. Are they trying to turn it in -- especially Darrell Issa, the chairman, and several of the other members, trying to turn it into a political gotcha show? Yes.
And I think it weakens the case. I think there's a legitimate investigation to be held here, and I just wish it were being held by more senior, more thoughtful people.
MICHAEL GERSON: And I agree with that, by the way. The best way to undermine this argument is to overstate this argument. Republicans should be in a mode of gathering facts and following them where they lead. And that I think is their best strategy, as well as the right thing to do.
Liberals always try to suggest that the chances for a perfectly good "bipartisan" probe is always ruined by a conservative Republican who isn't "thoughtful" enough (read: going soft).