Thursday's CBS This Morning did its best to shift blame away from President Obama on the IRS, Justice Department, and Benghazi scandals currently surrounding his administration. Bob Schieffer shot down comparisons to the Watergate scandal that led to former President Richard Nixon's resignation: "This is not the Nixon administration, where you had burglars and people talking about blowing up the Brookings Institution. This is more of a case – is anybody home?" [audio available here; video below the jump]
Anchor Charlie Rose seconded Schieffer's assessment, asserting that the President "seems like a bystander in his own government." He later stated that "the President has to take control of his own government."
Rose led the discussion segment with Schieffer by using his "bystander" label of the chief executive, first touting how Obama began his second term with "big political victory – wanting to do things. And there's now this picture – one, of intrusive government, and yet, a President who seems like a bystander in his own government." The Face the Nation host replied with his extreme Nixon-era citation and continued by outlining his claim that the President is basically out to lunch:
BOB SCHIEFFER: ...[S]ome people are saying, are we back to the Nixon administration? This is what they did in the Nixon administration. This is not the Nixon administration, where you had burglars and people talking about blowing up the Brookings Institution. This is more of a case – is anybody home? I mean, just all of a sudden...you have this thing over at the Justice Department...getting all these phone records of all the reporters. The attorney general – well, he didn't know anything about it. You get to the IRS – they don't seem to know anything about the Tea Party thing. You come to the White House – they don't know anything about Benghazi. I mean, somebody's got to grab hold of this thing, and I mean – you know, it's – it's very, very disturbing what we're seeing here.
Schieffer was referring to a June 1973 story by the Washington Post's Woodward and Bernstein that indicated that Nixon special counsel Chuck Colson "proposed firebombing the Brookings Institution as a cover-up or a diversionary tactic while operatives would attempt to recover politically damaging classified documents believed to be in the office of then-Brookings fellow...Morton Halperin." Colson later stated that "there is always a possibility that I might have said it....It is characteristic of me...but I never made it and certainly never meant it.”
The CBS host continued his spin when co-anchor Norah O'Donnell pointed out that the Obama administration "took a lot of proactive action yesterday" with all three scandals:
SCHIEFFER: They did – but it was yesterday. I mean, why – how is it these things all – you know, nobody seems to have been taking them very seriously up until this point. There is no question, though, that the administration was trying to get the story out that the war on terrorism – the threat of terrorism had been lessened. It wasn't as serious as it – as it had been pictured. And that erupts into this thing with all these e-mails. We see, at the State Department, the spokesman there saying, my high higher-ups in the building are worried about this. Well, which higher-ups? Why were the higher-ups worried?
O'DONNELL: You're speaking about Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokesperson – and in these e-mails back and forth, she was saying, my higher-ups were worried about this. And the question is, was it the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton?
SCHIEFFER: And we still don't know – we still don't know the answer to that. It's a pretty easy thing. I mean, obviously, I think the President did the right thing in letting the temporary head of the IRS go. But what happens now? I mean, where does this go from here? I mean, that should not have happened.
Rose gave his "the President has to take control of his own government" near the end of the segment. Schieffer then cited how "you're now seeing those on the left saying, you know – the President has got to start participating in the presidency, I believe, is the way that Dana Milbank phrased it in the Washington Post. This is not somebody coming at it from the right." He concluded that "the President has some serious problems here, and can he grab hold of this? If he doesn't, he's not going to get anything done in the second term. I think that's the bottom line."
It should be pointed out that Dan Rather, Schieffer's former colleague at CBS, gave similar pro-Obama spin later on Thursday morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe:
DAN RATHER: Those who compare it to Watergate – the Republicans are always eager to jump on almost anything and say, well, it's like Watergate. We're – we're not anywhere in the same cosmos as that, because – keep in mind with Watergate – while using the Internal Revenue Service to punish one's opponents came directly from the President [Nixon] himself. That's a fact. Now, in this case, we don't even know whether the President [Obama] was aware that this was happening.
This is the same Dan Rather who characterized the Iran-Contra controversy during the second Reagan term as a "Watergate-style scandal in the making", as he did on the November 25, 1986 edition of CBS Evening News.