President Obama’s approval rating is up slightly and his popularity steady, but both the Republican Party and the Tea Party still have negative perception with voters, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey released Wednesday.
Only 32 percent of Americans have a positive perception of the GOP, with 41 percent negative, a net of -9. The Tea Party’s perception is up slightly since January of 2013 but only 26 percent report having a positive perception of the right-wing movement while 38 percent feel negatively, a net of -12. The number of Americans identifying with the Tea Party is up 4 percent to 24 but the share that says they’re not — 65 percent — has increased by one percent.
The IRS’s singling out of Tea Party groups that applied for non-profit “social welfare” status has renewed interest in the Tea Party movement. Earlier this year Republican strategist and fundraiser Karl Rove had created a new organization designed especially to hedge against Tea Partiers who could threaten safe seats by defeating establishment candidates in primaries. Since then, Republicans seem to have re-embraced the movement, using the IRS investigation to raise money and attack the president.
President Obama has a net positive of +7, which is unchanged since April, and his approval rating is slightly above water at 48/47, up from 47/48 a month ago.
The swirling accusations of scandal have slightly lowered the president’s reputation for truthfulness. Majorities say that the State Department’s handling of Benghazi, the Department of Justice’s handling of investigations of reports and the IRS’s focus on Tea Party groups raise doubts about the Obama administration.
The public supports investigations into these matters, saying they’re legitimate, not partisan, by a margin of 8 percent
But the public doesn’t seem to think the president is facing an unusually troubling time. In August of 2011, during the debt limit crisis, a majority said that the president was facing a “longer-term setback” that would be difficult to recover from. Now only 43 percent say the same in this poll. A total of 55 percent say that things are likely to get better or that the president is “not facing a setback.”
The share of Americans who identify with the Republican Party continues to decline with only 21 percent identifying with the GOP.
By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, June 5, 2013
“Here’s To Honesty And Ethics”: Mr. Grand Theft Auto, Arsonist, And Hit And Run Driver Darrell Issa Gets A Brush-Back Pitch
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), no doubt frustrated his efforts to manufacture White House scandals have faltered, started to lose his composure on CNN yesterday. Perhaps more interesting was the response from a close ally to President Obama.
After lashing out at White House Press Secretary Jay Carney as a “paid liar” — an attack seemingly based on nothing — the California Republican argued without proof that top Obama administration officials were responsible for the IRS controversy. Under scrutiny, however, Issa’s argument quickly crumbled, relying on out-of-context quotes.
It was, however, this reaction from David Plouffe that caught my eye. In President Obama’s inner circle, few are as influential as Plouffe, who ran the Obama campaign in 2008 and served as a White House Senior Adviser to the president up until late January of this year. So when he’s calling the chairman on the House Oversight Committee “Mr. Grand Theft Auto” and a “suspected arsonist/insurance swindler,” it reflects a striking escalation.
Unlike Issa’s rhetorical jabs, Plouffe’s brush-back pitch at least has the benefit of accuracy. As we discussed a few weeks ago, Issa, the man Republicans have tasked with leading investigations into alleged administration misdeeds, really has spent a fair amount of his adult life as a suspected criminal. This Ryan Lizza piece in the New Yorker from a couple of years ago remains relevant.
“Many politicians have committed indiscretions in earlier years: maybe they had an affair or hired an illegal immigrant as a nanny. Issa, it turned out, had, among other things, been indicted for stealing a car, arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, and accused by former associates of burning down a building.”
This is generally one of those truths the political world knows, but chooses not to talk about. It’s not a secret — Issa’s background is the subject of insider jokes and private chatter — but it’s considered impolite to broach the subject publicly.
Which makes Plouffe’s rhetorical shot all the more interesting.
For the record, Lizza’s report on Issa highlighted one run-in with the law after another, including arrests and indictments. There are also many suspected crimes — he’s accused of deliberately burning down a building and threatening a former employee with a gun — which did not lead to formal charges, but which nevertheless cast the congressman in a less-than-flattering light.
The New Yorker report also noted an incident in which Issa was in a car accident with a woman who needed to be hospitalized. He drove away before the police could arrive because, as he told the person he hit, he didn’t have time to wait. Issa didn’t face charges, but he was sued over the matter, and agreed to an out-of-court settlement.
And in case those angles weren’t quite enough, the same article also noted instances in which Issa appears to have lied about his background.
The congressman, for example, claimed to receive the “highest possible” ratings during his Army career, despite the fact that at one point he “received unsatisfactory conduct and efficiency ratings and was transferred to a supply depot.” Issa also claimed to have provided security for President Nixon in 1971, which wasn’t true, and said he won a national Entrepreneur of the Year award, but didn’t.
Perhaps he’s not the kind of guy who should casually throw around words like “liar.”
But the key takeaway here is the fact that Plouffe was willing to go there in the first place, as if to say to Issa, “You want a fight over honesty and ethics? That’s a great idea.” What’s more, also keep in mind that if Democrats seriously pursue this as a line of criticism, Issa and his allies will be cautious in pushing back because they’d prefer not to have this conversation at all — the last thing Republicans want now is a discussion about Issa’s scandalous background and whether he’s the best person available to lead investigations into others’ suspected wrongdoing.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June, 3, 2013
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus was on “Fox & Friends” yesterday, fielding questions about various ongoing political controversies, when he said something interesting. In reference to the chairman on the House Oversight Committee, Priebus boasted, “I’ve got a good feeling that Darrell Issa is going to have quite a summer.”
As it turns out, Issa’s summer fun is already underway.
Several top aides to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former secretary of state, are targets of the latest subpoena for information about the drafting of talking points after the siege last fall on an American compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Representative Darrell Issa, the California Republican who is the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, wrote in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry that the Obama administration’s refusal to cooperate fully with a House investigation left him “with no alternative but to compel the State Department to produce relevant documents through a subpoena.”
What do you know, it really is 1997 all over again — a far-right chairman of the House Oversight Committee, hoping to undermine a Clinton, is needlessly sending out subpoenas over a trumped up political controversy.
The attack on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi was a deadly national security crisis, which left four Americans killed, but the effort to create a political “scandal” has run its course. Indeed, it effectively ended a couple of weeks ago with the release of internal administration emails that helped prove that the White House’s claims were accurate; there was no cover-up; and Republican accusations are without foundation in fact. It’s reached the point at which House GOP staffers are mocking their own party’s nonsense on this issue.
So why is Issa issuing subpoenas to Clinton aides anyway? Largely because, as the chair of the Republican National Committee put it, Issa is eager to “have quite a summer.”
If this seems eerily familiar, there’s a good reason for that — Issa is following in Dan Burton’s footsteps.
Remember Burton and his wildly unhealthy hatred for President Clinton?
Burton was at his most famous in the 1990′s, when he led many of the investigations against President Bill Clinton. “If I could prove 10 percent of what I believe happened, he’d [Clinton] be gone,” Burton declared in 1998. “This guy’s a scumbag. That’s why I’m after him.”
Over the last six years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, Burton led the House Government Reform Committee and unilaterally issued 1,089 subpoenas to investigate allegations of misconduct. That roughly translates to an average of a politically-inspired subpoena every other day for six consecutive years, including weekends, holidays, and congressional recesses.
Burton once held hearings — for 10 days — on the Clintons’ Christmas card list. He ended up targeting 141 different Clinton administration officials with subpoenas, including at least one instance in which Burton and his staff were so reckless, they subpoenaed the wrong person (they were looking for someone with a similar name).
Burton also fired a bullet into a “head-like object” — reportedly a melon — in his backyard to test the theory that former White House counsel Vincent Foster was murdered.
Burton, of course, wasn’t just some shock-jock or publicity-hungry provocateur; he was the chairman of a congressional committee with oversight authority over the White House. And he wielded that gavel as if he were a fringe activist with a chip on his shoulder.
The Indiana Republican has since left Congress, but his legacy remains. Indeed, his successor on the House Oversight Committee is picking up where Burton left off.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 29, 2013
A number of people have asked whether the Republicans will overreach in their reaction to the current collection of scandal-ish controversies (by the way, someone really needs to come up with a name that encompasses them all). The answer to that question is, of course they will. Try to remember who we’re talking about here. Overreaching is their thing. Congress will be going home this weekend, and I’ll bet the Republicans are going to come back from their recess reassured that their constituents really, really want them to pursue Barack Obama to the ends of the earth. I’ll explain why in a moment, but in the meantime the National Journal has details on their strategy:
Congressional Republicans head into next week’s Memorial Day recess armed with a strategy designed to keep the controversies that have consumed Washington in the news back home.
Both House and Senate Republicans will focus on the Internal Revenue Service targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny as well as the still-open questions about Benghazi. And more and more, they’ll try to tie them together into a made-for-2014 narrative of an unaccountable and out-of-control government.
In interviews on local television and radio programs and with newspapers, Senate Republicans plan to talk about the Obama administration’s “credibility gap.” They’ll throw into the mix Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s request that health industry officials help fund “Obamacare,” a move Republicans call a “shakedown” of the companies she regulates, according to a Senate GOP leadership aide.
Lawmakers will argue that a “lack of details, stonewalling,” and what they call an “ever-changing White House narrative” on both Benghazi and the IRS have led to a trust deficit with the public, a sentiment reflected in recent polls, the aide said.
Part of the aim is to get voters to question how they can trust the administration, and the IRS more specifically, to enforce key provisions of Obama’s health care law after improperly targeting Americans.
This fits into Republicans’ emerging scandal-riding midterm election strategy—one that the GOP’s congressional campaign committees think can blend easily into their anti-Obamacare message to help the party take the Senate in 2014.
When they return from this recess, Republicans are going to be more sure than ever that they’re doing the right thing. Think about what a member of Congress does when he’s home. He’ll be doing those media interviews with friendly talk-radio hosts, for whom outrage is the bread and butter of their programming. He might do a couple of town meetings, and who comes to those? People who like him already (i.e. the Republican base, who will tell him to keep up the scandal-mongering) and people who are pissed off about something. But right now, the people who think the scandal thing is going too far aren’t really pissed off, they’re just kind of disappointed. So they won’t be so inclined to show up. And then the representative will just go around town talking to folks, and once again the ones he’s most likely to hear from are his supporters who want to tell him to stick it to that no-good socialist in the White House.
After a few days of that, he’ll come back to Washington thinking, “Wow, my constituents are really fired up about this stuff. Full speed ahead!”
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 14, 2013
“Sorry, Republicans, Nobody’s Getting Impeached”: GOP Can’t Resist Elaborately Feigned Theater That Blows Up In Their Face
Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when every jackleg news organization in Washington — that is, virtually all of them — was feeding out of Kenneth Starr’s soft little hand like a Shetland pony.
Having recently left the country for a few weeks of media deprivation therapy, I returned to find excited pundits comparing President Obama to Richard M. Nixon on the basis of three transparently bogus White House “scandals” that make Starr’s fabled “Whitewater” investigation look like the crime of the century.
Once again, the word “impeachment” is in the air, as excited GOP congressmen dream of driving a Democratic president from office. Once again, the nation appears to be headed for a fun-filled summer of televised hearings, elaborately feigned indignation, and predictions of dramatic revelations that either never materialize or blow up in their sponsor’s faces.
With luck we might even see something as funny as the day in 1995 when a partisan S&L regulator who’d planned to market Hillary Clinton-themed “Presidential BITCH” t-shirts from her government office fainted dead away under cross-examination. The witness had to be carried from a Senate hearing room, never to be heard from again.
Deeply committed to Whitewater humbug, the New York Times, Washington Post and TV networks contrived not to notice.
The good news is that couldn’t happen again. Today, the ill-fated L. Jean Lewis’s swoon would be all over YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Sure, she’d get her own Fox News talk show, but rationally consequent citizens wouldn’t have to watch. The Internet has lessened the ability of scandal entrepreneurs in the Washington media to control the flow of information to the rabble.
Sure, the Internet empowers crackpots. But it also enables in-house bloggers like Paul Krugman and Ezra Klein to bring facts and arguments into the online pages of the high-dollar press that could be censored out of the “mainstream” as recently as the Clinton administration.
So nobody’s getting impeached on this tripartite nonsense, OK?
Anyway, let’s take them one at a time:
One: Regarding IRS “targeting” of right-wingers, I’m planning to rename my little one-man cattle operation “Tea Party Patriot Farm.” With that on my Schedule C, the IRS won’t dare to audit my tax returns. I’ll be free to deduct not only feed bills and veterinary expenses, but pizzas, movie tickets, six-packs, whatever. My recent train ride across France? Studying French cattle husbandry techniques at 180 mph.
But see that’s the thing. Contrary to a thousand indignant screeds and editorial cartoons, no aggrieved Tea Partiers got audited, fined, or jailed. Instead, they saw their applications to turn their political hobbies into tax-free scams — oops, charities — delayed for a few months, on the quite reasonable assumption (from an IRS functionary’s point of view) that an organization named for a political party might actually be one. Boo hoo hoo.
The IRS was politically idiotic, no doubt. But until somebody tracks this to the White House, it’s a big nothingburger.
Meanwhile, my man Charles Pierce quotes the Nixon White House tapes to remind us how a real crook uses the IRS: “Now here’s the point, Bob: please get me the names of the Jews, you know, the big Jewish contributors of the Democrats,” Nixon said. “Could we please investigate some of the [unprintables]?”
Two: Then there’s The Great Benghazi Cover-Up. As this column pointed out last December, it’s largely a matter of selective quotation. Nobody at the CIA or State Department who had a hand in preparing Susan Rice’s “talking points” on the Sunday shows knew with any certainty who organized the attack.
And it’s worthwhile pointing out that they still don’t know.
However, if “extremist elements with heavy weapons” doesn’t say “terrorist” to you, Rice got more specific on CBS’s Face the Nation: “Whether they were al Qaeda affiliates, whether they were Libyan-based extremists or al Qaeda itself,” she said, “…is one of the things we’ll have to determine.”
In the interest of keeping this phony scandal alive, everybody’s pretended for months that Rice never said that. Meanwhile, CBS News’ Major Garrett has reported that partial CIA emails leaked to him by Republican sources turned out — after the originals were released — to have been doctored to cast suspicion upon the State Department and Hillary Clinton. He didn’t identify the leakers.
But when people resort to faking documents it’s a good clue that no real evidence of wrongdoing exists. The end.
Three: As for the Associated Press flap, the Los Angeles Times reports that its “disclosure of a counter-terrorism operation in Yemen last year compromised…an informant who had earned the trust of hardened terrorists.”
If true, that’s perilously close to treason. In which case the Justice Department had every reason to subpoena AP phone records after other means of finding the leaker’s identity failed. Sorry, but journalists have no rights that trump those of ordinary citizens in a serious criminal investigation.
By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, May 22, 2013