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by Jules Witcover
When the storm of administration scandal first hit President Obama, he offered a good impersonation of Claude Raines in "Casablanca," expressing shock that gambling was going on in Rick's saloon. His verbal outrage at the snooping of the
That's why the next day he announced the dismissal of the acting
What at first sight smacks of a combination of bureaucratic stupidity and a witless war on freedom of the press has thrown Obama and his merry band of do-gooders into a defensive tizzy, threatening to put his whole administration on the skids.
The relatively swift display of strong presidential action to rein in the alleged excesses of tax-exemption monitors was an overnight phenomenon. In the process, he abandoned his initial determination to wait until all the facts were in regarding the
In Obama's never-ending determination to convey himself as Dudley Do-Right, his first display of caution came as even his supporters yearned for a bit of fire-breathing ire over self-evident abuses of power. In all this, a chief collaborator was his condescending press secretary, Jay Carney, who daily feeds crumbs of alibis to the
At Carney's first West Wing briefing after the scandals broke, he endlessly fouled off pitches inquiring about Obama's intentions to deal with the triad of the
Carney at one point Tuesday scoffed at a reporter's inference of a comparison with Richard Nixon of Watergate infamy. The press secretary was right in noting that nothing yet surfacing in the current situation remotely compared to the presidential cover-up of the Watergate saga.
But that fact does not change the reality that the recent revelations of administration ham-handedness leave Obama with a colossal mess that only swift and comprehensive remedial action is likely to dispel. Unfortunately, the president's first-term record of sweet reasonableness toward the congressional Republicans has convinced many critics he is, and remains, a pushover.
In the wake of his reelection last November, Obama signaled a new firmness toward his opposition and that he was through being Mr. Nice Guy. He held firm to the political suicide pact of sequestration requiring deep slashes in government services. But when the furloughing of flight tower controllers caused the cancellation of air traffic and
In the latest scandals, politically the president could not afford further delay in finding at least one sacrificial lamb for the latest screw-ups. But that may not be enough to check the growing public impression that his administration has been laggard or inattentive in conducting the people's business.
Obama's political opponents already are salivating over the chance of adding bureaucratic corruption to the mix. House Majority Leader John Boehner wasted no time calling not merely for a firing but for a designated culprit to go to jail.
Obama's hopes for a second-term fresh start are now imperiled by the prospect that voters will reassess him as incompetent. Nor can he risk being judged a leader who settles for tough talk when they want action against revealed abuses of governmental power.
That challenge explains Wednesday's quick public beheading of the
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Scandals Put Presidential Credibility on the Line | Politics