VA scandal: Is the 4th estate reclaiming its throne from Obama?

May 28, 2014
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Last Wednesday, President Obama entered the White House briefing room (late again) and finally addressed reports of widespread misconduct at Department of Veteran’s Affairs facilities across the country.

Mr. Obama stated: “if these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful, and I will not tolerate it – period.”

Sounds forceful and “in charge” enough doesn’t it?  Yet sadly it was written from the same tattered playbook.

Be it Fast and Furious, IRS targeting political opponents or the Department of Justice seizing AP phone records, the response has been the same:

1.         The President found out it about it from news reports

2.         The President is “mad as hell” about it

3.         He has ordered an investigation

4.         He can’t act until he receives the results of said investigation

5.         He has full faith that (insert random administration official name here) is the right person for the job and get the facts for the American people.

It’s the same template this White House has used since January 20, 2009.  (The candid, honest response with full acceptance of responsibility and people being held accountable template got left on a campaign bus in Iowa.)

The President’s VA dodging performance alone could have been the story this week, but it would not have been new.

The story this week could also have been that the very next evening in front of a group of Chicago democrat party elite the President lamented the Framer’s Constitutional structure giving California the same number of Senate seats as Wyoming because it “puts us at a disadvantage.”

But that too would be a re-run.

The record of Mr. Obama’s disdain for our founding document as a “charter of negative liberties” (his words) that checks the power of politicians such as himself is far too long for a man sworn to “preserve, protect and defend” it.

Or perhaps the story should be about a White House press office sending the name of the CIA station chief in Kabul, Afghanistan to over 6,000 email recipients and not even realizing it until Washington Post reporter Scott Wilson called them on it.

Yet as revealing as each story is, not one shares anything new.

Misdirection and stalling (VA press briefing), disdain for the Constitution (Chicago fundraiser) and gross incompetence (outing a CIA station chief) have all become just another day in the life of this President.

Surprisingly, the “new” story this week is the press itself and the reporting that followed Mr. Obama’s VA remarks.

CNN’s Drew Griffin commented: “What (veterans) did not want to hear is that we’re going to wait for yet again another office of inspector general report…We’re five years into his presidency, and the problem seems to be certainly not better, and perhaps even worse.”

Politco’s Edward-Isaac Dovere, wrote: “President Barack Obama wants to talk about flexing his administrative and executive power…Instead, he got stuck talking about a clear administrative and executive failure that, at least so far, he hasn’t done much about.”

Dana Milbank in the Washington Post opined: “He can’t be “madder than hell” about something if he won’t acknowledge that the thing actually occurred.  He’s playing President Passive…”

Yes, you read correctly.  Those are three “main stream” reporters speaking truth to power.  And they were not alone.  The pushback against Obama’s standard scandal template was fast, hard and consistently negative across the country.

While it’s entirely too early to tell if the Fourth Estate will continue to re-claim the territory it has ceded these past six years, its response to the President’s latest spin-fest gives hope that it’s at least possible.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE:  A version of this column first appeared in the May 28, 2014 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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