Every administration has its scandals, but what's different about what's happening to the Obama administration is the confluence of two separate scandalish stories converging at the same time. Or maybe two and a half; were it not for the timing, the Justice Department's pursuit of the Associated Press over leaks of information related to terrorist activity would never be called a "scandal," and I doubt Republicans would even have bothered getting mad about it (I'll get back to that in a moment). The whole thing is complicated by the fact that Benghazi and the IRS are so different, in ways that complicate the Republicans' task. In their minds, the two stories are part of a seamless web of corruption, two symptoms of the same underlying disease. But that only makes sense if you already believed that Barack Obama was a villain bent on destroying the nation, and most Americans don't.
The trouble for Republicans is that one scandal actually reaches to the top levels of the administration, but it's the one where no actual malfeasance occurred, while the one involving genuinely scandalous behavior doesn't get anywhere near the White House, at least from what we know so far.
In a surprise move, President Barack Obama is nominating Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim to head the World Bank. The announcement will be made by Obama, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—who first recommended Kim for the post—in the Rose Garden later today.
The sophisticated political observer doesn’t need public opinion polls to weigh the odds of President Obama’s re-election. Economic indicators drive voters, and if the president and his party come up short in November, the recriminations won’t be aimed at campaign headquarters in Chicago but at the staffers and wonks tasked with turning around the American economy.
The Escape Artists: How Obama’s Team Fumbled the Recovery, provides just that opportunity. Noam Scheiber, an editor at The New Republic, susses out the Obama administration’s most important internal debates to find exactly where the supposed dream team of economic wonks failed.
After months of low approval ratings, President Obama’s popularity has begun to trend upwards toward 50 percent. According to the latest survey from ABC News and The Washington Post, Obama has advanced to a 49 percent approval rating. What’s more, he maintains a substanial advantage over Republicans in Congress on who the public trusts to protect the middle-class, 50 to 35 percent. This is almost certainly a product of the recent fights over payroll tax cuts and the unemployment insurance extension, where the president is on the side of most Americans, compared to congressional Republicans, who are pushing forward on a deeply unpopular position.
The Washington Post’s Al Kamen gives a quick update on the pace of judicial confirmations in the Senate. In short, President Obama shouldn’t expect to fill many more vacancies on the federal bench:
Presidential election years are notoriously bad for nominees. For one thing, the Senate will probably meet fewer days in 2012, as it usually has in presidential election years. And the mood in Congress gets even testier, making what’s become a contentious process that much more partisan.
Yesterday, at a meeting with journalists and bloggers at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz spoke about the organization’s efforts as it prepared for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.
If I were tasked with crafting the Republican Party’s legislative strategy in the wake of President Obama’s jobs speech, here’s what I would suggest: Instead of mindless opposition to the president’s proposal, craft a small-bore plan and pass it as the American Jobs Act. When this neutered bill fails to produce the benefits promised by Obama, attack him as hapless and ineffectual. It’s foolproof!
That is, unless your party is dominated by lawmakers and activists with a categorical opposition to anything that looks like compromise, even if it yields political advantage. Here’s Politico with an inside look at the GOP’s response to President Obama’s jobs pitch:
Peter Diamond, the Nobel Prize winning economist who President Obama nominated to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, has officially withdrawn his nomination after more than a year of obstruction from Senate Republicans. He explains his decision in a New York Times editorial:
This week the president is hosting a bipartisan gabfest at the White House to try to tease out some Republican votes for health care. It’s a total waste of time. If Obama thinks he’s going to get a single Republican vote at this stage of the game, he’s fooling himself (or the American people). Many months ago, you may recall, the White House and Dem leaders in the Senate threatened to pass health care with 51 votes – using a process called “reconciliation” that allows tax and spending bills to be enacted without filibuster – unless Republicans came on board. It’s time to pull the trigger.