Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 11, 2016

Will Republicans Screw Up Again? Some Are Already Overreaching

Some Republicans are so excited at the thought of multiple controversies dogging the White House over the next few months (or longer) that they are already foaming at the mouth.

For example, on his syndicated radio show late last week, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee compared reports of the IRS targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status to what happened in Nazi Germany.

And, of course, you knew that some conservatives and Republicans (such as Glenn Beck, Oklahoma Sen. James M. Inhofe and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann) couldn’t resist mentioning the “I” word — impeachment — almost immediately as they struggled to show their anger and contempt for President Barack Obama and his administration.

But Republicans ought to remember that they have seen this movie before, and the ending was not what they hoped for or expected.

There’s no doubt that the three controversies — Benghazi, the IRS and the Associated Press — play into the GOP’s hand by raising questions about “big government.” They give Republicans an opportunity to challenge the administration’s truthfulness and to argue for a check on the president during his final years in office.

While the president hasn’t been implicated directly, that certainly doesn’t eliminate the political risk for the White House or for Democrats over the next few month or possibly all the way to next year’s midterm elections.

But let’s not forget: Republicans failed to capitalize on President Bill Clinton’s inappropriate conduct by over-playing their hand and pushing impeachment. Not only did they fail to drive him from office, the GOP ended up losing a handful of House seats in the 1998 midterms instead of adding seats as initially expected.

Republicans allowed themselves to look as if they were primarily interested in scoring political points and overturning the results of the 1996 election, even if it meant paralyzing the government.

That same danger exists once again for the GOP.

With fundraising playing such a huge part in our politics, some conservative groups will be tempted to use the trifecta of controversies to play to their bases to boost anger and fundraising.

This, in turn, will make the issues appear more and more partisan, giving the president the same opportunity that Clinton used when he sought to rise above “politics” and called for members of both parties to address public policy challenges.

Of course, there are differences between 1998 and 2013.

Though Clinton undoubtedly lied about his behavior and besmirched his office, he was caught in a personal scandal. As we have seen repeatedly, while personal scandals provide fodder for late-night comedians and social commentators, voters seem willing to overlook them. Just ask current South Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Sanford.

Obama’s problems certainly haven’t yet been laid at his doorstep, and there’s no reason to believe that he was directly responsible for the controversies in the ways that Clinton and then-Gov. Sanford were. But the current controversies go to the heart of how government operates and how it communicates with its people, raising more fundamental questions than the Clinton and Sanford personal scandals did.

In other words, voters easily understand the notion of individual weakness — and redemption. But they have a much harder time accepting government mistakes and misjudgments.

If Sunday’s TV appearances by big-name Republicans are any indication, party leaders have decided to use a “culture of cover-ups and political intimidation” argument to link recent controversies and put them in a far broader context, making it easier to link them to the White House. Columnist George Will even identified potential fourth and fifth scandals in his May 16 column, “Obama’s Tapped-Out Trust.”

Democrats used the same strategy during President George W. Bush’s second term — and only a slightly different phrase, “culture of corruption” —  during their effort to regain the House in 2006. Winning 30 seats and the majority showed that they were successful.

Obviously, the great danger now for the president and his party is that one of the existing controversies expands dramatically or even that another controversy emerges that fits neatly into the GOP’s storyline. While the just-released CNN poll doesn’t show the president has been hurt by the controversies, those findings shouldn’t lull Democrats into a sense of security. They already have reason to worry about candidate recruitment.

Republicans certainly can continue to raise questions about the administration’s behavior, but they would improve their prospects if they can use those controversies to raise questions about the Obama team’s performance and goals.

The White House, on the other hand, must hope that Democrats can portray Republicans as placing a higher priority on embarrassing the president than on dealing with the day-to-day concerns of real people. For Obama, a foreign policy crisis might even be just what the doctor ordered.

  • Ryan

    The playbook here is obvious on both sides.

    The Republican Party has to stay on their current course – press on the issues consistently and attempt to uncover the whole story, and then they can attempt to tie it towards executive failure in whatever way is best suited based on the information uncovered.

    The Democratic Party must bring the motives of the Republican Party into question, tying this into what they would probably describe as a pattern of politically-motivated hyperbole by the GOP – which a greater level of overreach would tie neatly into.

    Right now, the ball is in the GOP’s court. If they find hard evidence of executive shortcomings, they capitalize. If they get into ad hominem language without such evidence, it is a bust.

  • Tony Bell

    where have you been for five years????

  • Mortalc01l

    The Republicans have lost all credibility.. When EVERYTHING is a scandal (birth certificate, socialist, Kenyan, muslim, radical christian), you end up trivializing things that ACTUALLY warrant a closer look.

    What the general public knows by now, is that Republicans are desperate, I mean utterly loony-tunes, batsh1t, Michelle Bachmann level crazy desperate to find SOMETHING, anything to pin on this President.

    When you start by vowing to make a Man a one term president, as your number one agenda, ahead of jobs, national security, or anything else, you have just defined your party; and that definition has become more focused and clearer by the day with the Republicans.

    The continued and unprecedented attempts to demonize Obama, have bitten the R’s in the butt, over and over again; those of us that are rational, see the naked hatred and loathing they hold for Obama… It’s clear as day, except to those that hold the same hatred in their hearts for him and that is thankfully a minority of this country.

    Obama was re-elected.. Republicans need to get over it, move on and try doing something CONSTRUCTIVE with their time, money and energy you know, something that will help US, the voters.

    • notruthinpolitics

      yes just like you and your libtard friends got over it after Bush was re-elected. try again skippy. The man wants to live in the White House he is going to face daily scrutiny. Well at least from the voters since the media has failed its job the last 5 years.

      • Mortalc01l

        Here’s a fun fact: I voted for Reagan and WAS a Republican until insanity overtook the party; too many religious nuts, too much veneration of trickle down theory, too much focus on Corporations and not enough on citizens… And now look at my once great party.. i mean Mitt Romney??? Michelle Bachmann???? Sarah Palin????? The lunatics are running the Asylum.

        Some actual TRUTH would be fun; like admitting Obama’s NOT a Muslim (gone to the same Christian Church for the last 23 years) and he’s not a socialist (he took money from the people and gave it to companies, which is the EXACT OPPOSITE of socialism) and that he’s not Kenyan…

        My point was that when EVERYTHING is a scandal.. (and then proves not to be) and every move Obama makes is greeted with hysterical shrieking by Republicans, then people just stop paying attention and then something major could slip through unnoticed.

        • notruthinpolitics

          Gee, I was a democrat until jimmy Carter then switched. Now I am neither, I agree with you on the poor choices that the republican party has made in its nominees- they gave ot to Dole because it was his turn. they gave it to McCain because it was his turn. Romney got it because no one else worth a carp wanted it. Just my opinions btw. I think the religious right is too far too the right as much as I think the “progressives” are too far to the left. Most of America is more in the middle and should be led my a third part- maybe we call it the American Party. The first thing you and I should do, as well as the rest of the population, is take responsibility for the failures in this country on both sides of the political spectrum because it is we who hired the politicians and continue to allow them to do what they want, even if we don;t like it. It is we who have abdicated our responsibility to hire people who can effectively represent us. Can you imagine being an employer, lets say McDonald s, and failure to take action against an employee who refuses to serve hamburgers because he or she is a vegan, or an employee who spits on the burgers while making them.

          Quit voting for the party- vote for the candidate. If you have similar values and beliefs as the candidate then vote for them- but it is important to discover what those values and beliefs are and not just what the party they are running under puts out.

      • Dave

        Every time the word “libtard” comes out of a conservative’s mouth, he wins more votes for Democrats. Moderates and independents are tired of that garbage. I regularly canvas voters and I regularly see moderates’ and independents’ disgust at how thuggish the GOP has become.

        Keep it up. You’re a prime example of why the GOP appeals primarily to angry old white men. You’re driving away your allies in droves.

    • Ronald W. Mann

      It is not Prez Zero himself that rips Americans its his total failure on everything he has attempted. Overreach? With his recent corrupt actions jail is in the future for him

      • Mortalc01l

        Stock market over 15,000, jobs coming back, venture capital starting to flow again, Corporations sitting on a RECORD amount of cash, where I live construction is booming; more than 28 construction cranes in downtown….

        Got Bin Laden on Obama’s watch, the USA has the fastest growing economy in the World apart from China; GM and Chrysler back to record profitability and have paid back most of the bailout money; Tesla profitable and has now paid back ALL of the Government loan and oh by the way, sold more cars last quarter in their segment than Audi, BMW or Mercedes….

        Romneycare has allowed over 5 million uninsured children, access to healthcare; Republicans have spent $55 MILLION trying to repeal it…

        Yeah, you’re right, nothing accomplished so far.

      • Wally Parnel

        Just like your war criminal buddies, yes?

    • hepette

      55 million taxpayer money spent bringing up obamacare over and over again………….jeez you would think they move on to something else and stop wasting our money

  • James Michael McDaniel

    Clinton’s 2nd term was mostly stalemated as a result of his impeachment.

    • Beeker

      A big part is that the Republicans did not want Al Gore as President.

    • RepublicanChrisRock

      Yep, and he brought that on himself by lying to a grand jury.

    • Wally Parnel

      Not true, the economy never slowed down, until th parasite GOP bush, destroyed it all

      • pjean

        Lighten up, Wally. Reasonable folks just expect decency and regard for the law from the folks whose paychecks we provide.

  • kurtmudgeon

    Somehow “Republican overreach” doesn’t seem to be the issue here. We do have 3 scandals, none of which were created by Republicans. Just how bad do any — or all — of thes have to get before polls take them seriously, and journalists stay on the issue, not on faulting the other party?

    • xian

      they have to actually become bad before that happens, instead of just the kind of thing that gets Fox viewers excited.

    • Wally Parnel

      Actually, the embassy controversy, has GOP all over it. Your brain dragging your facts buddy….lol

  • Rick2340

    We have the obama administration acting like a bunch of fascists/communists and the fascists/communists in the media complain about republicans. Typical.

    • Wally Parnel

      Blah blah blah, the head is rattling again

  • Cleetus

    Mr. Obama wanted the job. He fought for the job. He knew that this is America and his every action will be closely watched because that is what happens in a free society. One most also realize that a Democracy or a constitutional republic is a population event. This means that there will always be people on either fringe saying stupid things. Knowing this, there are a couple of things that must be kept in mind. First, instead of focusing on those people on the fringe and accusing an entire group of people of thinking identically, one should focus on what the majority of that side is really saying. Second, one needs to focus on actual events or facts and see where those take us. Third and most important, the President knows he is and always will be under a microscope While the President needs to ignore the fringe lunatics, he does need to focus on being open and honest so the maajority can make up thier own rational minds. For example, when Mr. Romney was running for President, Mr. Romney released more than the amount of tax records/information required by law. (Please note: I use this as an example to illustrate a point, not as any attempt to justify or blame any action occurring today.) Mr. Romney was subjected to many accusations and ridicule for not releasing what the Democrats thought he should release. Even Harry Reid accused Mr. Romney of breaking the law and that was why the records were not being released. When Mr. Romney released more tax records and nothing was to be found, the public continued to hear calls for more information to be released because there was still a chance…. While the initial demands for more tax information might not be considered overreach, subsequent demands most certainly were. The lesson here is one of honesty and openess leads to credibility. This is what we do not have in the White House.
    One can only be accused of overreach when there is enough information to show, to the the majority of everyone’s satisfactions, we know what happened, but people keep pressing for more information thinking something nefarious remais hidden. In the case of Benghazi, we know what happened, at least up until the next version of events comes out. Since the story keeps changing, we cannot come to a consensus as to what happened. The same is true of the AP scandal (which now includes FOX news as this issue grows) and the IRS scandal. Also important, but well back on other burners, is how Lisa Jackson of the EPA illegally used multiple alliases to perform government work, how Thomas Perez illegally used his private e-mail account (is it 1200 or 12,000 times?) to conduct official government business yet remains Mr. Obama’s pick to run DOL, or Kathleen Sebelius’attempts to raise money from private sources to help implement Obamacare (also of dubious legality). On top of all this we have Mr. Obama directing people to not enforce the law (ICE agents, government contractors), Mr. Obama illegally declaring Congress to be in recess so he can make partisan appointments to various agencies without congressional approval, and the still unressolved Fast and Furious (which some might consider overreach, but many others don’t). What does all this tell us? It tells us that the American public has a large number of questions about Mr. Obama, his administration and his credibility. And it should be remembered that when one has poor credibility, one of the first accusations that is made against those performing investigations is that they are engaged in over reaching. In the case of today’s investigations. 59% of the public do not agree

    • Beeker

      Mr. Obama illegally declaring Congress to be in recess so he can make partisan appointments to various agencies without congressional approval
      Congress was in fact on recess but they use a point of order having a nearby Senator to come in to recite the Pledge to the flag and turn out the light for the rest of the day. The Republicans made it clear that they will stop any nominee so it can not function (can’t plan when you have an acting director in charge) even though they qualify. At this point the President has the upper hand in making that appointment simply he has the right to do under the Constitution and the Senate failed their job in voting for or against the nomination which I believe the courts will agree with it if it is ligitated.

      • Cleetus

        First, the way a democracy or constitutional republic operates is that if the Republican do not like a proposed appointee, then they have the right to bloc theappointment any way they legally can. This is why it is uncumbant upon the Mr. Obama to work with others instaead of using his alienating methods that started during the election and continued through the passsage of Obamacare. Second, we are a nation of laws. The president swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land. Nowhere is there an “out” that gives him the right to operate above the law and so far, two courts (the initial court decision and the just recently released decision from the appeals court) Mr. Obama acted illegally. Mr. Obama may have had the most wonderful altruistic ideals in his actions, but he still must obey the law. Why is that so hard to understand?

  • kenpuck

    Baloney. The Republicans’ job is to call the administration to account for abusive “overreaching” by the IRS. Sorry if their actions upset your liberal sensibilities.

    • Dave

      Where was your outrage when the Bush administration was directly targeting anti-war and progressive groups with spot audits?

      • pjean

        Where? Where’s your outrage over the suppression of free speech, free thought and the right assemble without being demonized? BTW, Bush isn’t president, so look at the guy who is. Oh, that’s right. We must not pass judgment on Obama ever. It might hurt his feelings.

    • Wally Parnel

      The elected are to serve all Americans. it’s in the oath they took. Oh we’ll, so much for these parasites.

  • godblessusa

    Have Republicans ever heard of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf?” It would help them understand the lack of interest in “scandals.”

    When you’ve shredded your credibility on things like Kenya and marxism and black panthers and birth certificates, it’s difficult to get people to take you seriously. The GOP has been screaming “The sky is falling!!” for so long that they’ve rendered themselves a joke.

    Not only is the sky not falling but the clouds continue to clear and the sun is increasingly breaking through. Hence, the president’s steady (and climbing) poll numbers.

    Meanwhile, the right-wing echo chamber – which produced President Romney – becomes ever more insular, hermetically sealed and closed off from reality. They don’t speak to Americans; they speak to each other.

  • Sundialer

    The Republicans may have zero credibility but that doesn’t absolve the utter mendacity and corruption of the current Administration. It is beyond dispute that this president has politicized the IRS, DOJ, State Dept., the Treasury, FBI, and HHS among others to make them de-facto extensions of his campaign machine to destroy political opponents. The breath and scope of lawlessness and duplicity to pervert the very fabric of American democracy to favor Obama and his agenda is astounding. We’re continually told by the president’s champions that he is the smartest man ever to sit in the WH, but now they say with every new scandal that he knew nothing. No one else would be able to do this…not the CEO of a large company…not me…not you…but the Commander-in-Chief can.

    It is looking more and more like a cult of megalomania, where to the president’s followers he can do no wrong even in the face of the most searing evidence. It’s called denial. Some would call it brainwashed. One thing is sure, the budding green sprig of tyranny is preceded by this kind of hubris and abuse…defended by sycophants who have not yet been targeted for the show trials.

    • godblessusa

      What “searing evidence?” Your rage?

      • Sundialer

        “Perhaps you notice how the denial is so often the preface to the justification.” Christopher Hitchens.

        • Evan Grantham-Brown

          So you’re denying that you have “searing evidence.” Fair enough. We await the justification.

          • Sundialer

            You don’t think the massive abuse of the IRS represents a chilling tyranny designed not only to suppress free speech but to also deliberately damage any endeavor deemed hostile to the message and agenda of the Obama Administration…No? How about the DOJ criminalization of journalism contra the US Constitution…or the lies told to cover up the Benghazi debacle…or any number of lawless acts by government agencies by this Administration to intimidate, suppress, or punish Obama’s political enemies? No? The denial is yours and I’m sure you’re about to offer me a justification. You’ve misunderstood the quotation.

            Your cognitive dissonance and inability to perceive facts is no doubt related to the obsequence of a compromised media that act as nothing more than adjunct offices of the WH press room who regurgitate the president’s talking points instead of exercising the due diligence of a free press that’s supposed to hold him accountable.

            I suspect in another time you would have made a good little Jacobin…or Stalinist…or Brown Shirt. The fall of every free republic is preceeded by sympathizers like you…too blinded by party colors to otherwise give a damn.

          • Evan Grantham-Brown

            None of what you just spouted is evidence, searing or otherwise.

          • Sundialer

            Now that’s more like it. First the denial…then…

            Have a great day.

  • Jennifer Jia

    Notice how different Stu’s tone is compared to a week ago? And how Stu’s now using “controversies” instead of “scandals” to describe these non-scandals?

  • pjean

    So if the IRS ever suppresses the right of liberal organizations to organize in the same fashion as any other political group, we should turn our heads and say, “nothing to see here”? I am amazed that Progressives welcome the suppression of speech? Whether it is the IRS, the EPA, media shutouts by this administration or the general demonization of any group that does not act like a good little soldier in accordance with the current administration, such government intrusion in free speech and free thought should be alarming to all citizens. What does it say about modern-day liberals/Progressive Socialists, that all this is just fluff?

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