, Port Arthur, Texas


May 23, 2013

Texas friendlier than D.C. to Obama

AUSTIN — When Barack Obama writes his presidential memoir, May of 2013 probably won't have been his favorite month. Even though the Texas Legislature was nearing the May 27 end of its tangled legislative session, he may wish he'd spent a couple more days in Texas before heading back to Washington.

His administration has managed to anger not just most Republicans — who already loved being angry at him — but just about everyone, including Democrats and the press.

Republicans continued their on-going search for the blood of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Obama, over the Benghazi terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2012, that killed four Americans, including the American ambassador to Libya.

Democrats say that was to be expected, since Hillary is making signs of running for president, and Republicans would like to sully her record while they have an opening. Plus, she worked for Obama.

But then, Obama was hit with other revelations that didn't really help along his effort to make his second and final presidential term a success.

There were charges that mid-level workers at the Internal Revenue Service had ordered organizations with "Tea Party" or "patriot" in their name to justify their tax-exempt status.

That caused a huge uproar, even from Democrats — including Obama — who said the IRS should be strictly neutral politically.

"Americans have a right to be angry about it, and I'm angry about it," Obama said at a specially called evening press conference.

"It should not matter what political stripe you're from," he declared. "The fact of the matter is the IRS has to operate with absolute integrity."

Trying to deal with the situation head-on, Obama called for the resignation of acting IRS Director Steven Miller, who had learned of the targeting a year earlier.

Miller, a 25-year IRS employee who had already suggested in an internal memo that the IRS might need a new acting director, dutifully resigned, which Obama pointed out at the press conference.

The next day, he named White House senior budget adviser, Daniel Werfel, as acting commissioner. Werfel had also been a budget official in the administration of President George W. Bush.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press wrote that the Department of Justice had secretly reviewed two months of phone records of office, home and cellphone calls of almost 100 AP reporters and editors.

The department's operatives were trying to find out who had leaked word of a foiled terrorist effort to bomb an airplane, that led to an AP story. The leak had jeopardized national security, said Attorney General Eric Holder — although he said he had delegated the handling of the matter to a deputy.

The howls about violations of freedom of the press were widespread, ranging across the political spectrum, and certainly including vehement criticisms from many news organizations.

Holder got lectured by Republican and Democratic members of Congress when he appeared before a House committee.

Republicans — and others — are raising questions about whether there was a sanitizing of talking points about the Benghazi attack, and of the IRS Tea Party targeting, and whether the White House tried to cover up either or both before last November's election.

And then, news broke that at least two soldiers responsible for dealing with matters of sexual assault were in fact charged with it themselves in separate incidents.

That scandal wasn't laid at Obama's door, other than his presidential role as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, but caused the President to order strong action from military leaders to punish sexual assault, and stamp it out.

As for the AP leak investigation, Obama renewed his support for a shield law for the media, that he'd favored while a United States senator from Illinois.

Obama has been trying to move into high gear on selling the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare, as it moves into later phases, and to spread Medicaid coverage across the land. In a time when he's already being criticized for an over-active and intrusive federal government, these examples of rogue agency actions weren't exactly what he needed.

With all that bad news exploding around the President, the news that the federal budget deficit is falling significantly faster than predicted sort of got lost in the shuffle.

To give an idea of how wide-ranging the week was, Obama answered questions about the AP investigation, the IRS flap and others during a joint press conference with Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, mostly about Turkey's next-door neighbor Syria.

In keeping with the way the week was going for Obama, during the press conference, it began raining.

Contact McNeely at or 512/458-2963.

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