Katie already flagged the major elements of President Obama's joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron. ABC News' Rick Klein offered a succinct observation about Obama's dichotomous approach to the two major scandals dominating today's headlines:
The president expressed (qualified) strong disapproval about the IRS' ideological seek-and-destroy mission, but inveighed against the legitimacy of Benghazi as a newsworthy story. I'd like to follow up on a few of the president's comments: (1) We now know that the IRS targeted conservative groups as far back as 2010, and that the IRS brass became aware of the practice between 2011 and 2012. Can the president tell Americans that no one inside his administration was aware of this situation prior to last Friday? Obama claimed that he himself only learned of this outrage through "the same news reports" the general public has seen. Color conservatives skeptical.
(2) The president softened his denunciations of the IRS story with the caveat of "if, in fact, this happened...." Isn't he aware that the IRS has publicly confessed, and apologized for, "inappropriate" conduct?
Why are we in patented Obama indefinite "wait-and-see," "fact-gathering" phase for IRS story when they've admitted their wrongdoing?— Mary Katharine Ham (@mkhammer) May 13, 2013
Mary Katharine has seen this dodge before. In her forthcoming Townhall Magazine column, she dissects the "work in progress presidency," in which Obama's "patented fact-gathering phase" is frequently invoked to deflect questions about inaction or problematic reports. See: Closing Guantanamo Bay, Obamacare implementation, Benghazi, Fast & Furious, Syrian "red lines," etc.
(3) What are "so-called talking points"? Either the administration drew up talking points to inform the public about a deadly terrorist attack, or they didn't. And we know that they did because those "so-called talking points" were modified and revised 12 times, then relayed to the public on every Sunday morning chat show.
(4) The president repeated his mouthpiece's line that the talking point revisions are a "no there there" non-story. Even some mainstream media journalists were floored by that approach:
"There's no there there." Wow. Doubles down on shifting stories.— Ron Fournier (@ron_fournier) May 13, 2013
Fournier sees an Obama credibility crisis brewing. Team Obama continues to insist that the White House's talking points were based upon the "best assessment" of the US intelligence community, which we know to be false. CIA director David Petraeus rejected the heavily-bowdlerized final memo as "useless," and the Assistant Sec. of State emailed a Libyan official the day after the attack and clearly stated Ansar al-Sharia's involvement. That was four days before Susan Rice (speaking on Obama's behalf) told the American people that the terrorist attack was actually the "direct result" of a "spontaneous" protest sparked by a YouTube video -- which was never mentioned in any version of the CIA's talking points. Democratic whistle-blower Gregory Hicks called the YouTube clip a "non-event" in Libya. Stephen Hayes asks a good question, as does Philip Klein:
CIA Dir Petraeus called the #Benghazi talking points useless disappointed WH was using them. And Obama says they were consistent w/PDBs?— Stephen Hayes (@stephenfhayes) May 13, 2013
So why did Obama repeatedly talk about the video at UN two weeks after attacks?— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) May 13, 2013
Hayes rightly wonders if journalists, Congressional investigators and the public will have access to those presidential daily briefings, now that Obama has asserted that they aligned with Susan Rice's false talking points.
(5) "We dishonor [Benghazi's victims] when we turn things like this into a political circus," an irritated Obama intoned. Is Patricia Smith turning her son's death into a "circus" and "dishonoring" him by demanding truthful answers to questions, especially after she was misinformed by high-ranking White House officials?
(6) Obama channeled Jay Carney by condemning Republican attempts to "politicize" Benghazi. Is Dennis Kucinich a Republican? Did the White House press corps and numerous editorial boards morph into partisan right-wingers when no one was looking?
(7) Finally, the government of the man standing next to Obama today withdrew its diplomatic team from Benghazi in June of 2012, due to escalating attacks against Western targets in the city. Why didn't the Obama administration follow suit, particularly after its compound was bombed twice? It turns out Sec. Clinton wanted to go in the opposite direction and make it a permanent post, which is why Amb. Stevens was in Benghazi that day. In light of the vastly different British and American judgment calls, why was our security presence so lacking, and why were urgent petitions for more protection shot down? Was the president involved in these discussions, and if not, why not? After all, Libya was a country in which he chose to go to war -- without Congressional permission, no less.