Hard as it may be, then, set aside your own politics and ask yourself which of these Monday statements rings truer:
"The whole issue of talking points, frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow. ... And suddenly, three days ago, this gets spun up as if there's something new to the story. There's no 'there' there."
— President Barack Obama, dismissing congressional scrutiny of his and his subordinates' statements about Benghazi as a "political circus"
"Americans should take notice that top Obama administration officials increasingly see themselves as above the law and emboldened by the belief that they don't have to answer to anyone."
— House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa
For now, many among us would take Option 2. With each of these troubling disclosures, the Obama administration finds itself reacting to appearances of overreach, of arrogance, of determination to dodge its embarrassments rather than to take ownership of them.
I wonder why the Obama administration finds itself reacting to these things. Could it be because people are asking them to react? This is the kind of passive-voiced, "a firestorm of controversy is swirling" commentary that makes me crazy, because it cites the appearance of a thing as evidence that the thing itself exists. And in doing so, reinforces that appearance, conflates it with evidence, and elevates "stuff we kind of think already" to actual fact. You want to make an issue out of something? THEN MAKE AN ISSUE OUT OF IT. Knock off the fashion coverage. I know that's the only part of this that interests anybody, but come on.
Am I happy about the AP phone records sitch. Hell. No. Not okay. The administration should be "on the defensive" about that. But here's the thing, even there: The administration "being on the defensive" isn't the story. What is this, the NFL? The story is what was done and who did it, not how the Obama White House is starting to "seem:"
Taken together, though, these controversies project a less flattering image of truth-shading, hubris and intrusion. In the week of humiliating disclosures that started with last Wednesday's congressional hearing on Benghazi, Americans haven't seen the administration exhibit ... one shred of humility:
Ah. So it's about what words they use. The image they project. The proper pantomime of humility. The theater of the thing. If the administration would just be sufficiently servile, people wouldn't have died and none of this would be an issue anymore. If they'd just all hold their pickle forks the right way, I mean, honestly, how hard is that?
The easiest way for the president and his White House to further that rising suspicion — we emphasize that it's thus far unproven — is to demonstrate three things to his newly energized foes and to his friends who didn't expect this sort of conduct: that his subordinates will end their egregious stonewalling on Benghazi, will pursue the IRS scandal as high as it goes and will demand full disclosure of whether his Justice Department scrupulously followed the law in its pursuit of journalists' phone records.
We don't know if any of what Obama's critics are saying is true (on the IRS and Benghazi it's demonstrably not and has been proved not to be for some damn time) but the president needs to act like it is, to demonstrate, once again, the proper attitude to us. The president needs to concede every point, to prove that there are no points here, and maybe flog himself in the Rose Garden. You've got people screaming THIS HASN'T BEEN INVESTIGATED! and when you show them the records of the investigations they just keep yelling it, I mean, you tell me what can be done here in exactly 20 minutes that will solve the problem of every single person in America not knowing every detail of what happened. Should Obama go to everybody's house and read the paper to them?
Maybe that would clear up how he "seems."