Mr. President, let me say upfront, I don't think any of the present areas of concern … the IRS, Benghazi, Justice Department leak investigations … rise to the level of bona-fide "scandals". They are individually, and in toto, small potatoes compared to the incompetent bungling of Bush-Cheney that allowed us to get hit on 9/11 and the deceit that took us to war in Iraq.
Nevertheless, there's enough of a concern in the country, that it's time for you to make your case directly to the people. I suggest you make yourself available for a one-hour interview with either Chris Wallace or Shep Smith of Fox. Everybody knows that Fox has been out to sink you since Day 1 of the first term. So, it will be impossible for any fair-minded person to conclude that you put yourself into a softball environment.
I suggest that you get agreement on the following ground rules:
1) One hour broadcast live, uninterrupted by commercials and unedited;
2) The hour will be split in three parts, dealing with the IRS, Benghazi, and Justice Department efforts to stop leaks;
3) Each segment will begin with an opening statement by you, not to exceed 5 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of questioning.
Here are my suggestions of what you should say to open each topic:
IRS. You've got to go back to basics here.
1. The law says an organization can be exempt from taxation under 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code if it engages "exclusively in social welfare activities."
2. An organization can self-declare as tax-exempt without any application to the IRS. Any organization that felt they were being unfairly put upon by the IRS was free to withdraw their application and declare themselves tax-exempt. The only catch is that they, like everybody else who enjoys tax-exempt status, would have to engage "exclusively in social welfare activities."
3. The elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about is the actual reading of the law … the law that requires an organization to engage "exclusively in social welfare activities" to become exempt. Does anybody really think that the various Tea Party types that are crying foul now were actually about feeding the poor, healing the sick, and educating the unschooled … traditional social welfare work? Please.
4. The recent stories about excessive meeting expenses at the IRS must be addressed. I suggest that you announce that you have directed the Secretary of the Treasury to insure that the IRS cancel all non-essential meetings and conferences through the rest of the calendar year, and that guidelines be put in place so that excessive expenditures do not recur.
Benghazi. I suggest that you start by describing the environment that many State Department officials operate in.
1. The US has over 300 embassies and consulates scattered around the world. Many are in areas that are essentially war zones.
2. Shortly before the Benghazi attack, a 14 minute video ridiculing Islam and the Prophet Muhammed was translated into Arabic and was making the rounds in the Middle East. It caused an outbreak of rioting in Cairo, and contributed to a tense and volatile atmosphere in Benghazi, which extremist elements took advantage of and attacked our consulate, killing four Americans.
3. In the aftermath of this tragedy, I have instructed the State Department and the Defense Department to review our ability to respond militarily to any place where State Department facilities exist. To that end, I call upon the Congress to act on our outstanding requests for additional funding for embassy security.
4. In the last 10 days, I have spoken to family members of the Americans who lost their lives in Benghazi to give them progress reports on our efforts to bring the perpetrators of these outrageous acts to justice. I can advise that substantial progress has been made, but I am not at liberty to go any further at this time.
Justice Department leak investigations. The oh-so-self-important press is in a pout about this … poor babies. The public, far less so.
Here, it's important that you distinguish between good leaks and bad leaks.
Good leaks are when a government employee alerts superiors or the press to waste, fraud, incompetence, or criminal activity in their agency or department. These people are performing a useful purpose, and we encourage it. They are whistle-blowers, and they are entitled to government protection under the law.
Bad leaks are when a government official discloses information that he or she has pledged to keep confidential, and that disclosure threatens the lives of Americans or our interests at home or abroad. The government has every right to use minimally intrusive surveillance techniques to find the individuals within the government who are leaking such information.
There is no doubt that you have the public's support here.
Eric Holder. While not one of the so-called "scandals", there is no question that Eric Holder's name will come up. Between you and me, I just don't get Eric Holder. I think he's weak and ineffective. I suggest you have a little sit-down with him, and suggest that maybe it would be a good idea for him to spend more time with his family. If he doesn't have a family, then he should start one. In other words, it's time to go.
Indeed, that fellow James Comey, the Republican, who you've just nominated to be the FBI Director, I'd slot him in Holder's job. Just a thought.
Conclusion. The public has the impression that Fox is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican Party. Personally, I think it's vice-versa.
Bringing one of their best in for a tough hour interview could pay great dividends. It will expose the weakness of the GOP case on these matters, and allow you to attack from a defensive position. You're a great counter-puncher, so it suits your style.
Bring your best game … no first-debate stuff. You can get your mojo back and set the stage for winning the House back in 2014.
I will post again on Wednesday, July 10, 2013 (or before, if the news flow dictates) and, for the time being, I will post on the first Wednesday of each month.
Comments are welcome at tomc[at]wednesdayswars[dot]com. Name and town if you wish to opine. Comments will be addressed in subsequent posts.