Beset by scandal and mired in criticism, President Obama now searches for a solution to salvage his ambitious second-term agenda and presidential legacy. In what could be considered a silver lining, however, the 44th president has more than a few predecessors to look to for guidance.
Veteran political strategist James Carville, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton, was oftentimes unmerciful and candid when lambasting critics over the 42nd president’s legacy. (Case in point, here’s what Carville had to say about Clinton prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, in his book, And The Horse He Rode In On: “As with mosquitoes, horseflies, and most bloodsucking parasites, Kenneth Starr was spawned in stagnant water.”)
So what advice does the Ragin’ Cajun have for President Obama as he attempts to respond to the Benghazi and IRS targeting of conservative nonprofits controversies, as well as the news that the Justice Department secretly seized phone records from AP journalists?
Don’t let opponents lump all three issues into one, big scandal.
“They’re not related,” said Carville on msnbc Thursday. Benghazi is “a scam, it’s not a scandal. Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen have already thoroughly investigated this.”
The IRS controversy is another matter, he said, one with “legitimate questions.”
“I think the president needs to get ahead of it,” advised Carville. “Probably put a new person in there, find out what happened, and report to the American people.”
President Obama on Thursday appointed Daniel Werfel as acting-IRS commissioner, after requesting and accepting Steven Miller’s resignation Wednesday. In a press release, Obama said that Werfel “has the experience and management ability necessary to lead the agency at this important time.”
As for the AP probe, Carville rejected Republican Sen. Marco Rubio’s assertion that the sweeping subpoena of journalists’ phone records represented a White House “culture of intimidation.”
“It was an overly broad subpoena that was given power by a political appointee,” said Carville. “I have no idea what Sen. Rubio actually is talking about.”
Above all, Carville recommended keeping this week’s finger-pointing and inflammatory rhetoric in perspective and under control.
“Remember that the earth is warm, that the economy is growing, that the deficit is shrinking, that the healthcare costs are flattening out, that Benghazi was nothing,” he said.