The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

May 20, 2013

No comparison between Watergate and Benghazi

— Standing before reporters Thursday, President Obama declined an invitation to compare the recent scandals weighing down his administration with those that forced President Nixon to resign in 1974. So allow us to do the work for him: There is no comparison.

Nixon, in a series of crimes that collectively came to be known as Watergate, directed from the White House and Justice Department a concerted campaign against those he perceived as political enemies, in the process subverting the FBI, the IRS, other government agencies and the electoral process to his nefarious purposes. Obama has done nothing of the kind. Nor is there much to support a lesser “unifying theory” of this week’s scandals, which is that together they prove Obama guilty of a grand overreach of federal power.

We’ve expressed our views about all three and will continue to do so, but to recap:

(1) The Benghazi talking points scandal is no scandal whatsoever. The government failed to anticipate the attack on Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and to protect him and those who died alongside him, but there was no coverup of the failure and no conspiracy to deceive the American people about what had happened.

(2) The broad search of telephone records from the Associated Press in search of a government leaker seems, on all available evidence, to have been a dangerous and unjustified violation of normal Justice Department practice, under which Justice should have negotiated with the AP to narrow the search as far as possible.

The administration has yet to offer any justification for this violation. There’s no reason to believe that Obama knew anything about it, and it’s worth recalling that Republicans clamored for the investigation in the first place. But the president’s unwillingness to condemn it is sadly consistent with his administration’s record of damaging the First Amendment in its ill-advised pursuit of leakers.

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