May 14 2013, 4:39 PM ET
As three separate scandals – the IRS targeting the tea party, the Justice Department’s phone-records grab from the AP, and Benghazi – erupt simultaneously, congressional Republicans are hoping to fold them into a single narrative of an unaccountable and overreaching White House that cannot be trusted.
As Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., put it colorfully during a Fox News appearance, “This sounds like a president somewhat drunk on power.”
But congressional Democrats – knowing the fate of a progressive agenda and their own priorities lie with the continued political strength of the White House – hope to treat and triage the emerging scandals independently. It is largely the same hymnal the Obama administration is singing from – in hopes of avoiding a weakened White House.
On Capitol Hill, Democrats are seeking to cordon off the most toxic scandal – currently believed to be the IRS case – while remaining loyal to Obama on the long-simmering Benghazi probe. In the phone-records case, Democrats began to distance themselves from the White House on Tuesday.
“I have trouble defending what the Justice Department did,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.
Republicans, meanwhile, want to use the trio of concurrent scandals to erode public trust in the White House and undercut President Obama’s ambitious second-term agenda only months after his inauguration.
“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,” said House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., one of the lead investigators of the administration in Congress.
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