Tuesday, May 14, 2013 | 1:54 p.m.
It’s only Tuesday, but it's shaping up to be one of President Barack Obama’s roughest weeks on the job.
The White House is fighting back the flames of three scandals: The Internal Revenue Service is accused of targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status; Republicans are out to prove the administration tried to cover up what happened during the embassy attack in Benghazi, Libya; and general public vitriol is pouring down on the Justice Department, which secretly collected two months of phone records from the Associated Press as part of a leak investigation, it was revealed Monday.
Enter Obama’s top congressional ally, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who stepped in to help by stepping in front of the cameras.
“What the IRS did of course is inexcuseable. But this is not the first time we’ve seen this,” Reid said, recalling that liberal organizations ranging from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to Greenpeace had been targeted by the IRS.
“What was interesting at that time is we didn’t hear from a single Republican. … Where was the outrage?” Reid asked. He suggested it was legitimate for the IRS to employ sorting tactics when “shadowy political groups are masquerading as social welfare organizations in order to solicit anonymous donations from we don’t know who.”
On Benghazi, Reid was also vocal in his defense of Obama, who has tried so far in vain to deflect attention from how he handled last year's attack on Sept. 11.
“President Obama was absolutely right in calling this a sideshow,” Reid said, accusing Republicans of being more interested in sullying Obama’s reputation than offering better security to diplomatic personnel. “They continue to support the sequester, which will only further reduce security. So again, where is the outrage over this?”
But when it came to the Associated Press’ phone records, Reid broke rank with the president.
“I have trouble defending the Justice Department,” Reid said to a group of reporters standing four people deep.
Others in Obama’s inner circle have been trying to defend, or at least downplay the Justice Department’s clandestine grab of 20 AP reporters’ phone records, targeting both their work and personal phones and the wire service’s desk in the House of Representatives’ press gallery. The AP is guessing that the government seized the phone records as part of an effort to track down the source of a May 2012 article about how the CIA foiled an underwear bomb plot to blow up a U.S. jetliner set to depart Yemen.
Not Reid though, who expounded upon his respect for the First Amendment’s protections of the free press as he chided the administration.
“In my career I’ve stood consistently for freedom of the press,” Reid said, promising to take legislative action if necessary. “I don’t know who did it or why it was done, but it’s inexcusable. There’s no way to justify this.”
Oh well, Mr. President. Two out of three ain’t bad.