Monday launched several political story lines — none of them good for President Obama.
The IRS acknowledged that the flagging of applications for tax-exempt status from conservative groups went beyond a branch in Cincinnati — and that officials in Washington and two other cities were also involved. The Associated Press revealed that the Justice Department had secretly obtained two months’ worth of phone records for its reporters. And Republicans continued to describe Benghazi as the greatest foreign policy cover-up since, well, ever. (That last one might wind up being a positive development for Obama in the long run, but we digress.)
As if the president needed any more bad news, there was this: The whole of these stories was greater than the sum of their parts. That is, they all had a convenient strain tying them together: government overreach. Or, put more sinisterly, the government thinks it knows better than you.
After a slow start to the week — waiting until Monday to respond to the IRS incident looks in hindsight to have been a mistake — Obama tried to steer into the skid. He worked like hell to differentiate Benghazi (a partisan witch hunt, in his estimation) from the AP (a complicated matter of balancing national security and First Amendment concerns) from the IRS (a failure that required heads to roll).
A valiant effort. But for a president who wanted to spend the week, and the weeks to come, talking immigration and the budget, the events of the past seven days virtually ensure he won’t be doing that anytime soon.
President Obama, for watching your legacy-building drive onto Scandal Lane, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.
Have a candidate for the Worst Week in Washington? E-mail Chris Cillizza at firstname.lastname@example.org.