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Multiple crises mar Obama rule

world Updated: May 16, 2013 01:50 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
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President Barack Obama’s personal popularity may still be holding out, but his administration’s has taken a huge hit in recent days over a string of controversies.

His second term agenda now stands in danger of being swamped by charges of sending tax men after political opponents and seizing phone records of a news organisation. Add to that list lingering charges of mischaracterising the Benghazi attack in which four Americans died last September, including the US ambassador to Libya.

The president’s personal popularity remains intact, improving marginally in the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls at 48.6%, a gain of 2.5% over the previous mark.

But the administration is in full damage-control mode on all three fronts, with the president’s ambitious second term plans such as immigration pushed to the back of the van.

The justice department on Tuesday ordered criminal investigation into instances of the Internal Revenue Service targeting conservative political groups. The president called the targeting “intolerable and inexcusable” in a late Tuesday night statement and said he had instructed action be taken against those responsible.

The White House has sought to distance itself from the seizure of phone records of Associated Press saying it has no knowledge of it, and pointed questions about it to the justice department. AP has said the government seized records of 20 phones used by its reporters, in connection with investigations into the leak of information about a foiled terror attempt in Yemen in 2012.

These new controversies followed a week of renewed interest in the Benghazi attack triggered by a hearing on the Capitol Hill of state department staffers from the Libyan mission. They alleged the administration didn’t respond adequately. And then it tried to pass off the attack as a response to a controversial video, when it was actually a terrorist strike.

Apart from Republicans, some Democrats too have indicated frustration over these controversies. Elijah Cummings, a senior House Democrat, told CNN, the IRS scandal was “one of the most alarming things” he’s ever seen.