The storm clouds of scandal, like a breakout of springtime tornadoes in the South and Midwest, seem to be encircling the White House with the president having no safe room into which to retreat.But the more I think about the three major issues that have garnered the most attention from the administrations enemies (and now some of its friends), the ultimate focus of these controversies may lead us to places where few people especially the conservative right want to go.Conservatives have been trying to conjure up a scandal around Barack Obama for years, and now they are delighted because they believe they have not one, but three that will embroil him so that his second-term agenda will wither from paralysis.While praying for another Watergate that will lead to further embarrassment for the White House, if not Obamas outright ouster, the presidents critics just might find that their usual overreach results in reforms not to their liking.Lets take each issue in the order they appeared on the public radar.BenghaziIt is a sad story involving the death of four Americans during an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya on Sept. 11. Weve heard a lot of discussion about talking points and the presidents failure to prevent the attack in the first place, to deploy forces to protect lives once the compound was under siege and to call the attackers terrorists.We havent heard much about the lives that were saved, or the fact that the Benghazi post was more a CIA operation than a diplomatic one. CIA operatives posing as diplomats are nothing new, but that could explain the need for talking points. Id like to know more about that than the things congressional committees are investigating.IRS targetsNews of the Internal Revenue Services treatment of some conservative groups is upsetting, and that issue must be dealt with swiftly and forcefully. But what this controversy has exposed is the apparent misuse of an important part of the tax code. Tax-exempt status under the 501(c)(4) section was intended for social welfare organizations. Many nonprofits seeking and receiving that status (both liberal and conservative) are political entities raising money to influence politics without divulging names of their donors. That, along with discrimination by the IRS, needs to end. AP phone records Im most disturbed by the Justice Departments seizure of phone records from The Associated Press. Although done under the guise of protecting national security to find the source of a damaging leak, this kind of government intrusion into news media operations should not be tolerated.Its been interesting to watch conservatives feign outrage over government harassment of a member of the mainstream media, as many of them would never defend the AP or any other news organization they consider a tool of the Obama administration.Again, there may be good that comes from this scandal. There are new calls for a shield law that would protect journalists from having to turn over notes or reveal confidential sources to government officials. Attorney General Eric Holder is on record in favor of the Free Flow of Information Act, and Obama called last week for such a law to be introduced in the Senate.I dont know that a shield law would have prevented what happened to the AP, considering the national security angle, but it likely would have provided for a more deliberative process.My hope is that we can get all of these issues behind us, making necessary changes along the way. Perhaps then our leaders can get on with governing and addressing those other substantive matters that are being neglected.
Bob Ray Sanders' column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. 817-390-7775 Twitter: @BobRaySanders