The economy is the big story in the presidential race, of course, but all the small stories also have some cumulative effect. Looking over the latest offerings in the news, the small stories also seem be going to badly for the incumbent.
A group of four prominent legislators — including the impeccably liberal Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California — held a joint news conference Thursday to announce that they are thoroughly irked about a recent spate of leaks of classified information. These include a New York Times report about the American role in a computer virus that targeted Iran’s nuclear program, an Associated Press report about the latest “underwear bomber” that revealed a western spy in Yemen’s al-Qaeda affiliate, another New York Times story about the president’s weekly “kill list” of drone assassination targets, and stories in the New York Times and Britain’s Guardian that led to the identification of a Pakistani doctor who helped provide information for the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. In each case there is a suspicion that the leaks were intended to bolster the president’s tough-on-terrorism reputation, which has apparently replaced the soft-on-terrorism sales pitch of ’08, and there are further allegations that the White House leaked information to a Hollywood director making a movie that glorifies Obama’s role in the bin Laden raid.
The “Fast and Furious” operation, which involved the U.S. government intentionally allowing the sale of hundreds of weapons to Mexican drug gangs and resulted in more than 200 murder, is also back in the news. The basic facts of the scandal have always been embarrassing to the administration, at least to the extent that they’ve been widely reported, but Thursday made it even worse. Forced to answer questions from the House Judiciary Committee, despite a months-long effort at stonewalling, Attorney General Eric Holder wound up insisting that internal Justice Department memos which specifically mentioned a Fast and Furious operation weren’t actually referring to that Fast and Furious operation. Holder’s interrogator, Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, seemed unimpressed with the answer, as will most Americans paying attention. Even the usually supportive sections of the press, and although they’ll try to help out by keeping the story short and at the bottom of an inside page it will be hard to ignore the story once Holder is cited for contempt of Congress or perhaps indicted for perjury.
There has also been a great deal of speculation about former President Bill Clinton’s apparent effort to sabotage the Obama campaign. After his statements about the current president provided the title for the latest Obama-bashing best-seller, “The Amateur,” Clinton took to the newscasts to defend Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s record as a private equity investor at Bain Capital, then to announce that the country was in recession and needed to retain all of the Bush-era tax rates. He was also heard boasting of the four balanced budgets that he signed as president, which can reasonably be taken as an implied criticism of Obama’s more profligate ways, and seemed to quite enjoy the widespread speculation that his statements had provoked. He later apologized, a Clinton specialty, but even in doing so he seemed to damn Obama with such faint praise as “a better job than some people give him credit for.”
With mighty effort we have composed an entire paragraph about Clinton without resorting to a fellatio joke, but we’re now forced to address the matter of Obama’s alleged cunnilingus joke. While speaking in Los Angeles at yet another of a seeming non-stop series of fundraisers, Obama mentioned his wife’s televised push-up contest with talk show hostess Ellen Degeneres and remarked that Michelle was accused of cheating by her rival “because she doesn’t go all the way down.” Given that Degeneres is famously lesbian, that going all the way down has a certain gutter connotation, and that Obama delivered the line with the beat-and-a-half timing of a Shecky Greene, provoking nervous laughter from his show biz-savvy audience, the line was taken as a risqué double-entendre. Obama denies it, naturally, but his denial is approximately as convincing as Holder’s claim that the Justice Department memos were raving about the “Fast and Furious” movie franchise.
– Bud Norman