May 16, 2013

Obama aims to halt perception of passive president

Julie Pace / The Associated Press

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President Barack Obama finds himself rocked by multiple controversies that are demoralizing his allies, emboldening his political foes – and posing huge distractions.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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Obama aides insisted the emails were either taken out of context or provided no new information, but they resisted pressure to make the emails public for five days before finally disclosing them to reporters Wednesday. The emails revealed that then-CIA Director David Petraeus disagreed with the final talking points, despite the White House's insistence that the intelligence agency had final say over the statements.

The White House has publicly defended its handling of the controversies. Obama spokesman Jay Carney has insisted it would be "wholly inappropriate" for the president, in the case of the Justice Department matter, to weigh in on an active investigation, and in the case of the IRS controversy, to insert himself in the actions of an independent agency.

However, legal scholar Jonathan Turley disputed those assertions, saying there is no legal reason a president would be precluded from learning about the investigations before the public did or from commenting on them, at least broadly.

"These comments treat the president like he's the bubble boy," said Turley, a law professor at George Washington University.

David Axelrod, Obama's longtime adviser, acknowledged the White House could have acted more aggressively in "the interest of stagecraft." But he insisted that the president's handling of the matters will ultimately be vindicated.

"One virtue he has is that he takes a long-range view," he said. "It's easy to get whipped up by the frenzy, but it's responsible to react to the facts. It has short-term liabilities, but in the long-run, it's a quality you want in a president."

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